One of the most common methods to remove brown spots and reduce the appearance of dark skin pigmentation is by exfoliating the upper layers of skin. This can involve the use of a topical cream that helps to remove the darker top layers of skin while maintaining the healthy skin cells underneath. In most cases the creams used contain AHA or alpha hydroxy acid.
According to Web MD Alpha hydroxy acids are also used to treat extremely dry skin (xerosis cutis), acne scars and a condition that causes darkening of the skin (melasma). When this condition develops in pregnant women, it is sometimes called “the mask of pregnancy.”
Alpha Hydroxy Acids are actually a group of acids that have been used for treating skin conditions for many years. The group includes acids from milk and fruits such as lactic acid, glycolic acid (from sugar cane), malic acid (from pears and apples) and the more commonly known citric acids from lemons and oranges.
This group of acids tend to act as exfoliants and also help to nourish and moisturise the skin. They are thought to improve the skin’s elasticity and stimulate the growth of collagen.
Alpha hydroxy acids, at a concentration of less than 10%, in a topical cream are recommended as there can be possible side effects. Some users may experience skin irritation such as burning or itchiness and, while these acids are very effective for treating brown spots and sun damaged skin, they also make the skin more “photosensitive” so it is advised to avoid excessive sun exposure and use a good sunscreen containing full UV protection.
Products containing a higher concentration of AHA are mainly used in dermatological offices under medical supervision.
Lactic acid is probably the mildest of the alpha hydroxy acids because it has large molecules that do not penetrate the skin so deeply, thus causing less skin irritation. Even the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra, was rumoured to have bathed in sour milk to improve her complexion!
(If you want to take a milk bath, run hot water into the tub and add full cream cow’s milk, or goat’s milk. You can some bath salts, herbs, dried petals or essential oils for an aromatic treat!)
If you want to incorporate lactic acid as a skin lightener look for skin care products, like Meladerm cream, that contain a combination of melanin inhibitors like licorice extract, bearberry extract and lactic acid to lighten the skin safely.
Adding Vitamin C can also speed up the lightening process. Even though it is milder, lactic acid can still cause sun sensitivity so you will still need to use sunscreen and limit the amount of time you spend in the sun