Hydroquinone and glutathione are two of the most popular ingredients for skin pigmentation removal in the market today. There’s a wide array of them on offer, and looking through these choices can sometimes leave you confused and overwhelmed.
Here’s a convenient comparison to help you better understand what each of these ingredient can do:
What is Hydroquinone?
Melanin gives color to your skin and hair; the more you have it, the darker your skin and hair becomes. Hydroquinone blocks the production of melanin, so the result is lighter skin.
Specifically, hydroquinone blocks the production of tyrosinase, an important component in making melanin. As long as you use hydroquinone, your body will produce lesser melanin, and you will become lighter over time. Once you discontinue usage, your skin’s natural level of melanin production will return, and so will your natural skin color.
How to Remove Pigmentation Using Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone comes in different concentrations. The higher the dosage, the more aggressive it is in blocking the melanin-production process. (This explains why hydroquinone has long been used for melasma removal, where brown or gray-brown patches of skin appear on foreheads, cheeks, chins and bridge of the nose.)
In smaller doses (of at most 2%), hydroquinone can be purchased over-the-counter but pigment removal products with at least 4% hydroquinone concentration (considered to be the most effective concentration), require a prescription from a skin care specialist. Hydroquinone concentration of at least 12% blocks melanin production altogether.
Brands such as Obagi, Cosmelan and Dr Sylvia Advanced Clear Skin Program are among the known safe and effective lightening products that include prescription strength 4% hydroquinone to treat pigmentation and other spots in the skin.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione is produced by the liver, and is found in every cell of the body. Its primary function is as an anti-oxidant, keeping the cells running smoothly and helping the liver remove foreign chemicals such as drugs and pollutants.
The skin lightening effects of glutathione come as a side effect of all this antioxidant activity. Because free radicals responsible for blemishes are kept away from cells, removing pigmentation and achieving clear complexion are just a fortunate by-product of glutathione.
It will take several months for the skin lightening effect of glutathione to occur. Because it helps the liver with its toxin removal function, the liver will have its fill of glutathione first before glutathione is used by the body as hyperpigmentation treatment. The most you can expect to get from glutathione is a skin tone two shades lighter.
So which is better: Glutathione or Hydroquinone?
Some medical aesthetic clinic prescribed 4% hydroquinone for skin pigmentation and lightening treatment. Given its safe and effective results especially in the United States, hydroquinone is also often used in many aesthetic clinics in Singapore.
Hydroquinone has been in use for over 50 years to specifically address facial spots caused by sun damage or freckles, patches (melasma), or dark scars due to injury or disease (like acne or chicken pox). If you have access to a dermatologist in Singapore, he or she can provide prescription as to the right dosage and length of use (normally no more than 4 months in one cycle).
Glutathione, on the other hand, still lacks randomized controlled studies that support its claim as a treatment for pigmentation and skin lightening ingredient. Most of its skin lightening effect is anecdotal. There has to be sufficient studies conducted first before glutathione can be used solely for skin whitening purposes.