Dr. Park Ji-Youn: Is skin whitening dangerous? A Korean aesthetic doctor explains

In 2019, the K-beauty trend1 that reigned supreme was glass skin. The main goal of glass skin is simple but crazily unattainable: Look so radiant and dewy that your skin becomes almost reflective, or mirror-like.

That all changed in 2020, when the simpler trend of cream skin took over, and the focus shifted from radiant and dewy to soft and supple. The cream skin trend also pared down the complicated steps of glass skin skincare, which is a big reason why it gained such wild popularity in Singapore and the rest of the world.

But whether it’s glass skin or cream skin, Korean skincare trends continue to revolve around the same thing: Attain the perfect, poreless, porcelain skin that Korean actresses seem to have. As a Korean aesthetic clinic, we can vouch for the fact that skin whitening remains one of the top goals amongst our clients.

How are skin bleaching and skin whitening different?

Before I move on, I’d like to stress that skin bleaching is different from skin whitening. While the former involves severe changes in skin tone and colour, skin whitening, especially in the context of Korean beauty standards, speaks to perfecting to the overall texture and health of skin, and is designed to help women achieve bright and luminous skin, no matter their place on the Fitzpatrick scale.

Why are skin whitening products known to be dangerous, and do they really bleach your skin? 

While the demand for skin whitening (or bleaching) remains strong, the procedures and products involved, however, have earned bad reputations due to cases of highly dangerous and unregulated skincare products and services being available in worldwide markets.

Some skin whitening or bleaching products have been found to be closely linked2 to health problems such as kidney failure, blood poisoning and cancer3. It is for this reason that many countries, such as Australia, Japan, and Singapore, have banned the use of toxic bleaching agents in skincare products (thank goodness!)

On that note, are there products out there that are safe to use for skin whitening? Let’s take a closer look. 

What works and what doesn’t? 

While research states that using intravenous glutathione (whitening drips) to lighten skin brings countless adverse effects4, including the toxic harming of the nervous system, kidney and liver failure, and Stevens Johnson syndrome, there are those who still choose to do it, whether it’s out of ignorance or stubbornness.

Oral whitening supplements are yet another solution, and consist of options such as oral carotenoids (aka. the crystal tomato), glutathione, melatonin, Polypodium leucotomos hydrophilic extract, procyanidin, and tranexamic acid. Initial findings for the treatment of hyperpigmentation seem promising, and such oral treatments do appear safe for now.

However, the plain truth is, even dermatologists are behind when it comes to understanding the properties, risks, and efficacy of treatments and products in the market today.

The Ozhean Zoey way of skin whitening for brighter, radiant skin 

At Ozhean Zoey, we use a combination of safe and effective treatments to help our clients achieve the skin they dream of. Here are a few examples of the help that we offer:

I personally really like the De:H Brightening Ampoule: This topical whitening product contains Sea Buckthorn, and Vitamins C and E, which are excellent antioxidants (hello, anti-aging effects!) It also contains VHTN complex, which is an active whitening formula that:

Topical glutathione (Not intravenous whitening drips)

Topical glutathione is safe5 to use, and combined with LDM electrophoresis mode, is best applied after Secret RF for the reduction of pigmentation, and enhancement of melasma whitening effects.

Curas Laser

The Curas Laser in long pulse mode helps target hyperpigmentation in the deeper layers of the skin.

Proyellow Laser

This laser treatment targets both superficial melanin in the epidermis, and haemoglobin. It reduces blood vessels so as to lessen skin redness and achieve overall brightening of the skin. The Proyellow Laser is great for achieving the aforementioned glass skin effect. Many of our clients love how their skin just glows after treatment!

Pico Laser (With Pico Toning)

The Pico Laser targets superficial pigments better with a photoacoustic effect, and is a risk-free treatment that lessens fine lines and wrinkles, reduces pigmentation and scarring, boosts collagen production and tightens the skin, and can even remove tattoos.

Secret RF

If you’re looking to improve the thickness of your skin, and would like to create a healthy and deep skin environment, Secret RF is a great choice as it significantly enhances the efficacies of lasers when attempting to whiten the skin.

LDM Treatments

LDM treatment uses dual-frequency ultrasound to deliver waves of energy to the connective tissue of the skin. This does an amazing bunch of things, like improve skin health, decrease inflammation and redness, and offer the healthy, glowy skin that everyone hankers after.

Apart from the above methods, we also have a lineup of other whitening treatments that specifically target melanin and haemoglobin. 

These treatments effectively deal with melanin hyperpigmentation, and also efficiently decreases redness in the skin, which enhances skin whitening effects. Best part? Our treatments are suitable for even the most sensitive parts of the body.

Glass skin is not just for K-pop stars - you can achieve it too with the right treatment method and with a doctor who understands your skin type. Let 2022 be the year of clear skin! 

About Dr. Park Ji-Youn

Dr. Park Ji-Youn is the founder and managing director of the Ozhean group. As a board certified dermatologist, she has published more than 30 scientific papers on dermatology, and is the creator of Ozhean’s SKIN FIT program, which was conceived in 2015, and continues to successfully retain 80% of its original customers.


  1. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/12/9067590/cream-skin-korean-beauty-trend
  2. https://news.abs-cbn.com/lifestyle/05/31/11/glutathione-injections-could-kill-fda-warns 
  3. McGregor D. (2007). Hydroquinone: an evaluation of the human risks from its carcinogenic and mutagenic properties. Critical reviews in toxicology, 37(10), 887–914. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408440701638970
  4. Juhasz, M., & Levin, M. K. (2018). The role of systemic treatments for skin lightening. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 17(6), 1144–1157. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12747
  5. Watanabe, F., Hashizume, E., Chan, G. P., & Kamimura, A. (2014). Skin-whitening and skin-condition-improving effects of topical oxidized glutathione: a double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical trial in healthy women. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 7, 267–274. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S68424