Hydroquinone: Health Benefits, Risks, Research Facts

Hydroquinone was a popular ingredient in almost all skin care products across countries and continents. Many brands propose the use of it for pigmentation treatment, in which users were promised with lighter skin tone. The ingredient becomes really popular and millions of people would like to get the promised result.

Years ago, many skin creams, for both face and body, were claimed to have the particular ingredient. Several brand even decided to name their series with the same name of the ingredients. Selling points during the time was marvelous with increasing number of users.

Many customers, especially those with darker skin tone and complexion, wanted any cream that contains the ingredient. Even people with lighter skin tone were attracted to the cleaning power of hydroquinone. It was claimed to clean and clear black spots in quick work. However, this is not the happy ending. Situation was changed after significant reports.

The changing situation was initiated with several reports of serious skin problems among customer who used cream and other skin products containing hydroquinone. It happens to almost all customers with real and plenty use of the chemical.


Due to the side effects, many researchers started to study the chemical and those skin products in thorough research. The result was shocking. This particular chemical was claimed to be useful if it is taken in relatively small amount. If someone gets more than he should be, this chemical would cause serious skin problems or probably damage.

Since then, the skin products are no longer the hot items on market. FDA even proposed to ban all skin products containing the substance in 2006. Customers start to avoid it too. This fact should tell us something, but it will be best to learn the whole part of it. You need to know real facts on hydroquinone.

Here is the complete explanation upon the chemical substance.

Hydroquinone Health Benefit

Obviously, hydroquinone was used in many skin care products due to the benefits it delivers. Here are the most known benefits of the chemical substance:

  • Painless

Hydroquinone is not the only chemical substances that are known to be used on skin care products. There are many others. However, this particular substance is popular due to the painless feeling after application. Chemical substances commonly cause skin reactions like redness and burning feeling, irritation and sensitivity, and pain and nodules. This one doesn’t cause any of that condition. It makes a safe substance for sensitive care like skin care.

Due to research report, all customers who used skin care products containing the substance didn’t experience anything once they applied the products. It felt fine and they didn’t see instant change on their skin. There was no instant and sudden side effect from this substance.

Honestly, such skin care products are always considered as safe. This is why this substance was considered as not dangerous. People believe this substance delivers only benefits to the treatment.

  • Easy to Apply and to Blend

Even though hydroquinone is a chemical substance, it has the easiness for application. Being soluble to water, it is easy to blend it with other ingredients of skin care products. It mixes well in the mixture, and most cream with this substance has perfect texture.

Customer only needed to apply the cream or lotion on their skin without the need of preparation procedures or any other restrictions. For most customers, this is a beneficial side. They didn’t have to go through complicated procedures just to apply the products. Until now, such easiness is preferable especially for those people with busy schedule.

Most brands also favored this substance due to the flexibility. They don’t have to blend it on certain manner or procedure to make safe products. Customers don’t have to think about anything else but apply the products. It makes perfect ingredient for modern product.

  • Quick Result

This chemical substance has been popular ingredient to skin care products that solves hyperpigmentation issues. The product promised brighter complexion and natural radiant. It appeared that those product could give the promised result, and in short period of time too.

Most customers used the products around one to four months cycle. All of them claimed to get the promised result. They got brighter skin and they got it glows naturally, before the side effects came out. To be honest, despite the knowledge that natural things take time to work out, customers would always prefer quick result on all types of skin products.

They want to look better as soon as possible. Hydroquinone is effective in delivering quick result, and it makes the substance a popular ingredient for skin products. It delivers the expected look in expected time. Nothing was better than that.

  • Clear Skin Spots

Hydroquinone is super effective in solving hyperpigmentation issues like dark spots, dark complexion, and uneven skin tone. This substance has certain melamin formulation. This formulation works to alter several subcellular metabolic processes, which are responsible for inhibit melanin production and cytolisis.

Altering the processes enables the formulation to encourage even skin tone. The same formulation works to deliver active ingredients to the melanocytes and to penetrate our skin during the process. This is how this substance prevents the appearance of freckles, melazma, and chloasma. It literally empowers natural process to create even and brighter skin and complexion, which everyone’s dreaming skin.

The substance doesn’t require fit skin condition to work fast. It only needs to be in the right dose. On this case, many skin care products used to give high does on their mixture to even fasten the process, which appears to be dangerous and damaging.

  • Brighten Darker Skin

As also mentioned before, hydroquinone is used on skin care products that were intended for those who have darker skin and wanted brighter look. Based on research report, this substance works well on this case by inhibiting tyrosinase enzyme. This enzyme is the one responsible for skim melanin development.

Skin melanin plays important role on your skin pigmentation. With your tyrosinase enzyme inhibited, you get to control your skin pigmentation, in which you can prevent it for getting darker. The effect, obviously, is brighter skin than how you naturally can get.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work forever. You need to keep inserting the substance to inhibit the tyrosinose enzyme. If you don’t, your natural pigmentation will come out again. This was how customers tend to have dependency on the particular substance. They need continous supply to keep their new bright and even skin tone and complexion all the time.

Those hydroquinone benefits are pretty amusing. They made enough explanation why skin care products containing the substance wanted by so many customers. It seems to solve hyperpigmentation issues.

Hydroquinone Risks and Side Effects

As other chemical substance, excessive use of hydroquinone brings serious side effects and dangerous risks. The following are the most known side effects and hydroquinone risks that were reported happen to customers using skin care products containing the substance:

  • Ochronosis

This condition happens mostly on people with dark skin with long term use of hydroquinone. The condition has different symptoms. The symptoms include skin discoloration in blue black color, gray brown spots, and tiny yellow or brown bumps. On darker user, skin darkening in sooty progressive manner was also found.

This condition is also categorized as skin disorder. Even though not common, most users with long term and high dose use of the substance suffer from the condition. This problem can lead into even more serious skin damage or skin health problems.

  • Photosensitivity

This is a condition in which your skin is more sensitive against the sunlight. This condition was common to be found on customers especially those who live in tropical areas where sunlight can’t be avoided. Moreover, this sensitivity tends to grow even bigger.

Using hydroquinone, you shouldn’t be exposed to sunlamp or tanning beds. You will need to wear protection like sunglasses, hats or even masks, and proper clothes, as well as good sunscreen for your skin. Exposure to ultraviolet light can cause severe skin burn. Such skin burn will get even worse when you continue the treatment using the particular substance.

  • Carcinogenic Property

This is based on research and lab test of high dose hydroquinone inserted using tube, not topical or oral treatment. The effect was shocking. It was reported to cause carcinogenic properties in your skin, which are the main cause of cancer.

We can also say that excessive use of this substance can lead to, most possibly, skin cancer or other cancer. This experiment has successfully stopped the use of the substance in skin products with high dose instantly. Luckily, there is no official report about customers to suffer from the condition just yet.

  • Allergic Reaction

Even though it quite rare, allergic reactions are things you should be prepared about before using hydroquinone. Each person may have different reaction due to their immune and condition. However, the common allergic reactions include swelling around face, neck, and mouth area, trouble breathing, sting sensation, hive, and burning that can be severe. These reactions can be classified as medical emergency and it requires instant stop from using the substance or it leads to even worse condition. Sometimes, you can’t tell if someone will have the allergic or not.

  • Toxicity
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This condition commonly happens to those who take hydroquinone treatment orally. The report was shocking in which the side effects can be so bad. Taken the substance oral should be under tight supervision, and it shouldn’t be done more than five days in a row, and it shouldn’t be more than five times in a year. Violating the rule can causes issues like liver damage, ear ringing, seizure, nausea, and bluish skin tone. Those conditions require you to stop using the substance and to take certain medical procedures to solve them.

  • Eye Pigmentation and Corneal Damage

According to Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venearology statement in 2006, using hydroquinone can cause effect around the affected areas. For example, face cream containing the substance can cause eye pigmentation after certain period of time. This should affect your sight and eye health.

Serious medical procedures will be needed to cure this condition. In addition to it, there are also real reports on corneal damage after long use of the substance around eye areas. These are serious conditions you should be avoided no matter what.

  • Thin Skin Outer Layer

This is also the other scary side effect of the substance. Hydroquinone is reported to work from inside the skin but it also affects your outer skin. Somehow, this substance makes sure you have brighter skin by thinning your epidermis, which is super scary and horrible just to hear.

It means you have thinner and thinner skin by using this chemical substance. Thin skin is serious conditions that can lead you other danger like long heal from wounds and surgery marks, immune problems, and other possible conditions caused by less protection from your skin.

  • Other Side Effects

Besides those conditions above, there are other side effects this substance can give you. People using hydroquinone commonly has pasty and unhealthy look of the skin, which is the opposite of what you expect from the treatment. Skin also tends to get older look, which is also called skin aging.

Since this chemical substance degenerates collagen, you wouldn’t have glowing and smooth skin. On top of it, this chemical substance will change how your skin felt. It tends to be stiff and dry. Those side effects are not the ones we expect from all skin treatments.

Obviously, the use hydroquinone should be under supervision of expert and dermatologist. Wrong dose can cause serious skin issues and problems.

Read more: How to Get Rid of Dry Skin on Feet Over Night?

Hydroquinone Research Facts You Must Know

Due to so many controversies on this chemical substance, several researchers conducted serious experiment and research to find deeper facts on hydroquinone. Here are several of the research facts you must know:

  • 4 Months Cycle

Based on research, hydroquinone can be safe under prescribed treatment and supervision of your dermatologist. Researchers also insist that the dose of this substance on skin care products shouldn’t be more than 4%. However, the treatment must be in four months cycle and not more than that to prevent the existence of side effects and damages. This is the longest period of a treatment.

Then, you should spend the off months with alternatives substances. The alternatives include several tyrosinase inhibitors like arbutin, kojic acid, and azelaic acid. Kojic acid is the most popular alternative. You also need to be prepared that skin products containing the alternatives are not cheap at all.

In fact, the price can be quite expensive and high, and few of the products are available without doctor or dermatologist prescription, which is not wise choice.

  • No Benzoyl Peroxide

Experiment shows that hydroquinone doesn’t mix well with any of the peroxide including benzoyl peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. The most common indications or symptoms of the mixture is the stinging feeling on your skin followed with skin irritation and redness.

If you experience such symptoms in the treatment, one of your products must contain one of the peroxides and you should stop. As clues, most of the acne treatments contain benzoyl peroxide which is known really good to cure acnes and clean the spots.

There are also skin treatments which infuse oxygen in your skin. This kind of skin treatment typically has hydrogen peroxide that you should avoid. It means it is essential for you to know well the entire ingredients and formula in your skin care treatments to prevent the forbidden mixture between the two substances.

  • No Resorcinol

This is the other substance that shouldn’t interfering hydroquinone. Even though this substance is soluble with water, it doesn’t mean that it mixes well with all other chemical substances. When you are under the treatment, you should avoid resorcinol.

The mixture of these substances can cause serious issue called ochronosis, the darkening skin disorder. It commonly will stop the real benefit of hydroquinone, and causes even darker skin than your natural complexion. This can be a little tricky because many of the recent skin products contain resorcinol.

Resorcinol commonly exists on skin products that are intended as lightening agent. It works as the whitening or lightening agent of the products. Just to be safe, you should consult to your dermatologist about the alternative and safe products for you to use under the treatment.

  • Eyes Areas are Off Limits

This was mentioned before that hydroquinone can literally affect your eye health. This substance shouldn’t be applied on any areas near your eyes. Based on Journal of European Academy of Dermatology and Venearology in 2006, there are two possible effects to your eyes, based on research.

First, you may suffer from eye pigmentation. Eye pigmentation is a disorder that affects the color of your eyes and eventually affects your sight. Second, it can cause corneal damage which is the most horrible news for you. This should affect your sight and the entire health of your eyes. It can only be cured with big surgery.

To prevent this, you only need to avoid applying the substance around the eyes areas. It will prevent your eyes from getting over exposed with it. It is commonly suggested by dermatologists and doctors when they prescribe it.

  • About Cancer

Hydroquinone was reported can cause cancer by causing carcinogenic properties existence in your skin. This report is based on scientific experiments on the substance. The experiments indeed inserted the substance to lab mice using tube, not through oral or topical treatment. This manner has created controversies.

Most experiments on mice prove how it works on human too. However, many experts, in US and Europe alone, have serious debate on this topic. So this remains unknown if this particular chemical substance can provoke the causes of cancer on users.

Meanwhile, there is no formal report or claim from customers about this, so there is no supporting data for it too. However, considering the other possible side effects, you should prefer to other skin products and treatment.

These facts should be helpful in controlling the use of hydroquinone on every skin treatment, when the treatment is really needed, and preventing the side effects and risks.

Final Verdict

In summary, hydroquinone really has the formula that can help in brightening our skin. It makes sure our pigmentation is changed in certain manner. However, the result is not permanent, and even though it uses natural approaches, the result is not natural at all.

You will want to keep using the product to keep the bright skin look, but long use will cause side effects. The side effects include so many horrible conditions like simple skin issues, several skin disorders, and even disease and illnesses.

Most of the side effects and risks can only be solved using advance medical procedures. In addition to it, there is also possible risk of cancer for those who use products containing hydroquinone for a long period of time. The side effects are too overwhelming, not to mention skin awful look after the use, for us to consider using it as skin treatment.

Due to those side effects, many countries and many health organizations and institutions banned the chemical substance. However,hydroquinone is still available for treatment until today. The use should be under professional supervision and based on dermatologists prescription.

Even then, the use of the chemical substance is limited for not more than four months cycle and five times in a year. During the use, you also need to avoid several other chemical substances that can cause skin issues and problems in mixture.

We can also say there is too much things to prevent in using this substance and the result may not be as expected. Considering that there are still many alternatives for brightening or lightening treatment, we should consider our choices carefully and wisely. If there are substitutes that can be chose for skin treatment, why should we choose hydroquinone at all?


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