You may have come across hydroquinone in your search for a skincare solution for hyperpigmentation, but been unsure if it is the right choice for your skin. Read on to learn about the benefits of hydroquinone.
Hydroquinone is a topical lightening agent which is considered the “gold standard” treatment worldwide to treat spots of epidermal discoloration due to melasma and other hyperpigmentation conditions (Bandyopadhyay). It discourages the production of melanocytes, which produce melanin (a biological pigment) to protect skin from UV light. Hydroquinone creams often contain other ingredients, like steroids and retinoids, to increase efficacy and prevent skin irritation.
Hydroquinone creams are commonly used to treat conditions including:
It is important to note that hydroquinone is specifically intended to treat dark spots and should NOT be used as an all-over skin lightener. Using too much hydroquinone for too long can lead to a rare condition called ochronosis, which causes a blue-black pigmentation of the skin that is difficult to treat (Faridi).
Studies indicate that hydroquinone combination therapies significantly decrease lesion size, pigmentation, and disease severity in those with postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (Davis). Over a 3 month treatment period, 70% of melasma patients experience reduced or cleared pigmentation. Another study indicates that 90% of participants in a hydroquinone study no longer felt the need to hide their skin discoloration after a 12-week hydroquinone treatment plan (Grimes).
Most common side effects of hydroquinone include mild skin irritation, swelling or tenderness of the affected area, and UV light sensitivity. While doctors may advise longer treatment periods in certain situations, typically hydroquinone application should stop if no improvement is seen after 3 months.