Instead of just zapping dark spots at their source, beauty brands are covering all bases when it comes to their skin brighteners.

For example, Clarins’ new six-piece White Plus Total Luminescent line promises healthy-looking and translucent skin by working on three levels: It hydrates the skin’s surface with hyaluronic acid; regulates melanin production with extracts from the herbs sandspurry and alchemilla; and boosts blood circulation in the deeper layer of skin with gingko biloba.

“Our scientists have discovered that healthy cells on every level of the skin are like micro-mirrors that can reflect light and make the skin glow,” says

Ms Brenda Loke, Clarins’ marketing manager. “So we are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to whitening.”

The French brand’s previous brightening range contains sea lily and raspberry extracts, which mainly inhibit the production of melanin and prevent the pigments from surfacing on the skin.

Shiseido’s new Revital Vital-Perfection Science Serum AAA Whitening, too, promises to “capture light” on the skin by firming and reducing the yellowish dullness in it, besides getting rid of dark spots.

The last version of the serum did not have the technology to target yellowing skin, says Ms Iris Chai, Shiseido’s assistant brand manager.

“Put simply, light reflects better off a smooth surface such as re-texturised skin. Just like how a balloon looks shiny and reflects light because of its smooth surface,” she adds.

Increasingly, the line between whitening products and anti-ageing ones is blurring too. Some anti-ageing products now come with whitening properties and vice versa.

Ms Irene Goh, general manager of L’Oreal Singapore’s luxury division, says: “The concept of whitening has evolved beyond just skin fairness to overall radiance and a glowing, more even skin tone.”

There is also a bumper crop of new whitening eye creams this year, now that most brands have all the other parts of the face covered.

At least four brands have revamped their brightening potions or come up with new ones for the peepers.

For example, Laneige has just launched its White Plus Renew Eye Cream that supposedly brightens the area around the eyes, while improving blood circulation and masking imperfections with light-scattering particles.

La Prairie’s new White Caviar Illuminating Eye Cream is said to target the accumulation of melanin and reduce water retention in the delicate eye area.

Diorsnow also has a reformulated White Reveal Illuminating Eye Treatment which smoothes, hydrates, brightens and evens out the eye contour areas.

As more women realise that pigmentation is one of the first signs of skin deterioration, the brightening skincare category continues to grow steadily, especially in Asia.

Ms Rachel Lin, a senior research analyst at market research firm, Euromonitor International, says skin whitening products accounted for about 30 per cent of the facial skincare market here last year. This translates to more than $100 million in sales.

Between 2008 and last year, the category recorded a double-digit growth annually, she adds.

No wonder whitening products are a key segment for many beauty brands.

At Kose, for example, brightening skincare formed 42 per cent of its business in Singapore last year.

At Shiseido, the category accounts for 30 per cent of the business here.

Ms Evelyn Tan, Biotherm’s marketing manager, says it is a no-brainer that whitening products will continue to be an essential part of Singapore women’s beauty regimen.

“Given Singapore’s location, we cannot escape the sun. This means there is a constant need for UV protection and skin brightening products to protect and prevent uneven skin tone and ageing.”

While the first signs of ageing in a Caucasian woman are dryness and wrinkles, Asian women get dark spots, dullness and a yellowish tone in their skin, especially once they hit their 30s.

Thus Ms Chai of Shiseido says skin whitening will always be a top concern for Asian women, who equate bright and clear skin with youthfulness.

Ms Lin of Euromonitor adds that the popularity of South Korean pop stars, who are known for their fair skin that looks flawless even under merciless high-definition cameras, is also driving the trend.



Guerlain Blanc de Perle Refreshing Hydrating Cream, $114, from Guerlain counters

This moisturiser soothes, plumps and hydrates skin while reducing the appearance of pigmentation. It can be used on its own or to complete the ritual in Guerlain’s Blanc de Perle whitening range.


Yves Saint Laurent Beaute Forever Light Creator Serum, $149, from YSL Beaute boutiques such as Tangs Beauty

This serum is created based on the study of glycans, the complex sugars in human tissues, and how they can make us look younger.

It works on three parts of the skin – the outermost epidermis, melanin-producing cells or melanocytes, and fibroblasts, the structural framework in the body’s tissue – to improve its radiance with glycans that can supposedly smooth, reduce pigmentation and improve the density of skin.


Bobbi Brown Extra Bright Advanced Serum, $149, from Bobbi Brown counters

A cocktail of citrus ingredients, such as grapefruit, lime and vitamin C, prevents the formation of dark spots with their antioxidant properties. There is also glucosamine, a sugar derivative, which gently exfoliates for more even-looking skin. Glycerin and sodium hyaluronate moisturise, while whey protein boosts collagen production. Yeast extract is said to help break up existing melanin clusters to reduce the appearance of dark spots.


Kenzoki Whitening Cocooning Cream, $105, from Kenzo counters at Metro Paragon as well as Robinsons at The Centrepoint and Raffles City

It is infused with whitening plum blossom essence, which is said to block the production of melanin and minimise melanin absorption by the epidermis; sunflower extract to reduce dullness and the loss of skin firmness; and the Chinese herb huangqin, which supposedly protects the skin from free radicals and inflammation. This formula also moisturises the skin and is part of the brand’s first (two-piece) whitening skincare range.



Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Whitening Serum, $268, from the Sulwhasoo boutique at Tangs Beauty

This formula reduces what the brand calls “inner heat” in the skin that can lead to dryness and uneven, dull and pigmented skin. It contains white ginseng saponin, which supposedly removes age spots and blemishes; white cloud grass that cools and detoxifies the skin; and white ginseng polysaccharides that are said to boost collagen in the skin.


Cle de Peau Beaute Brightening Enhancer Base, $105, from Cle de Peau counters

Concocted from three types of oils and the whitening ingredient tranexamic acid, this product is a serum and skin-smoothing make-up base blended into one.


Estee Lauder CyberWhite HD Advanced Brightening BB Balm SPF30/PA++ Compact, $86, from Estee Lauder counters

This lightweight balm protects the skin from the sun’s harmful rays and pollution. It also hydrates and gives skin a natural finish. Use it alone or as a foundation primer.


L’Occitane Brightening Mist, $29, from L’Occitane stores such as B2-33 Ion Orchard

This limited-edition mist is alcohol-free and refreshes, softens and brightens the complexion. It also helps your make-up last longer. Spritz it on as a finishing touch after applying your make-up. The spray also contains immortelle, a flowering herb prized for its anti-ageing properties – it is said to retain its colour and form even after it has dried up.


The Body Shop Moisture White Shiso BB Serum Inside, $39.90, from The Body Shop stores

A multitasking formula, this BB cream brightens and corrects your skin tone, while shiso, vitamin C, liquorice and fair trade organic aloe vera treat and clarify the complexion. It also has a sun protection factor of 25 PA+++.


Dermalogica ChromaWhite TR X C-12 Concentrate, $205, from AsterSpring Origin Of Beauty Centres, such as 05-09 The Centrepoint

This serum aims to suppress the production and transfer of melanin between skin cells that can lead to dark spots. The blend of peptides, mineral amino acids and botanical extracts work together for a smoother and brighter complexion.


Fancl Whitening Essence, $65, from Fancl stores such as B2-35 Ion Orchard

An additive-free intensive treatment that contains calendula (or marigold) extract, which is known to reduce skin inflammation. Fancl has apparently discovered that the herb – a key ingredient in the line – blocks the production of dark melanin pigments to prevent early signs of dark spots and an uneven skin tone.


Chanel Le Blanc Intensive Night Whitening Treatment, $415 for four bottles to be used over four weeks, from Chanel counters

To be used every night for four weeks, this concentrated formula contains a patented active ingredient, the Tranexamic acid cetyl ester. The formula is said to repair daily damage and regulate the production of melanin that can lead to an uneven skin tone and dark spots.


Shiseido Revital Vital-Perfection Science Serum AAA Whitening, from $196 for 40ml, from Shiseido counters

The formula targets dark spots, dullness and loss of firmness in skin. It contains olive leaf extract, vitamins C and E, and coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant found in almost every cell in the body. The serum supposedly works to lighten melanin and prevent its formation, brightens yellowish skin and promotes collagen production for firmness.



Blanc de La Mer The Whitening Facial, $420 for six treatments

This mask works as a two-step treatment. First, apply a primer on your face to soothe and prep the skin. Then, place two cotton sheet masks pre-soaked with La Mer’s Whitening Essence on the upper and lower parts of the face. The results: whiter, brighter and more hydrated skin.


Clarins White Plus Total Luminescent Intensive Brightening Serum, $130, from Clarins counters

This transparent gel serum works by helping the skin to reflect light and hence look more luminous. It hydrates skin with hyaluronic acid to make it look more radiant, while extracts of sandspurry (a weedy herb) and alchemilla (a leafy herb) regulate melanin production. There is also gingko biloba extract to promote blood circulation for a rosy glow.


Diorsnow Anti-Spot Serum, $199, from Parfums Christian Dior counters

Scientists at Dior have discovered that the lack of filaggrin, a type of protein in the cells, leads to the overproduction of melanin that causes dark spots. This formula works on restoring the optimal level of filaggrin in cells to keep pigmentation at bay with a patented complex, that is blended with Icelandic glacial water and mallow extract.


Lancome Blanc Expert Melanolyser Integral Whiteness Spot Eraser, from $160 for 30ml, from Lancome counters

The serum combats dark spots in three parts: Controlling the production of melanin, and dissolving and eliminating hyper-pigmentation. The formula also promises to lighten dark spots by up to 50 per cent after two months of consistent use.


La Prairie White Caviar Spot Treatment, $229, from La Prairie counters such as at Tangs Beauty

This nifty product comes with a rough tip which is used to gently exfoliate and prepare your skin to better absorb the formula. It contains Swiss garden cress sprout extract, a powerful phytonutrient (nutrient from a plant) which is said to prevent pigmentation.


Laneige White Plus Renew Spot Treatment Ex, $65, from Laneige counters

The treatment tackles dark spots with a technology called the melacrusher to help remove layers of melanin for brighter and clearer skin.


Shu Uemura Whitefficient Flash Bright Pen, $85, from Shu Uemura counters

This serum-in-a-pen works on two levels. First, it supposedly helps to brighten the skin by blocking melanin production signals from damaged collagen and limiting melanin synthesis in the melanocyte (cells that synthesise skin pigments). Then, optical blurring pigments help camouflage dark spots.


This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on April 5, 2012. For similar stories, go to You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.