There are many products formulated to help you achieve a brighter, more even complexion. Most of these utilize one of two brightening ingredients, hydroquinone or arbutin, to target dark spots and other hyperpigmentation concerns. In this blog, we will explore the differences between these two ingredients to help determine which is best for you.
Hydroquinone is a powerful skin lightening ingredient that decreases the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. Hydroquinone breaks down melanosomes, the pigment granules that comprise melanin. The ingredient also inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to produce melanin. Hydroquinone is the best skin lightening ingredient on the market, but due to its potency sensitive skin may not tolerate it in high concentrations. It is also not recommended for use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Arbutin is a gentler alternative to hydroquinone. It has melanin-inhibiting properties derived from the leaves of blackberry shrubs, cranberries, blueberries, mushrooms and pears. Arbutin also has the power to block tyrosinase, minimizing and preventing dark spots. It is less irritating than hydroquinone, making it an ideal brightener for sensitive skin, but arbutin is only about one-fourth of the strength of 4% hydroquinone.
Both of these brightening ingredients reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dark spots, but their effectiveness differs greatly. Hydroquinone is the best and most potent ingredient for skin lightening because it bleaches dark spots and hyperpigmented areas. Arbutin is gentler alternative for lightening but is not as effective as 4% hydroquinone.
Obagi Nu-Derm is a line of powerful products that harnesses the power of hydroquinone to address a dull complexion. This line is ideal for improving age spots, rough skin, redness, sallowness and hyperpigmentation. Obagi Nu-Derm Transformation System – Normal to Dry is formulated to treat normal to dry skin and fades discoloration using 4% hydroquinone. For oilier complexions in need of brightening, Obagi Nu-Derm Transformation System - Normal to Oily absorbs excess oil while brightening with 4% hydroquinone. These systems are the strongest, most effective solutions for lightening and brightening.
If you would rather not use hydroquinone, Obagi Nu-Derm also has hydroquinone-free formulas. These products minimize discoloration with 7% arbutin though their results are less dramatic than with formulas containing 4% hydroquinone. Obagi Nu-Derm Fx Starter System - Normal to Dry Skin (New Hydroquinone-Free Formula) and Obagi Nu-Derm Fx Starter System - Normal to Oily Skin (New Hydroquinone-Free Formula) gently improve skin tone and sun damage while addressing wrinkles and rough texture.
Obagi-C FX is a system that contains hydroquinone-free products that contain 4% and 7% arbutin for a more even skin tone. This system also provides antioxidant protection with 10% vitamin C, which has the power to reduce wrinkles and dark spots. Obagi-C Fx System - Normal to Dry Skin (New Hydroquinone-Free Formula) minimizes skin discoloration and improves dryness. Obagi-C Fx System - Normal to Oily Skin (New Hydroquinone-Free Formula) fades dark spots and reduces excess oil.
LYTERA from SkinMedica uses a proprietary blend of ingredients to achieve a more even skin tone without hydroquinone. This system lightens dark spots and addresses signs of aging with retinol. Its strength is on par with that of other arbutin-containing products. To brighten dull skin and diminish dark spots, SkinMedica LYTERA Skin Brightening System with Retinol Complex 0.5 includes four hydroquinone-free products that work together to improve discoloration. SkinMedica LYTERA Skin Brightening System with Retinol Complex 1.0 includes four hydroquinone-free products to lighten a dull complexion with a higher concentration of retinol, making it ideal for skin already accustomed to a lower dose of retinol.
Because hydroquinone is the most powerful ingredient for lightening dark spots and evening skin tone, the Obagi Nu-Derm systems containing hydroquinone are the most effective solutions for brightening dull complexions. Its dramatic results make Nu-Derm ideal for those with mature complexions or conditions such as melasma or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Without hydroquinone, the Obagi-C Fx and LYTERA systems are gentler options for sensitive skin. These systems are also best for those who would rather not use hydroquinone and do not mind that their results will not be as dramatic as with the products containing 4% hydroquinone.
Do you have a question about skin brighteners? Ask us in the comment section.