Hydroquinone is a skin lightener.  It can be used to lighten melasma, liver or age spots, or freckles that have been caused by injury to the skin, birth control pills or hormone medication. The medication is applied to the skin and will essentially block the process it takes to make the skin dark.  It can also be applied for reducing blemishes.  Hydroquinone is also referred to as quinol, 4-diol, or benzene-1.

There are side effects to taking Hydroquinone.  These would include a mild burning, stinging sensation, dryness to the skin, and redness.  If these symptoms occur, it is best to contact your doctor or pharmacist if they do not go away or if they get worse.  Many that use this medication do not have side effects or they are minimal.

Should your skin crack or blister, one will need to stop using the medication immediately.  Call your doctor right away if your skin darkens to a blue-black colour.

Rarely, people taking hydroquinone will have severe reactions.  These would include a rash, itching or swelling that usually takes place in the face, throat or tongue, trouble breathing, or severe dizziness. If any of these symptoms are present, one will need to seek medical attention immediately.

If your doctor has prescribed Hydroquinone to you, be upfront with your medical background.  Make it a point to tell your doctor if you suffer from asthma, or have any skin conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema. If you are pregnant, do not use unless directed to by your physician.  It is not known at this time if hydroquinone will pass into breast milk, so if you are breast feeding, it is best not to use this.

One thing to note is that using Hydroquinone as a skin lightening agent will cause the skin to become very sensitive. One should be sure to wear a high quality sun screen to reduce the damage the sun has on the skin.  Avoid being in the sun as much as possible.  Do not use a tanning bed while you are applying hydroquinone to the skin.  Take care to wear protective barriers for the sun as well, such as a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses, or long sleeved  shirts.

Often times, Hydroquinone is combined with alpha hydroxy acids.  This is used to exfoliate the skin so the lightening process is quicker. More than likely, topical treatments will have 2% hydroquinone added to them but in prescriptions for hydroquinone, there may be up to 4% added.

When using Hydroquinone for the first time, it is essential to do a skin test.  To do this, apply a small amount to an area of unbroken skin.  Check the area within 24 hours to see if there are any signs you may be allergic to it. If the skin is puffy or blistered, or is red and itchy, discontinue use and contact your doctor.  Mild itching is normal, and in this case, the treatment may be applied to the desired area.

Remember it is always best to use this product as prescribed by your doctor.  Use only the amount prescribed.  Using too much of the product or using incorrectly could lead to unwanted skin lightening. This product is only intended for use on the skin.  Never get into the eyes, mouth or nose.  If this should happen, flush with cool water immediately.

Hydroquinone is a great treatment to use for skin lightening. If after 2 months of applying to the skin, there are no improvements in your skin, or the condition worsens, contact your doctor.  It is best to apply only twice a day, unless directed otherwise by your physician.

*Note that hydroquinone requires a prescription in Australia and therefore you should consult your doctor before making any decisions. This article is provided for educational purposes only.

2 replies
  1. Epsa Sharma
    Epsa Sharma says:

    I used 2% hydroquinone with tretinon on my face; in the region around my mouth and the skin turned red and dark at first usage it was so intense that I was embarrased to go out. then after 3 days the redness and darkening subsided. I again started using it after a week, Now it doesnt make my skin that red as before but it did caused some darkening and redness. Also the skin is darker than before. This is the 3rd application. This time the darkening and redness is mild but is still there and darkening persists even when redness is gone. Seek urgent advice. Please help and Iam at a remote location so cannot see a derm.

    • Summer
      Summer says:

      You should stop using the hydroquinone if it makes your skin dark. In some patients, it causes redness or darkness in the skin. If this is the case, then you should stop using it. Please try other skin lighteners and see a dermatologist.

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