* An extremely controversial skin-whitening agent
* Read TIA’s article on Hydroquinone and other whiteners
* Read about Arbutin
, a form of Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is a controversial skin whitening agent added to many topical brightening creams. According to Drugs.com
, Hydroquinone decreases the formation of melanin, the pigment that gives skin a brown or olive color. It's used topically to lighten areas of darkened skin such as freckles, age spots, chloasma, and melasma.
It should not be used on any skin that is dry or damaged (including wind chapped, sunburnt, or irritated) and can actually make skin more sensitive to UV exposure. It should not be applied before going into the sun or after sun exposure.
The FDA's restrictions (more below) on Hydroquinone does still allow for products with less than 2% of Hydroquinone to be sold OTC and up to 4% prescribed by dermatologists. However, there are safer alternatives that are being used in new skin whitening products.
Safety Measures/Side Effects:
The FDA proposed a ban on over the counter Hydroquinone from being sold in the US in 2006, following suit with Japan, Australia and the European Union. Hydroquinone has been found to be carcinogenic and some studies also report abnormal function of the adrenal glands and high levels of mercury in people who have used Hydroquinone-containing cosmetics.
Hydroquinone also has been linked with the medical condition known as ochronosis, a condition in which the skin becomes dark and thick. Dome-shaped yellowish spots and grayish-brown spots also are observed in ochronosis among black women and men in South Africa, Britain, and the U.S. Ochronosis has been observed in conjunction with hydroquinone use even in persons who have used hydroquinone-containing cosmetics for a short time (Source