Whether you know what it is or not, most skincare junkies have probably heard of the word hydroquinone. Hydroquinone has become quite controversial in recent years; some people swear by it while others refuse to touch the stuff. But what does it actually do, and should you use it? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of hydroquinone.
What is hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is a skincare ingredient that effectively fades hyperpigmentation, whether in the form of dark patches of skin, sun spots, melasma, acne scars, or more.
What does it do?
Hyperpigmentation is caused when there is too much melanin (which gives skin its pigment or color) buildup. Hydroquinone prevents the production of excess melanin and breaks down existing melanin pigment clusters which leads to the fading of dark spots or patches.
Why is it controversial?
Products containing hydroquinone came under fire a few years ago for causing side effects such as burning, irritation, swelling, and in some rare cases, a condition known as exogenous ochronosis, which causes darkened black-blue patches of skin. However, most of the products that were pulled from the shelves were manufactured in unregulated markets and also contained toxic ingredients such as mercury and phenol, which were most likely the cause of concern.
Should I use it?
Most experts and research agree that hydroquinone itself is not harmful, and if formulated correctly and used appropriately, hydroquinone can be a safe and effective ingredient to fade dark spots and patches. If used regularly, hydroquinone can provide visible results in just four weeks.
Are there any precautions to be taken while using hydroquinone?
Even though hydroquinone has been shown to be well tolerated and with a low risk of side effects, as with many skincare ingredients, there are things that you can do to maximize efficacy and minimize any risk. Always apply new products to a small patch of skin (such as behind the ear or inner arm) for 24 hours to test for any allergies or reactions before using it on your face. Sun protection is an important part of any skincare routine, but especially important when fading dark patches. Applying an SPF 30 or higher every single day will help protect your skin and prevent hyperpigmentation from recurring. If you start to notice any irritation or rashes from the product, discontinue use and check with your doctor, as this could signal an allergy to one of the ingredients.
Ready to try hydroquinone? Here are some of our favorite hyperpigmentation-fading products.
NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel – This lightening gel combines hydroquinone and gently exfoliating polyhydroxy acids to quickly and effectively fade dark spots.
Vie Collection Mesoforce Hydra Revitilizing Cream – A nourishing cream that contains shea butter, olive oil, and jojoba oil to moisturize while hydroquinone fades dark patches and illuminates.
Murad Rapid Age Spot & Pigment Lightening Serum – Containing a blend of AHAs and hydroquinone, this serum promises to fade dark spots by up to 33% in just one week.
Exuviance Intense Lightening Complex – Hydroquinone and kojic acid work together with antioxidants in this complex to provide powerful lightening and brightening effects.