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Achieving an Even Skin Tone

By: Katerina Steventon, PhD
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

This feature was originally published in the February 2012 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine.

Consumers are becoming more aware of the evenness of their skin tone, and it has become an important concern. This change in awareness has been instilled by the media, particularly through glossy magazine and newspaper editorials. In fact, in independent studies, panelists have rated subjects as being up to 20 years older than their true age due to uneven skin pigmentation.1 Consequently, the primary focus of anti-aging skin care has shifted from reducing wrinkles to evening out skin pigmentation.

Anti-aging skin care plays an important role in consumers’ self-esteem and communication since the human face, in addition to expressing emotions, carries signals integral to nonverbal communication. Improving one’s appearance through facial skin care can delay skin aging, thereby raising confidence and leading to better social interactions; even small changes in skin texture and color can have a large impact on the perception of health and attractiveness. 

Flawless skin is one of the most universally desired human features, and skin texture and color convey age and health.2 The wide range of skin colors—i.e., from the deepest chocolate brown of Africa’s Ivory Coast to the warm olives of the Mediterranean and the pale fairness of Scandinavia—is paralleled by a similarly wide array of cultural beliefs that define ideal skin tone in various geographic regions. Western women may desire the glow of sun-kissed skin while Asian cultures value paleness, even going to great lengths to lighten skin. Yet despite these seemingly contradictory goals, even skin tone is one common quality that defines beautiful, desirable skin all over the world.3

Pigmentation Mechanisms

Skin pigmentation results from the concentration and distribution of melanin and hemoglobin in the skin, with melanin playing the dominant role. Sun exposure leads to the accumulation of large localized concentrations of melanin in the face, causing it to look aged and unhealthy. There are many technologies used in anti-aging skin care that target pigmentation, often called whitening and brightening actives. These ingredients either downregulate the key steps of melanin synthesis in melanocytes or inhibit melanosome transfer to keratinocytes. 

Skin-lightening Actives