Skin Lightening Surgeries: Pros and Cons

Melanin is a pigment found in your skin cells that controls how dark your skin looks. More melanin means darker skin, while less melanin means lighter skin. Each cell produces its own melanin, which means that you can have light skin in some areas and darker skin in others. 

Melanin production can be affected by a whole host of factors, including sun exposure, changes in hormones, genetics, and environmental factors. Many people will develop a condition called hyperpigmentation, which is where darker patches of skin appear on the face, hands, and other parts of the body. While this is completely harmless, it may be distressing to some people. 

That’s where skin lightening techniques come in. There are two main ways of lightening skin. One method is through the use of creams and serums that contain skin lightening chemicals. The other option is one of the many types of skin lightening surgeries, which can dramatically reduce the amount of melanin in the skin in a specifically targeted area. 

Types of Skin Bleaching Surgeries

woman-posing-with-bathrobe-spaThere are many ways to achieve the same effect when it comes to skin lightening. All skin lightening surgeries work on the same principle of removing the top layer of skin so that the lighter, younger skin underneath can emerge. The only difference between the various types of surgeries is how they get rid of the top layer of skin. The process affects both the strength of the effect as well as the healing and recovery period.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and some are more suitable for particular skin types than others. A good clinician will go over these options with you and help you decide which one is best for you. 

The main types of skin bleaching surgeries are:

  • Laser skin resurfacing: This is a procedure where a laser is used to specifically target darker cells with light, removing them and allowing the lighter, fairer skin underneath to come to the surface. It can be a painful procedure, which is why many doctors will use an anesthetic cream to numb the skin while the laser is active
  • Dermabrasion: This procedure involves the use of a specialized tool to remove the top layer of skin cells, resulting in a wound that results in lighter, smoother skin after healing. Dermabrasion is mainly used to remove tattoos, scars, and precancerous spots on the skin and is less often used for hyperpigmentation. Microdermabrasion is the less extreme version of this process that removes a much smaller layer of skin cells by using a less abrasive tool.
  • Chemical peels: Peels use a specific mix of chemicals to damage the top layer of cells, causing them to die and peel off. This allows the younger, lighter skin underneath to come to the surface. There are many types of chemical peels. Some work on a very superficial level, while others penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. Recovery time will depend on what type of peel you use.

Side Effects and Risks of Skin Lightening Surgery

Closeup of woman scratching her lower armLike with any other procedure, skin lightening comes with some side effects and risks. Most people will only experience one or two of the side effects, and it’s up to you to decide whether the risks are worth the reward.

The most common side effect of skin lightening surgery is redness, swelling, and sensitivity to the sun. Redness and swelling are to be expected, since you’ve just removed a layer of your skin, and this usually goes away within a couple of days as your skin begins to heal. 

More serious side effects include bruising, scarring, and even bacterial infection, particularly with the more intense surgeries like dermabrasion. 

Another side effect is that your skin develops more dark patches after the treatment. This is because sometimes the skin reacts to stress by producing extra melanin. Sometimes this hyperpigmentation will go away on its own, and other times it will be managed, either through another surgery or with prescribed lightening creams.

Pros and Cons of Skin Lightening Surgery


  • The effects of skin lightening surgery last quite long
  • It works effectively on even the darkest skin
  • It’s more effective than skin lightening creams and serums that would need to be reapplied often


  • It’s expensive
  • It can be painful
  • Recovery times can last up to three weeks, during which time you have to avoid the sun and stick to a skincare regimen to help your skin heal properly


Skin lightening surgery is a very effective way of reducing hyperpigmentation. There are many types of surgeries available, and they each have their perks and downsides. Make sure that you do your research. Learning about skin lightening vs skin whitening is a great start. Speak with a reputable doctor who will be able to guide you through the process every step of the way. 

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