Patience is key if you decide to try one of these products. They can be a bit pricey, so once you make the investment, stick with it! Because of the life cycle of skin cells and the color-making process, you'll wait about 8 to 12 weeks before you begin to see a real difference. Some doctors suggest using a retinoid product (such as Retin-A) along with the lightener to help speed things up.
The dark side, so to speak, to slathering on these creams -- particularly the strongest ones -- can be skin irritation and a greater risk of sunburn. So use sunscreen (SPF 30) every day, even when it rains. Steroid creams such as hydrocortisone reduce inflammation and creams rich in antioxidants can help with irritation and protect your skin from further damage.