FAN MAIL FRIDAYS: The Difference Between Whitening and Lightening Lotions

What a cool Friday, isn’t it? Thank God it rained-the earth needed it so bad as it has been freakishly hot for the past two weeks!

Before you shut your laptops and proceed with your usual Friday night outs, here’s a quick Fan Mail Fridays post. It’s from Sharmaine and she asks:

Dear The Beauty Junkee,

Hi! I love your blogs! This thing has been baffling me for a while now so I thought of asking you: What’s the difference between whitening and lightening lotion? Aren’t they the same? If not, what are their differences? Hope you can enlighten me.

Thank you and more power! Don’t stop blogging!


Hi Sharmaine!

Hi there! Thank you for the kind words. Of course I won’t stop blogging-if I do, that’s like me quitting breathing! Lol!

Okay, regarding your question, whitening and lightening lotions are different, but it’s easy to confuse both products as they seem to contain the same ingredients, have the same texture, and promise the same effects—even the way they’re marketed is similar! 

The thin line that separates both types of lotion are the concentration of the star ingredient/s, the things that will determine their effects on your skin.

Click READ MORE and learn a new beauty tip!


Whitening lotions are formulated to change your skin color by means of peeling or bleaching, although bleaching agents are rarely used nowadays as they're proven to be harsh in the long run by destroying certain pigments in the skin.

Whitening lotions contain stronger agents that may inhibit or stop melanin production in the skin, resulting to a fairer complexion. They also contain fruit or synthetically- derived acids and extracts that continually get rid of darkened surface skin layers to support the drastic lightening process until a whiter skin tone is achieved.

If you're aiming for skin whitening, look for a lotion with the following ingredients: Glutathione, Kojic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Hydroquinone. Natural ingredients such as Papaya and Pearl Powder are treasured for their potent whitening effects as well.


Lightening lotions are meant to even out the skin color and in some cases, they give skin a certain kind of glow, giving this seemingly luminous appearance-It's different from whitening because with lightening lotions, it's not necessary that you turn into another shade lighter--it's more for 'brightening', or going back to your original skin tone and getting rid of unevenness. They can also be used to maintain the current color of the skin. Actually, the correct term that should be used on the labels is 'Brightening.'

Lightening lotions are more targeted to the correction of skin hyperpigmentation such as melasma, freckles, sun spots, and sunburn by clearing up darkened spots. They don't necessarily inhibit or stop melanin production, but rather minimize their activity.

If you just want to maintain an even complexion, look for lotions that contain extracts that are high in antioxidants such as Vitamin E, Acai, Acerola, Camu Camu, Vitamin B3-not only are they effective in clearing up the complexion, but they also get rid of Free Radicals, one of the culprits behind dull- looking skin.

There are some ingredients that need the support of other ingredients for optimum activity, hence you can find certain ingredients in a whitening lotion on a lightening lotion and vice versa. Also, there are lotions that promise to whiten, but in truth, they're only great for evening out or brightening the skin tone and vice versa-Why so? Well, I guess it depends on what name-they think-will sell the product. :) In any case, the best thing to do is to determine your skin needs and read labels in order to find the product that you need.

Addendum: An avid reader of mine, Joyce, has added some very useful information to this post.

Hope you guys have learned something new today. :) Have a blessed weekend! :)

**Got a burning question about makeups, skin care products, beauty, dieting, and health tips, relationships, and whatever? Just send them to or shoot 'em up at The Beauty Junkee's FB Fan Page via the MESSAGE button and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. (Please, do not send me Math- related queries. :D)

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14 Lovely Thoughts

  1. I beg to differ Ms. Martha, but I believe they are the same. It's just that in some places "whitening" has a stigma related to it (of being white/wanting to look caucasian) so lightening is actually a euphemism for whitening.

    In your photos used, the Kojie san product is actually labeled as lightening even though it fall under a whitener by your description.

    There are basically two types of whitening/lightening products - the exfoliants,(those that get rid of dead skill cells and permatans. Basically acids, tretinoin, or other peeling products such as cure) and the ligtheners (those that inhibit melanin production/process in some way like arbutin, kojic acid, hydroquinone).

    If a person wants to get lighter skin, first should be a long series of peels and exfoliation. Once he/she is sure that the top/darkened layer of skin is gone, he can use lighteners to inhibit melanin.

    Other ingredients to incorporate in a whitening routine (but have different roles) are:

    1. Niacinamide/Vitamin B3
    2. Ascorbic Acid
    3. Glutathione
    4. Sun protection

    Sorry for the essay. I'm totally a geek about skin lightening. Hope this helps someone!

  2. Thank you very much Ms M for this post! I certainly learned something very important today! I never bothered to know the difference because I mistakenly thought that both were the same. Now I understand why one of my friend uses KojieSan on her knees and elbows then use another lightening lotion for the rest of her body. It's so nice to learn how to distinguish the nuances in similar beauty and skincare products.

  3. Joyce: Hi there! No worries about the length. Actually, I appreciate this! I always love new information as it really improves my knowledge. :)

    Regarding the photo, When I was drafting the Whitening Lotion part, Kojic Acid and Kojie San were the first things that came to mind, hence I used it-it's just for the purpose of representation. And honestly, I missed that lightening label so thank you for correcting me.

    I'd have to agree with the whitening/lightening genteelism part, but the effects they yield, like what I've mentioned and what a chemist friend had told me, are quite different. That friend of mine had tested some whitening and lightening lotions, creams, and serums in the market as part of an experiment, and almost all of them differ in terms of activity. (I've indicated those activities in the post) The problematic part is actually the labeling, especially on 'lightening' products. As with exfoliants, they don't necessarily lighten/whiten, unless they contain certain ingredients that can be found in whitening products. I have been scrubbing for the past 15 years of my life and the last time I checked, my facial complexion is still uniform with the rest of my body. :)

    And would you look at that, my reply is quite an essay too haha! Thanks to your response, I was moved to backread and edit my post to add the details I have omitted. Also mentioned you! :)

    Kris: Thank you for reading as well! :)

  4. awww not only are your readers pretty, theyre also smart and pay attention!

    for me lightening ay to even out complexion while whitening is to take it a notch lighter.

    ang weird talga kasi when i was in walmart sa states walang mga papya soap don puro mga tanning lotion don.

    ako unabashedly kong sasabihn na i want to lighten and whiten my skin! nw kung magabroad ako, thats another story

    beauty naman talaga ay defined by society kung saan ka. kasi if nasa western countries tayo, patok na patok ang mga morena nating kulay.

  5. I also thought all this time that they're just the same, tho questions has been running on my mind like if they're just the same, then why creating the other one? Since then I've been looking for the answers and I'm so glad I came across your blog Ms M for here I find a lot of information about beauty and some random things. Thanks for that, Ms M!

    I say that I should have lightening lotions. I'm sure most of us have uneven complexion, especially in the arm area where the part covered with our sleeves are a lot whiter than the rest. Been scrubbing and applying whitening soaps but it still looks the same. LOL! I also acknowledge Joyce for imparting her knowledge and idea about this post. It improves my learning about the difference of whitening and lightening lotions. ♥

  6. Hi Joyce thank you for the additional info. I'm all for information-sharing, I think it benefits everyone and the TBJ blog is a conducive venue for such exchanges. I'm a reader and I appreciate the information given here. And this topic is a hot one since many Filipinas and Filipinos are into whitening/lightening. :) So the more learning we readers get, the more knowledgeable we become.

  7. Hey there Martha! I'm wondering why you choose these 2 lotions, maybe because these 2 are in demand in the market? Anyway, I have used Vaseline for more than 5 years already, together with Nivea body milk. And so far the result is passable.
    Kase I always have this thing in mind that if the product is expensive then it should be working fine so Ive been using those expensive whitening lotion in the market as far as i could remember. Although I am hearing a good feedback with Kojiesan lotion, I can attest that Vaseline is a very good moisturizer eventhough it's not that expensive. I'm not sure though if Vaseline works really well in terms of its whitening/lightening formula but it does makes my skin really soft after continous usage.

  8. ah this clears my mind and thanks to Joyce for the additional info. Now I'm doubting the Nivea Serum... guess I'll settle with The Body Shop's Vitamin C range in lightening my skin

  9. i havent tried both, and thank you for the tips.. at the moment im into the hunt of products that is more into skin whitening =)

    i used calayan soap and i like it =)

  10. I prefer lightening lotions. I don't need to become a mestiza naman. Basta fair lang ang complexion, solve na :)

  11. Now I know that I should stick on lightening lotions to get rid of my freckles/dark spots...:) I've always preferred whitening thinking that would suits my needs.. :) Thanks Ms. M.

  12. Jec: Dark spots are a bit hard to eradicate, so maybe you should go with whitening lotions. :)

    May: Great! :) Thanks for sharing. :)

    Rhain: Thanks for the reco. :)

    Arya: Vitamin C is good for whitening. :) I think Nivea is a lightening product, but methinks also it acts faster than regular lightening lotions as it's more concentrated. :)

    Josie: Hi there! I use Vaseline too and alternate it with Nivea. :) Currently, I'm using Vaseline for a change. :)

    Desire: You're welcome! Glad you learned something from this post. :)

  13. Now I know which product to pick next time... I don't really want to whiten my skin, but to lighten the marks I have... I've always thought that for me to have even skin tone, I have to use whitening products. I wanted to target reducing the scar marks I had. Thanks a lot, Ms. Martha!!! ^__^

  14. I have definitely noticed a difference now that I have been using face lightening creams for over a month. I had some slight red patches on my face that I've had for years and after about a week of using this consistently I started to see the was less noticeable, less red, my face looked clearer. I'm not afraid to go makeup free now.


Thank you for your comments!