Ah, August. Back to work. Back to school. And looking back in the mirror is the evidence of how much fun I had in the sun this summer: Freckles, wrinkles and dark spots, especially on the sides of my face where my hat didn’t cover.
Once upon a time, I might have reached for a prescription or over-the-counter skin lightening cream to combat this kind of sun damage. But I know now that hydroquinone, their most common ingredient, has been linked to cancer and, ironically, ochronosis, also known as skin darkening. Yikes!
That’s why this DIY is such a relief: With two kitchen cabinet ingredients and five minutes, you can start the skin lightening process to naturally reduce dark spots for good. This is one of the easiest natural beauty DIYs I’ve ever tried, and trust me, it really works!
I know what you did this summer, and you should have worn a bigger hat. How? The dark patches are in fact hyperpigmentation, a sign of sun damage caused by an increase in melanin production, which happens when the skin is trying to protect itself from overexposure to UV rays. And the only way to truly reduce dark patches is to exfoliate regularly: Removing surface layers of damaged skin will lighten dark spots over time, as new skin replaces damaged skin.
Lemon, a natural exfoliator, comes into play in this skin lightening treatment. After cleansing, slice open a lemon, hold one half by the rind and rub the juicy side all over your face, being careful to avoid your eyes. The alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) in the lemon encourage exfoliation by sloughing away the outer layer of dead skin cells, improving circulation and stimulating new cell growth. The fruit acids dissolve the old skin cells and making room for the new. Leave the juice on for five minutes or less—much less, if the stinging is too much—then rinse off. This treatment is even more effective in a steamy bathroom or sauna.
But you don’t just want to reduce brown spots, you want less end-of-summer dry skin wrinkles too, right? After your lemon exfoliation, take a minute to slather some raw, organic honey on your face. A natural humectant—that’s something that draws moisture to the skin—honey has antiseptic qualities as well, which means it helps to clear up breakouts. Bonus! After a few minutes in this natural beauty mask, you’ll notice the difference—just don’t give into the temptation to lick it all off. Leave the honey on for as much as 20 minutes, then rinse off to feel soft, hydrated, glowing skin.
With regular use, this two-step treatment can improve skin texture, as well as reduce brown spots and wrinkles—but only if you continue to protect your skin from the sun. Wear a physical (not chemical) SPF every day, even when it’s cloudy. Right now, I’m loving Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer, which has a very sheer, natural tint.
Oh, and keep a hat handy for sunny days. With a bigger brim than mine!
Editor’s note: We’ve had many inquiries about skin lightening products that can be purchased, rather than DIY’ed. In response, I wanted to share two great natural skin lighters that I discovered. First is the vegan Fruit Acid Gel Peel from [re]fresh Skin Therapy, with lactic and kojic acids. A little less expensive is Retseliney’s Dark Spot Corrector Cream, which calls on kojic acid to lighten and hyaluronic acid to hydrate. Both products eschew hydroquinone, parabens and phthalates, artificial colors and fragrance, and artificial preservatives. Take a look and if you find a natural skin lightener that works for you, please leave me a comment. Thanks!