People who are conscious about their skin and have used many skin care products probably must have heard about hydroquinone and its uses.
Hydroquinone is a skin-bleaching agent and is one of the main ingredients in skin whitening products. It usually comes in the form of a cream.
Hydroquinone cream is primarily used to lighten freckles, age spots and other skin discoloration that are associated with pregnancy, intake of birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy and skin trauma. It is applied topically and directly on the affected area.
Hydroquinone contains antioxidant properties that acts as a “polymerization inhibitor” by preventing the polymerization of acrylic acid, methyl methacrylate, cyanoacrylate and other monomers that have been found to be susceptible to radical-initiated polymerization.
Aside from this, hydroquinone is also a major component in most black and white photographic developers for film and paper.
Hydroquinone has been found to be a very effective lightening agent if used properly. However, dermatologists warn that improper use can cause sensitivity to skin.
Doctors also recommend using hydroquinone products that contain the correct concentration to avoid overdose.
Most products that use hydroquinone as the main ingredient contain between 0.5% to 2%.
Higher concentrations of up to 4% already need a prescription from a doctor while those that contain 12% is not recommended as it prevents the production of melanin.
Hydroquinone creams work to prevent the skin from producing the enzyme that triggers overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its color.
Dermatologists advise first-time users to apply first a small amount of hydroquinone to an unbroken skin and watch for any signs of itching, irritation, blistering or redness within 24 hours after application. If these signs are present, they should not use the product and see their doctor for advice.If there are no adverse effects, consumers can use the product after washing and drying the area. After application, they must wash their hands immediately and make sure not to ingest the cream or go into their eyes, nose, mouth or lips.While using hydroquinone, users must avoid excessive sun exposure or at least use a sunscreen
product. They can also wear protective clothing to cover the skin that has been treated with hydroquinone.
Dermatologists also warn users not to apply the cream on irritated or injured skin and avoid using the product if they are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant or are breastfeeding.Among the side effects of hydroquinone that users must watch out for include dryness or cracking of the skin, redness, mild burning sensation, blistering, stinging feeling, irritation and bluish-black darkening of the skin.
Users must also watch severe allergic reactions such as rashes, hives, breathing difficulty, chest tightness and swelling of the face, lips, mouth and tongue.
Though hydroquinone has been widely used for over 50 years, it became controversial after it was banned in South Africa due to reported cases of users who suffered from a skin disorder called ochronosis, which is characterized by bluish discoloration of the skin.
But researchers say these cases are due to long term use of hydroquinone products that contain high concentrations or those products that have been adulterated with dangerous ingredients.
Research also show that hydroquinone products available in South Africa and other African countries have been found to contain mercury, glucocorticoids and other contaminants.
As a whole, hydroquinone has been classified as a safe product if used according to its prescribed dosage.