The Truth About Whitening in Japanese skincare

Skin whitening? Is it still a thing?! Well, not really. 

The word whitening is commonly used in the Japanese beauty industry, but do not be alarmed! There is no bleaching or “whitening” taking place when you use these products. Instead, what it means is brightening✨! Yup, that’s right! In Japan, the terms “whitening” and “brightening” are used interchangeably to reflect your overall complexion, rather than "whitening" your skin tone

Simply put:

Whitening in J-Beauty DOES NOT mean:❌

  • Bleaching the skin
  • Lightening the skin
  • Changing the skin tone

Whitening in J-Beauty DOES mean: ✨

  • Brightening
  • Tone-improving
  • Adding radiance and glow

So, what exactly is brightening?

Brightening is increasing your skin’s radiance and glow to restore its lively, vibrant complexion. They help bring the skin back to its original healthy state by rejuvenating dull, dry and tired-looking skin by removing dead skin cells and stimulating skin cell regeneration. 

… and what exactly is whitening? 

Whitening offers a more intensive treatment than brightening. Whitening products reduce pigmentation, dark spots, scars and discoloration by evening out skin tone. Some whitening products are potent enough to drastically alter skin complexion when used consistently over a long period of time, but results will vary from person to person. 

So why do the Japanese interchange these terms?
In Japan, whitening is often used to describe brightening as the products help give the skin a luminous glow. These products contain ingredients that reduce melanin production and give the skin an even tone but they DO NOT change the existing colour of the skin. 

Some ingredients that brighten the skin are:

Ascorbic Acid/Vitamin C (ビタミンC誘導体 | bitamin shi- yuudoudai)

Sometimes listed in another form as “ascorbic acid,” Vitamin C improves skin quality while increasing collagen and suppressing the production of melanin.

It also fights free radicals, provides antioxidant protection and gives the skin a beautiful and natural glow. DHC Vitamin C essence contains Ascorbic acid that helps brighten the skin and fight signs of aging.

Tranexamic acid (トラネキサム酸)

This potent ingredient is mainly used to treat sun spots and uneven skin. It is the key ingredient in the newly launched LX-ME range, which also hydrates the skin and leaves the skin looking dewy. The range includes a brightening lotion (toner). A brightening emulsion and a brightening 5-in-one gel moisturizer. This trio together will give the skin a luminous glow and a plumpy feel.

Kojic Acid (コウジ酸 | kouji san)

A byproduct of sake (rice wine) fermentation, kojic acid helps to reduce hyperpigmentation and prevents breakouts. When applied typically it helps reduce the appearance of acne scars and even out the skin. 

While these ingredients are classified as whitening ingredients in Japan, they do not alter the skin tone. They just even out the skin and help you slay a brighter and youthful complexion. So the next time you see the word “whitening” in your J-beauty skincare products, just know that it essentially means a smooth, healthy and even appearance!