Skin tone is an area of dissatisfaction for many women around the world. Clear, fair skin tones are the goal in Asia, and skin lighteners have been popular there for many years. However, they are now gaining popularity in the west as well. They can also be used to treat disorders of hyperpigmentation, such as age spots. Tyrosinase is a key enzyme in the production of melanin. Phenolic skin lightening agents such as hydroquinone interfere with melanogenesis by acting as competitive inhibitors of tyrosinase, so that the skin is less pigmented. Non-phenolic skin lightening agents, including glucosamine, kojic acid, azelaic acid, and licorice extract, also inhibit tyrosinase activity. Skin lightening agents are now being incorporated into bar soaps and color cosmetics as well.
In western countries, where darker skin is often idealized, self-tanners continue to increase in popularity. These usually contain dihydroxyacetone, which reacts with keratin protein in the stratum corneum to form melanoidins to give the temporary brown color to the skin. Because the stratum corneum is continually sloughed, the results are temporary. Manufacturers continue to work toward developing self-tanners that are odorless, quick to dry, and unlikely to streak (19). They also are working to improve delivery systems, including wipes, sprays, and foams.
Optical technology is now being incorporated into products to improve the appearance of skin. These new products do not change the skin at all, but when they are applied to the skin, they improve its appearance. The basis for this technology is that tiny particles can reflect and emit visible light from the skin. When used in cosmetics, the resultant reflected light can help hide wrinkles, large pores, and even cellulite and make the skin appear healthier (20).
Cosmetic companies continue to actively research and promote products to decrease cellulite. Ingredients such as caffeine, kiwi and green apple extracts, shiitake mushroom extract, gingko biloba, and seaweed extracts are all being incorporated into products
intended to firm the skin, increase elasticity, and decrease cellulite (21). Although none of these products have delivered the cure, women everywhere continue to have hope.