Hydroquinone has been used in the beauty industry for decades to lighten dark spots on your face from hyperpigmentation, age spots, or freckles. It comes in a non-prescription strength up to 2% concentration in serums or creams for home treatment, and prescription-strength can be up to 4%. The effectiveness of hydroquinone resulted in its popularity, but there has been some controversy surrounding its safety.
What is Hydroquinone?
Although hydroquinone can be found in nature, it is often created in a lab. Hydroquinone is a phenol derivative with antioxidant properties used as a topical treatment for hyperpigmentation. The synthetic compound works as a bleaching agent promising to brighten dark patches.
How Does it Work?
Hydroquinone breaks down and minimizes the production of melanin in melanocytes by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to make melanin. Melanin is a pigment that makes up your skin tone. In cases of hyperpigmentation, more melanin is present due to an increase in melanocyte production.
Generally, hydroquinone is well tolerated. In some instances, mild burning, stinging, redness, dryness, blistering, skin cracking, or darkening of the skin may occur. Sunscreen of at least SPF30 is necessary to prevent skin from getting darker again. If side effects persist, stop using hydroquinone. Severe allergic reactions to hydroquinone are uncommon but are possible, including rash, itching/swelling, severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.
Is Hydroquinone Safe?
In some parts of the world, hydroquinone has been banned, questioning the safeness.of its use. The mutagenic and carcinogenic potential of this chemical in animals has raised concerns on the effects it has on humans. The FDA has approved the use of hydroquinone, and there aren't any research studies or clinical evidence to suggest that there is any [human] harm.