The main ingredient in most skin-lightening moisturizers, hydroquinone, packs a whallop when it comes to completely eliminating dark skin spots. If you're label savvy, look for hydroquinone under its actual name or as a derivative like Benzene-1 or Tequinol [source: Oakley].
Other active ingredients in skin-lightening moisturizers could include deoxyarbutin, glycolic acid, kojic acid, corticosteroids, niacinamide and retinol [source: Mayo Clinic]. Retinol, produced from vitamin A, and its stronger sister tretinoin, can moisturize the skin while stopping melanin production. Natural ingredients include plant-based botanicals like soy, licorice extracts and arbutin, which is produced from blueberry, pear or cranberry plant leaves [source: WebMD].
While these ingredients do not lighten the skin on their own, they can prevent new melanin from developing. This gives your skin the chance to go through its natural process of eliminating dying skin cells to make way for new ones, which eventually results in the dark patches being replaced by lighter skin [source: Janes].
It's clear that skin-lightening moisturizers contain some serious chemical ingredients and should be used carefully. On the next page, find out how to use a lightening formula to brighten dark areas on your skin without harming the normal pigmentation.