All Bright Dark Spot Minimizer: Safer Skincare Treatment

As I noted in my article on the Best and Worst anti-aging ingredients, Vitamin C is a powerhouse, especially for safer skincare.

In addition to its antioxidant functions, Vitamin C regulates the synthesis of the structural protein collagen; it plays a role in boosting your skin’s collagen production to give you firmer, more plump skin and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that fight free radicals and oxidative damage caused by UV radiation (aging). –source

I personally have found Vitamin C to be critical to my skin’s improved health, and I don’t go a single day without using the All Bright Facial Oil. Also, I have very sensitive rosacea-prone skin and it, combined with SPF, have been huge in preventing a lot of UV damage. It is incredible because it is a true skin food, since it literally aids in your body’s own synthesis of collagen – reducing signs of aging.

Vitamin C reduces UV damage, lightens sun damage and dark spots, while giving skin an overall brightened effect with more even skin tone. I know it sounds impossible, but I’m sharing more below on how Vitamin C and Niacinamide both have clinical studies for incredible results!

Why Safer? The dangers of skin brightening

While lightening and brightening skin is the number one desire for women when looking at skin care products, it is still legally allowed in the United States to use chemicals in skin-lightening creams which are known to cause harm. In fact, many of them knowingly market potentially harmful ingredients such as hydroquinone, corticosteroids, or mercury.

And, the “Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) tested a random sample of skin lightening products and found that some of them contain mercury at levels much higher than what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows in cosmetic products. The FDA allows cosmetic products to contain only trace amounts of mercury (one part per million). The products MDH tested ranged from 135 to 33,000 parts per million. Being exposed to mercury from these products could cause serious health problems.” – [source]

In fact, the FDA itself has warned of dangers from skin lightening creams. “Skin lightening products can be dangerous for consumers when they contain… potentially harmful ingredients hydroquinone or mercury.” [source]

Possible side effects

Side effects of skin-lightening creams containing hydroquinone, corticosteroids, or mercury can include:

  • redness and swelling (skin irritation and inflammation)
  • a burning or stinging sensation
  • itchy and flaky skin

What could go wrong

Possible risks of skin-lightening creams containing hydroquinone, corticosteroids or mercury include:

  • skin turning dark or too light
  • thinning of the skin
  • visible blood vessels in the skin
  • scarring
  • kidney, liver or nerve damage
  • abnormalities in a newborn baby (if used during pregnancy)

The FDA has received reports of serious side effects from the use of hydroquinone, including rashes, facial swelling, and permanent skin discoloration (ochronosis). Mercury is a highly toxic metal that can damage the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, as well as the lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes.” [source]

EWG’s rating scale for ingredients and products of concern are 0 (verified) to 10 (high hazard)

Check the Label

Ingredients can be called different things, so check to see if the label says the product has:

  • Mercury in it, also known as “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurous,” or “mercurio” or look for “Hg” (the chemical symbol for mercury) or other forms of the word such as Mercuric iodide, mercuric chloride, mercurous chloride, ammoniated mercury, amide chloride of mercury or mercury oxide.
  • Hydroquinone is also known as benzene-1,4-diol or quinol and is available under the following different brand names: Lustra, Melquin, Melquin HP 4%, Melquin-3 Topical Solution, Lustra-AF, Lustra-Ultra, Alphaquin, Claripel, Clarite, Eldopaque, Eldoquin, Epiquin Micro, Esoterica, Melanex, Melpaque, Nuquin HP Cream, Nuquin HP Gel, and Solaquin
  • Corticosteroids are often listed as hydrocortisone, hydrocortisone acetate, cortisone acetate, tixocortol pivalate, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, and prednisone

American Academy of Dermatology Association warning:

“The cultural beliefs that promote the practice of skin bleaching date back centuries and deeply affect many of our patients with skin of color,” says Dr. Desai, who maintains a private practice dedicated to treating patients with skin of color. “It’s going to take time to change these deeply-rooted cultural values and psychological associations with lighter skin tones; however, we want to educate patients about the dangers of skin bleaching strictly for the sake of achieving lighter skin and encourage them to talk with their dermatologist so that we can begin changing this dialogue.”

While bleaching creams can be used safely under the direction of a board-certified dermatologist to treat pigmentary conditions like melasma, dermatologists are concerned about the use of these products to change the color of one’s complexion. Skin bleaching typically refers to the practice of using over-the-counter (and online) products marketed to lighten dark skin to achieve a lighter complexion. Because some skin bleaching products that aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) make their way to the U.S. from other countries and are sold online, these unregulated products may possibly contain dangerously high concentrations of hydroquinone and topical steroids. The combination of these two medications stops the production of melanin in the skin — the pigment produced by cells that give skin its color.” [source]

Safer Ingredients for Safer Skincare

No aesthetic standard is worth sacrificing our health! And, we have options that don’t sacrifice our well being. Both Vitamin C and Niacinamide have extensive clinical data to support efficacy for skincare.

Vitamin C

Additionally, there are better options that exist, and Vitamin C is at the top of that list. Topical vitamin C is a science-backed, dermatologist-favorite ingredient that can slow early skin aging (usually from UV damage), prevent sun damage, and improve the appearance of dark spots, wrinkles, and texture from scars, acne, and more. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, it fights harmful free radicals (toxins) that come in contact with your skin from air pollution. Free radicals can damage the skin, and applying topical vitamin C can prevent free radicals from attacking your skin, to potentially improve the skin’s overall appearance. [source]

Vitamin C may also help protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays when used in combination with a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Clinical studies have shown that combining vitamin C with other topical ingredients, namely ferulic acid and vitamin E, can diminish redness and help protect the skin from long-term damage caused by harmful sun rays.

What to look for?

You want to look for Vitamin C-based brightening products have that have CLINICAL studies to prove efficacy after only 1-2 months of use. If a product has clinical studies then you know it can be effective. This assures you can avoid the down side to Vitamin C, which is that it can be difficult to create a stable form. “The biggest challenge in the utilization of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) is maintaining its stability and improving its delivery to the active site.”

Most products on the market are not focused on ultra-stability or efficacy, only leaning into the client looking for popular buzz words. That’s why I love Beautycounter – every product is tested against 23 human health endpoints to ensure safety and efficacy. And, their return policy is 60 days, giving the user plenty of time to see results.

Also, I share more about Vitamin C here.


Another incredibly powerful ingredient is niacinamide, used to smooth, brighten and strengthen your skin. Also called niacin or nicotinamide on skincare ingredient lists, niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. “Studies have shown that niacinamide has the potential to act as an antioxidant, can improve epidermal barrier function, decrease skin hyperpigmentation, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, decrease redness/blotchiness, decrease skin yellowness (sallowness), and improve skin elasticity.” [source]

“Niacinamide is one of those ingredients found in many skin care products to brighten skin, prevent signs of aging and treat conditions like eczema or acne,” says dermatologist Alok Vij, MD. “Niacinamide may be the ‘it’ product of the moment, but it’s been around for years and has staying power given its positive impacts on many skin conditions.”

Niacinamide’s chemical makeup makes it a very stable ingredient, so it doesn’t react to heat or light like vitamin C. Combined with the fact that niacinamide maintains a neutral pH, it then becomes a superstar ingredient for nearly every skin type with every product in your routine.

Skin-rejuvenating benefits

And if that’s not enough, its skin-rejuvenating benefits put it on par with retinol. In fact, because it’s such a safe active ingredient, dermatologists will recommend niacinamide to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as a replacement for their usual retinol products! Some clinical findings (all from this meta-analysis):

  • 2.5% niacinamide resulted in smoother skin surface
  • 14.8% reduction in skin roughness in a randomized, double-blind, split-face, placebo-controlled, clinical trial (5% 2x daily for 12 weeks).
  • study using niacinamide 5% and niacinamide 2% + UVB/UVA sunscreen moisturizer reduced facial hyperpigmentation; after 8 weeks, there was significant lightening of hyperpigmentation
  • increases the antioxidant capacity of skin
  • effective in decreasing epidermal hyperpigmentation and reducing pigmented spots as we age; showed reduction of cutaneous pigmentation(using 5% niacinamide moisturizer)
  • may improve the texture of skin by speeding up epidermal turnover hence functioning as a mild exfoliant.
  • study demonstrates that long-term application of 2.5% niacinamide can correct the skin surface damage that results from aging
  • variety of effects related to improvements in skin appearance for topical niacinamide including reductions in fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, red blotchiness, skin sallowness, and improvement in skin elasticity.(with 5% and 2% niacinamide)
  • The topical use of niacinamide for anti-aging has proven to be effective not only when there are signs of a niacin deficiency… [it] is one of the best studied cosmeceutical ingredients for anti-aging.

What are the side effects of niacinamide?

Niacinamide is generally considered gentle and safe to use on your skin. Rarely, it can cause an allergic reaction (itching, mild burning sensation, redness). So if you’re concerned about potential side effects, do a patch test by applying a small amount on your forearm, and waiting 24 hours. Most of the time, you’ll be able to use niacinamide safely and discover your skin is all the better for it. [source]

Pair with other products in your routine for safer skincare

It’s often helpful to pair niacinamide with other skin care products to maximize its benefits:

  • SPF – protect further damage!
  • Anti-aging formulas for fine lines and wrinkles
  • Antioxidant-rich Vitamin C
  • Moisturizers with Vitamin E-rich lipids or ceramides
  • Glycolic acid
  • Hyaluronic acid

Safer Skincare Products for Dark Spots

While dark spots come in many forms, ultimately almost all originate from UV damage. Shown above is a Seborrheic Keratosis (textured, dark, bump) that I went to the dermatologist for. I was concerned it was cancerous, as it was darkening and growing. My derm gave me the good news that it wasn’t dangerous, but the bad news that it was going to keep getting bigger and darker and there were no at-home treatments. He clearly hadn’t read the scientific literature I had!

So I came home and started applying the All Bright Dark Spot Minimizer treatment. Not even consistently, and saw HUGE results. Only 30 applications in (so 4 weeks if you did it daily) and the spot is almost entirely gone! I’ve also seen incredible results with my facial skin, from a plethora of freckles and UV damage to none showing any longer. Here’s what I use to support my bright, glowing skin:

BEST: All Bright Dark Spot Minimizer (new)

Specific to dark spots, they are a result of sun exposure over time (years). Most dark spots take 4 months to diminish, even with harsher chemicals! All Bright Dark Spot Minimizer is a targeted treatment with Vitamin C, Niacinamide and other clinically proven ingredients. Use after washing, prepping, and after any serums as a spot treatment twice a day for 8 weeks to see visible results.

All Bright C Serum (bestselling, award-winning)

This “daytime sister” to the evening serum (Overnight Resurfacing Peel) is incredible. This serum, powered by two stable sources of Vitamin C concentrated around 10% plus camu camu an antioxidant-rich tumeric reduces UV damage, lightening sun damage and dark spots while giving skin an overall brightened effect with more even skin tone. I know it sounds impossible, but clinically studies showed 100% said skin looked brighter! I recommend test patching this, then using it either after your usual serum (as a treat step) in your current skin routine (best suited for dry/normal skin), OR add All Bright Brightening Facil Oil to it (about 2 drops, best suited for oily/acne-prone skin).

All Bright AHA Toner

This dual-purpose product serves as both an exfoliator and toner! Similar to the Peel, but is MUCH more simple since you don’t need to let sit on your skin 5-10 minutes. Because of the fermented probiotics from kombucha it is more gentle for sensitive skin, too. So it’s like the Overnight Resurfacing Peel, All Bright C Serum, and Countertime Essence had a beautiful better beauty baby!  It’s not just me: 90% of users in the clinical tests said skin feels supple and smooth and 93% said skin looks radiant, luminous and renewed. Clinically proven to: Improve appearance of pores and Improve skin brightness with 4 weeks of use! But I recommend using at night on alternating days of the Peel. It is recommended to only use one AHA per day.

All Bright Brightening Facial Oil (my ride or die)

This was an Allure best of beauty winner for a reason. I LOVE adding a few drops to my night time moisturizer every morning and night for hydrating, bright, glowing skin. It smells so lovely, honestly I could bathe in the stuff! Unless you have very dry skin, I would add it in to a moisturizer versus applying directly.

Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer with mineral-based SPF

We need SPF everyday to prevent further UV damage! This is (still) my absolute favorite item at Beautycounter. It has mineral-based SPF to prevent against damage and blue light’s aging rays and the zinc is a natural anti-inflammatory to help control acne. Furthermore, I use mine mixed with my serum and facial oil as my morning moisturizer. But if you have dryer skin, that may not be enough hydration for you. Let it sit on the skin for a few minutes before applying the rest of your makeup so it loses its stickiness. It gives a wonderful dewy glow to the skin, but if you’d prefer less shine the Mattify Finishing Powder fixes that!

Countertime age defense skin care

This is my favorite skincare line, specifically targeting aging and dry skin. However, if you have normal, oily, or combo skin, I suggest not using the supreme cream, a intense thick moisturizer meant for nighttime. It can clog pores and cause breakouts for anyone who doesn’t need that much moisture. And, if you have sensitive skin, make sure to test patch, as the active ingredients in this line are no joke. The proprietary RetiNatural Complex is clinically tested to have the same results as Retinol, but with safer ingredients.

Reflect Effect Line (AHA/BHA Glycolic Acids)

This line has so much to offer for physical and (safer) chemical exfoliation! A few times a week I add a smidge of the 2-ingredient Bamboobuff Polish to my cleanser to clear pores in one step. The Overnight Resurfacing Peel has an incredible botanical blend that first exfoliates then soothes the skin. Simply apply after your prep step and allow to sit on skin for 5-10 min. Then follow with your favorite protect step. The new Overnight Resurfacing Body Peel works the same way, but is more intensely formulated specifically for body skin. And my most beloved super easy one-step solution to BOTH physical and chemical exfoliation needs is the AHA Smoothing Mask.

Example Routine

The following routines incorporates all the things: anti-aging formulas, antioxidant-rich vitamin C, vitamin E, moisturizers with lipids or ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid – woot!

Find all skincare products listed below HERE.

For dull, dry, sensitive skin:

Wash: Countertime Cleansing Oil or Cleansing Balm, with microfiber cloth
Prep: Countertime Essence
Treat: Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum + Dark Spot Minimizer
Protect: All Bright Facial Oil added to SPF Moisturizer (Dew Skin or Countersun Sheer Defense)

Wash: same
Prep: alternate All Bright Triple Acid AHA Toner* & Countertime Essence
Treat: alternate Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum with Dark Spot Minimizer and Peel*
Protect: All Bright Facial Oil added to Countertime Soft Cream

1-2x a week use the Reflect Effect AHA Smoothing Facial Mask (I do this before I wash my hair to make it simple to wash off)

Find all skincare products listed below HERE.

For dry blemish-prone, the spot treatment will help scarring:

Wash: Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser with microfiber cloth
Prep: Countermatch Toner
Treat: Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum + Dark Spot Minimizer
Protect: All Bright Facial Oil added to SPF (Dew Skin or Countersun Sheer Defense)


Wash: same
Prep: alternate All Bright Triple Acid AHA Toner* & Countermatch Toner
Treat: alternate Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum with Dark Spot Minimizer and Peel*
Protect: All Bright Facial Oil added to Countertime Soft Cream

1-2x a week use the Reflect Effect AHA Smoothing Facial Mask (I do this before I wash my hair to make it simple to wash off)

*only 1 AHA per day, make sure to spot check

In addition to the products I used, the other action I took for my seborrheic keratosis (which is an age spot with texture) is using a Dermastone. Or you could also use a pumice or loofah to focus on body exfoliation. I like the Dermastone because it was specifically created for such a purpose and is effective yet gentle. “Dermastone™ Leg & Body Scrub was created to tackle a whole host of body care concerns: dry skin, ashy skin, ingrown hair, strawberry legs, uneven tone, uneven texture, and ashy skin.”

I got mine here.


We discuss a recent state law banning some of the potentially harmful ingredients (like mercury in skin lighteners) in this Bonus episode of The Whole View.

Have dry skin conditions, such as rosacea, dermatitis or eczema? Read: Vitamin E is a Superfood or Listen to The Whole View Podcast Ep 33

Looking for Anti-Aging solutions? Read: Top 3 Best and Worst Ingredients and My Favorite Safer Skincare

Want more clean beauty exfoliators? Learn the difference between Chemical and Physical Exfoliators here

Another excellent exfoliation technique, read more on Taking the Fear out of Microdermabrasion with Tutorial (a how-to for reducing signs of aging and scars at-home)

See Stacy’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for Safer Swaps and Clean Cosmetics Better Beauty


FDA Warns of Dangers from Skin Lightening Creams, US News

Skin Lightening Products can cause Health Problems, MN Department of Health

Board-certified dermatologist warns consumers about the dangers of skin bleaching to achieve a lighter complexion, American Academy of Dermatology Association

How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients? PMC2921764

Niacinamide: The Versatile Skincare Ingredient Dermatologists Love, DRMTLGY

Top 6 Benefits of Niacinamide, Cleveland Health Clinic

Why is topical vitamin C important for skin health? Harvard Health Publishing from Harvard Medical School

Chemical Stability of Ascorbic Acid Integrated into Commercial Products: A Review on Bioactivity and Delivery Technology, PMC8773188



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