How to Turn Dark Brown Skin into a Lighter Brown Tone

What are your desires in matters of skin colour? Some people will brave exposure to sunlight or tanning sessions for a tan. Others want a complete skin colour change. Still, some just want to know how to turn dark brown skin into a lighter brown tone. 

If you are in the third category, it is your lucky day; several routines can help you achieve this look. Below, we have explained the different ways  to give your skin a lighter shade. 

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are procedures in which chemical solutions ‘burn’ the top layer of the skin, causing it to slough off. As a result, the layer beneath which is lighter and less blemished is exposed.

Chemical peels use acids such as glycolic, salicylic and trichloroacetic acids. They can be superficial, medium or deep depending on the strength of the chemical used.

Deep peels can cause a complete colour change to your skin. Depending on what your are looking for, a superficial peel maybe all you need. Chemical peels also work on blemishes and unevenly toned skin.[1]

The results are instant, and with cream or lotion use, you can wear your makeup immediately. Doing it once every four weeks should help you turn dark brown skin into a lighter brown tone.


Topical creams contain compounds that inhibit or slow down melanin production. They can, therefore, be used to get a lighter skin shade. However, you should be wary of ingredients such as mercury, hydroquinone and steroids. These are chemicals known to cause adverse side effects. 

Andrea Kassim, M.D 

Saint Barnabas Medical Center, New Jersey 

There is evidence to suggest that certain skin-whitening medicines, like hydroquinone, contain ingredients which may have carcinogenic properties that can be harmful. [2]

Alternatively, you can opt for natural skin lightening creams. These are formulated with safe ingredients-  formulations which will not only give you the desired look but will do so without any adverse side effects. They contain natural ingredients such as arbutin, mulberry extract, and kojic acid.

Home Remedies

DIY home remedies can come in handy too. This approach utilizes common household compounds and plant materials with skin lightening abilities. These ingredients are usually made into masks.  Ideally, you apply the mask on your skin and wash off for up to a few times a week.[3]

Common remedies include; turmeric, lemon juice, tomatoes, and rose water. Honey, cucumber, aloe vera, papaya, and apple cider vinegar are also effective home remedies you can try. All these are ingredients which attack melanin or exfoliate your skin. Additionally, you can try  baking powder, granulated sugar, and oatmeal for deep exfoliation at home.

Another approach would be to mix the scrubs with natural lighteners and moisturisers for better results. For example, adding honey makes your remedy more hydrating and soothing.  


Lasers are concentrated beams of short pulsating light that can be focused on the skin surface to remove dead, irregular and unwanted skin. 

The energy from the rays converts into heat that vaporizes skin cells and pigment. The removal of this tissue allows newer and fairer skin to grow. 

There are different types of lasers used for skin lightening (also known as skin resurfacing). Ablative lasers are perfect for achieving a lighter skin shade since they target the topmost skin layers.[4]

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) lasers can also cause the same effect. They use multiple wavelengths; hence they can be adjusted to treat specific skin pigment, including turning dark brown skin into a lighter brown tone.


The process entails removing the upper and duller skin layers. This form of skin renewal makes use of a wide array of skincare products:

Exfoliation soaps: These are soaps with tiny particles which ‘eat away’ dead and duller upper skin layers; such include oatmeal, peach pits and brown sugar. Others contain ingredients capable of penetrating and dissolving away the epidermal layers, such as glycolic and kojic acids, glutathione, and papaya. 

Exfoliation scrubs: These are spa-grade exfoliants that can be used easily at home. Typical scrubs include apricot, jojoba beads, and sea salts.

Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion

The process involves controlled wearing away of upper skin layers using abrasive materials. These include brushes, salt crystals, diamond wheels and other materials. The procedure is minimally invasive and requires local anaesthesia and a trained practitioner for success. 

Luckily, advances in technology have led to the development of improved and safer dermabrasion methods. Among these is microdermabrasion; the process involves the use of less invasive and easy to use (DIY) tools to remove dead skin.

Tiny crystals or diamond tips exfoliate the skin while an in-built suction lifts off the debris. The action removes dead skin and stimulates your cells to replace it with newer and lighter skin. [5]


Sometimes, you may need a quick fix for an occasion or to just feel great. While skin lightening agents and procedures work, they may not give you instant results. In such a case,  properly blended makeup can give you a temporary lighter look. Here are a few tips;

  • Use lighter foundation; foundation forms the basis of your makeup
  • Highlight your face to add glow and brightness
  • Avoid or go light on contouring because it can make you look darker
  • Use a concealer that blends with the rest of your face to conceal dark spots
  • Don’t use smoky eye makeup, instead, opt for natural shades
  • Use translucent mineral powder to finish your makeup because it is light; heavier powder tends to darken after some time.

Sunblock/ Sunscreen

Exposure to sunlight triggers a protective response by your skin. It leads to excess production of melanin, the pigment responsible for protecting your skin cells from damage caused by the UV rays.

Unfortunately, the same pigment is also responsible for skin colour. Under intense sunlight, your skin produces more and more melanin. In the end, the excess pigment darkens your skin.

To turn your skin a shade lighter, make sunblock your everyday friend. If not, your efforts will be futile in the long run. Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and above should do the trick.

Always wear sunscreen. Remember: A cloudy day does not necessarily mean the absence of damaging UV rays.

That said, staying in the shade or putting on a wide-brimmed hat can also boost your efforts.  Wearing long-sleeved clothing when spending lots of time in the sun will also do.


If you desire to make your dark brown skin a tad lighter, there are several ways you can do so. These run from various ways of preventing or stopping excess melanin production to exfoliating your skin. You can also correct some undesirable aspects through procedures or concealing the dark skin through makeup. Whichever one you choose to go with, except makeup which is temporary, consistency and patience will be your greatest virtues.


1 What you should know about chemical peels, Healthline

Five things everyone should know about skin bleaching, The Derm Group

A comprehensive review on tyrosinase inhibitors, Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medical Chemistry

Laser skin resurfacing: Top 8 things you need to know, American Board of Cosmetic Surgery

Microdermabrasion: What is it and how does it improve your skin? Marie Claire


sonia knight

Sonia Knight is the founder of be:skinformed.

Apart from having her own experience with hyperpigmentation, Sonia has gained vast knowledge in the dermatology field. For more info on this, check out our about us page.

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