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The Skin Brightening Ingredient That is Much Safer Than Hydroquinone


When it comes to fighting pigmentation, slow and steady wins the race. Although most people prefer that dark spots fade as fast as possible, the best way to lighten dark spots is to have a steady and consistent routine with solid skin brightening active ingredients. 

As a product developer of a deodorant company, underarm pigmentation is something I know a lot about. Many customers contact me asking me how to me how to eliminate their underarm pigmentation and wondering if their deodorant is causing the discoloration.

These conversations inspired me to dig deeper, and I find out what are the best natural skin-brightening ingredients out there and how I can use those ingredients to help people combat dark spots on their underarms and their bodies. One popular skin-brightening ingredient is hydroquinone; however, this ingredient is highly regulated in Canada and the U.S. because of its controversial safety profile. This is why hydroquinone will not be found in my deodorant. However, there are naturally derived ingredients that are well tolerated on the skin that have proven clinical results on not only underarm dark spot pigmentation but dark spots on the body.

why is hydroquinone considered unsafe

Why is Hydroquinone Considered Unsafe?

Health Canada states that, hydroquinone products with concentrations greater than two per cent can cause “severe skin issues like burning and discoloration.” Even if hydroquinone is used at low levels using it for long periods of time can cause a skin disorder called exogenous ochronosis. Exogenous ochronosis is when blue-black pigmentation appears on the skin.

Why Hyodroquinone is Restrictrd or Banned by Health Regulators Around the World

While it may be the most famous ingredient for lightening dark spot pigmentation, it is banned or restricted in several countries because of its harmful side effects. Countries like Japan, and South Africa have completely banned the use of hydroquinone while in the European Union, Australia, the UK, Canada, and the U.S, it is restricted.

In the UK, you can use hydroquinone products if it is has been prescribed to you by a doctor. When hydroquinone is prescribed using it every day, it is not recommended because of the concentration levels. The European Union has banned hydroquinone products that contain concentrations higher than 1%.

In 2019, Health Canada announced that stores can only sell hydroquinone products with concentrations of 2% or less. You can also get hydroquinone products prescribed to you by a doctor. Similarly, in 2020 the U.S banned the sale of hydroquinone products over the counter. This ban was put in place because of the CARES ACT legislation. All hydroquinone products must be approved by the U.S Food & Drug Association. Nevertheless, in the U.S, doctors can still prescribe hydroquinone.

What to Use Instead of Hydroquinone

alpha arbutin symbol

There are much safer alternatives to hydroquinone, one being alpha arbutin. There are two forms of arbutin: alpha and beta. Beta arbutin is less stable; therefore, it is not as effective. Alpha arbutin is much more stable and thus better equipped at blocking the amino acid tyrosine in producing more melanin. Alpha arbutin is also a more expensive raw ingredient due to its added benefits.

Alpha arbutin is actually a derivative of hydroquinone and is obtained from dried bearberry, blueberry, and cranberry leaves. I chose to use alpha arbutin in my brightening deodorant with niacinamide, named the takesumi bright. Together these two ingredients can help with inflammation and can minimize dark spots on the underarms and on the rest of the body.

dark spots on the body

Of course, with any skin-brightening product, how fast pigmentation disappears depends on how dark the pigmentation is in the first place, how long you’ve had it, and whether you are addressing what is causing the inflammation. With some patience and with steady and consistent treatment your dark spot pigmentation will slowly improve. By using a deodorant with ingredients like niacinamide and alpha arbutin, you will see faster results since all you have to do is simply swipe it on wherever you have pigmentation and let the ingredients do all the work for you.


side profile of founder Mary Futher with short hair and round glasses

Written by Madame Sweat

Clean beauty industry maven and product developer Madame Sweat (Mary Futher) founded kaia naturals after spending 20 years working for global beauty companies. She now shares weekly modern hygiene etiquette advice and solutions for “unsexy” body taboos, with her social media followers and readers.

All content found on this website is created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. 


Clean beauty industry maven and product developer Madame Sweat (Mary Futher) founded kaia naturals after spending 20 yearsworking for global beauty companies. She now shares advice on modern hygiene etiquette for grooming, hosting, home and travel on Instagram, TikTok and her popular blog called The House of Hygiene.

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