Hydroquinone is a medical drug based compound that is commonly used to treat cases of hyperpigmentation. In a nut shell, it is a skin bleaching agent that lightens unwanted dark patches or blemishes.
Hydroquinone is a medical drug based compound that is commonly used to treat cases of hyperpigmentation and lighten skin.
What Is Hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is a medical drug based compound that is commonly used to treat cases of hyperpigmentation.
In a nut shell, it is a skin bleaching agent that lightens unwanted dark patches or blemishes.
It has had a rather checkered past, having been first approved by the FDA in 1982, only to be withdrawn several years later because of a growing number of reported adverse reactions.
It was also discovered to contain some rather questionable, potentially dangerous ingredients including Mercury.
After much investigation, it was finally re-approved by the FDA for sale in over the counter (OTC) preparations with a maximum of 2% concentration.
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How Does Hydroquinone Lighten Skin?
Hydroquinone effectively bleaches your skin by reducing the number of melanocytes present in the skin cells.
It is these that are responsible for making Melanin, the pigment responsible for the colour of your skin.
Dark patched in the skin ate usually caused because of an excess amount of melanin being present due to an increase in melanocytes.
By reducing the number of these, the skins pigment can be stabilised and will become lighter and more evenly toned over a period of time.
It can take around 4 weeks for the use of Hydroquinone to have any effect on your skins colour.
This is largely down to the fact that the skin has a regular skin renewal cycle.
On average, skin renews itself every 28 days by pushing dead skin cells to the surface. Here they are removed by washing and exfoliation.
Newer skin cells that are lighter than their predecessors take their place.
The gradual result is a fairer more smoother complexion.
In severe cases, the use of Hydroquinone may take longer to work.
If you do not see results after 3 months then its probably best to speak to a qualified dermatologist.
In these cases, they might recommend more intensive treatments such as laser skin lightening.
Uses For Hydroquinone
Aside from general skin lightening, Hydroquinone has a few other uses in conditions related to hyperpigmentation.
- Age Spots
- Acne Scars
- Freckles and Birthmarks
- Post Inflammatory marks left over after cases of eczema or psoriasis
One thing that Hydroquinone cannot help with is the treating of active cases of skin inflammation.
It can help reduce the appearance of acne scars for instance, but it will not treat an active acne breakout.
Is Hydroquinone Safe To Use?
OTC Hydroquinone is largely safe for many people, mainly because it can only be purchased at a maximum of 2% concentration.
It is however still a rather harsh treatment and can cause severe dryness, redness and irritation.
This is particularly the case in those with sensitive skin.
Those who have particularly oily skin are less likely to experience any problems.
Hydroquinone seems to work better on those with naturally fairer skin tones.
This can sometimes actually make hyperpigmentation worse in those with medium to darker skin tones.
How To Use Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is relatively easy to use, but the secret when treating hyperpigmentation is consistent use. You must use Hydroquinone every day as directed to see good results.
Before you start using it properly, you must check that your skin does not show any signs of irritation.
Do a patch test, by putting a small quantity of Hydroquinone onto a part of your skin ( e.g your wrist or forearm ).
Cover the area with a bandage and leave untouched for 24 hours.
If after this time you have not experienced any itching or burning, you can confidently start using Hydroquinone to treat your hyperpigmentation.
Apply daily after cleansing and toning, but BEFORE you apply any moisturiser.
Take a small amount and apply across the affected areas of the skin, massage gently until its completely absorbed.
REMEMBER – Always wash your hands after using Hydroquinone as it can cause staining on your clothes.
It also helps also avoid applying the product on other areas of your skin.
Hydroquinone can cause a sensitivity to sunlight ( photosensitivity).
This can stop the Hydroquinone working and can also make the discolouration far worse.
So always wear a good quality sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, and really regularly while outdoors.
It is important to use consistently but do not use for periods of longer than 4 months.
If you haven’t seen any results, stop completely and go and discuss with a skin specialist.
If you are seeing results, you can continue to use it but take a 2-3 month break first before resuming.
Side Effects and Risks Of Using Hydroquinone
The FDA in the US deem Hydroquinone safe to use.
There is no clinical evidence that tells us that it poses a risk to humans.
It is possible to experience some side effects and adverse reactions when using it, especially if you have sensitive skin.
It’s not uncommon to see an increase in redness and dryness especially in the early stages of treatment.
( Most users do find that these symptoms reduce with time).
In rare cases Hydroquinone has bene known to cause a condition known as Ochronosis
This is recognised by the appearance of dark blue/black pigmentation alongside unwanted papules.
This occurs when Hydroquinone is used too extensively or for extended periods of time.
This is another reason why you should not use Hydroquinone for any longer than four months without taking break to allow your skin to settle down and recover.
Natural Alternatives To Hydroquinone
If you would prefer to not use chemicals or drug based products like Hydroquinone on your skin, there are some great natural skin lightening alternatives available.
If you want to lighten your skin naturally then use the following:
Certain vitamins such as A and C contain powerful antioxidants that reduce the cellular damage to the skin caused by free radicals.
The toxins found in the every day environment (pollution etc).
This can lighten and repair areas affected by hyperpigmentation
Plant Based Extracts and Acids
Many plant extracts and natural acids are extremely beneficial to the skin.
Plant Based Extracts help reduce dark patches by reducing the amount of melanin being produced. They allow lighter cells to rise to the surface of your skin.
AKA Niacinamide. A natural ingredient with the ability to stop the production of darker pigmented skin.
Final Thoughts On Hydroquinone
Reducing the appearance of hyperigmentios can be rather difficult and a lengthy process.
There is no doubt that Hydroquinone can help lighten your skin, but it’s not for everybody.
If you have sensitive skin or a medium to dark skin tone, you really should able check with a dermatologist before starting to use it.
If its use is not advised, they can usually recommend another form of treatment to lighten your skin including laser lightening, peels and natural skin lightening products.
It is available to buy OTC in a lower strength capacity – typically in concentrations lower than 2%. For anything stronger or a higher concentration it must be obtained via prescription.
The FDA in the US has stated that Hydroquinone safe to use. However it can cause some side effects for people with sensitive skin.
There are several commercial brands that offer a skin lightening benefit. For a more detailed explanation please read this