Derma-Rx Intensive Lightener

Barring a Coco Chanel-esque resurgence of the tan, it’s a fair bet to say that whitening skincare has become a permanent fixture in beauty cabins—a good thing in our books, since a tan is, as we all know, symptomatic of sun-damaged skin.

Being whitening obsessives ourselves, one of our biggest bugbears concerning the industry is its indiscriminate use of hydroquinone as a quick fix additive in many supposedly high-grade creams.

The bleaching agent may be touted as the gold standard in treating hyperpigmentation, but, putting aside the controversial claims of its carcinogenic properties, hydroquinone has many other things going against it—it’s extremely unstable and oxidative, meaning most of its efficacy goes up into the ether once you expose it to air; it can cause hives and swelling; and, perhaps most bizarrely, prolonged use can cause you to develop what dermatologists refer to as “fish odour syndrome” (don’t ask).

Rather than risk smelling like rotting seafood, we always make it a point to opt for hydroquinone-free treatments. Derma-Rx’s Intensive Lightener is one of the better skin lighteners on the market, ingredients-wise. 

In lieu of the questionable carcinogen, Derma-Rx’s hydroquinone-free formula comes packed with powerful, second-generation botanicals that have demonstrated melanin-inhibiting effects—arbutin, glycyrrhiza root and kojic dipalmitate, to name a few.

(Beauty nerd alert: you may have noticed “kojic acid” listed in some of your whitening creams. When given a choice, always go for products containing “kojic dipalmitate”—it’s a more potent and easily absorbed form of the former.)

Besides sorting out skin discolouration, the Derma-Rx Intensive Lightener also contains an anti-aging triptych of salicylic, lactic and citric acids to induce mild peeling for smoother, more even skin tone.

Note of caution: these skin-thinning alpha-hydroxy acids can increase sun sensitivity, so always wear sunscreen and avoid direct sun exposure where possible (which is sound advice for everyone, really).

A single pump of the dispenser should yield enough of the lightly textured cream to cover your entire face. Derma-Rx says to apply a layer of the Intensive Lightener twice daily—we recommend using it on clean skin after your softener, serum and emulsion, just before applying your regular moisturiser.

The Derma-Rx Intensive Lightener, $254, is available at The DRx Clinic. Derma-Rx products are manufactured in the United States, but owned by The DRx Group, a Singapore company. For more information, visit and