The Safest Ways to Use Hydroquinone Products on Your Skin
Hydroquinone products have been proven to be very effective and consequently have become considerably popular for their skin whitening perks; therefore, many people who want lighter skin will choose hydroquinone creams and serums to achieve their desired results. Commonly used to lighten dark spots, acne scars and other forms of sun damage, this powerful skin agent can lighten your complexion by several different shades. As easy as the idea may seem of simply applying the cream on your skin and getting instant results, it is not that simple. With that said, before you attempt using hydroquinone you first need to learn how to use it safely.
In this short informative article, you will understand more about the use of hydroquinone and where you can easily find products that contain this accessible and affordable lightening ingredient. As you continue to read, you will learn more about what to expect and tips about what you should and should not do to get the best skin lightening results without experiencing adverse side effects.
The Big Question: Is Hydroquinone Permanent?
The short answer is no, it is not. Like many skin lighteners we have discussed on this website, hydroquinone is a melanin inhibitor which means it slows the production of melanin by attacking the enzyme called tyrosine. In short: Tyrosine is needed to create the melanin (dark pigments in the skin), but the compounds in hydroquinone work by intervening with this process, forcing the separation of the tyrosine from the melanin. As a result, a lower quantity of melanin is produced and higher amounts of broken-down melanin pigments in the cells of the skin create a whiter, lighter complexion.
Because of the way this melanin inhibitor works, hydroquinone is not considered to be a product that bleaches your pigments and poses no severe side effects. Hydroquinone is only designed to interact with phenolic compounds and slow down the creation of melanin.
Depending on how frequently you use hydroquinone products, the lighter your skin will remain. However, as soon as you stop the use of hydroquinone, your skin’s natural process of producing melanin will resume, thus regenerating and restoring your proper genetic skin tone.
Can I use Hydroquinone Forever?
For those who want to stay lighter toned forever, unfortunately I have disappointing news for you.
You cannot use hydroquinone forever as it is only recommended for temporary use and for a maximum duration of three months. After this period, you must wait an additional three months to allow your skin to have a break. This would be the appropriate time to try natural alternatives for skin lightening if you want to continue maintaining the lighter complexion you have achieved from the use of hydroquinone.
If you have not experienced any noticeable skin change after using hydroquinone during the first three months, it means it is not doing anything for your skin and is best to try a different product altogether.
Thinking of prolonging the use of hydroquinone beyond the three months limit? Please consult with your physician before proceeding with your decision.
How Safe is Hydroquinone for Darker Complexions?
Using hydroquinone longer than the suggested three months period can be risky for anyone, especially for those with a darker skin shade. Why? Hydroquinone can cause a skin discoloration disorder that may result in ugly blue and black patches on the surface of your skin. They can appear as bruising marks or patches of darkened marks.
How does this happen? Researchers believe that when hydroquinone inhabits a specific enzyme called homogentisic acid oxidase (found in collagen fibers), it can result in the skin disorder named ochronosis.
Fortunately, ochronosis is found to be a rare occurrence with only 20 documented cases over the last 50+ years in the United States, most of which were linked to cases with prolonged usage of hydroquinone that exceeded more than six months. The only documented cases showing reactions from extended use of hydroquinone primarily happened in patients who had naturally darker skin.
If you are someone with a darker complexion, we recommended you avoid using hydroquinone and find a better alternative that is safer for people with darker skin tones. Not sure if your skin lies in this category? Be sure to consult the Fitzpatrick Scale that showcases the different skin tones. People with skin tones that fall between levels three and six should avoid the use of hydroquinone.
Still considering using hydroquinone? Do not attempt the use of these products on your own. Instead, consult with your doctor to receive a prescription with the correct amount of concentration for you to use.
Can Hydroquinone be Used with other Products?
If you’re someone who is desperately trying to whiten up your complexion then this simple question might have crossed your mind at one point: is hydroquinone safe to use with other products? This is a tricky question to answer because hydroquinone is considered by experts to be generally safe, but not when used in combination with other products, since some products can interact with hydroquinone and change its effects, and sometimes not for the best.
Here’s a list of ingredients found in some of your popular skin products that you should avoid using with hydroquinone.
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Any other types of peroxides
Most acne treatments contain certain types of peroxides to treat against breakouts, as well as oxygen-infusing treatments. We suggest you avoid those products when using hydroquinone as peroxides can cause temporary staining of the skin. In most instances, these stains are removable with warm water and gentle soap, but it’s not worth the trouble to go through.
Resorcinol tops the charts for the one to avoid the most. Often used to treat harsh forms of acne, warts, and much more, this compound is essential to avoid using with hydroquinone because of its increased chances of ochronosis. Evidence of this dates to the 1980s when hundreds of cases of ochronosis in Africa were directly linked from combining the two products. Since then, we have learned it is better to keep both FAR away from each other.
Make sure you thoroughly read through the labels of skin care products you are currently using to ensure none of the ingredients listed above are listed, especially resorcinol. As time-consuming as it may be, doing so is very important!
Are there MUST USE Products with Hydroquinone?
Typically, hydroquinone is used on its own; however, some products are acceptable to use in combination with it, such as sunscreen.
If you decide to use sunscreen together with hydroquinone, be sure to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF values in the range of 30 to 50. Make sure to apply generously and consistently when using with hydroquinone during daily trips outside. This will ensure full protection of your skin from tanning to keep your skin as white as possible.
Sunscreen also offers extra support when it comes to protecting your skin especially if you are using it while also using hydroquinone. As we have previously mentioned, hydroquinone slows down the melanin production process. This makes the skin generally more vulnerable to sun exposure. In fact, you are more easily to “burn”
your skin with sun exposure than you were prior to using hydroquinone. Therefore, we believe the use of sunscreen together with hydroquinone is an excellent solution.
Of course, it’s also wise to wear the right attire when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun. Ideally, UPF clothing designed with UV protection is a must have. You can also consider purchasing an UPF sun umbrella and polarized sunglasses for ultimate protection.
How Long will it Take Hydroquinone to Work?
As promising as its results are, hydroquinone doesn’t show instant results overnight, let alone a week. In most cases, hydroquinone will show visible results in people with lighter skin tones in about four weeks when using hydroquinone products on a regular basis. If you were hoping to see instant results, please remember that hydroquinone will not affect existing pigments; it only works by affecting new melanin production. After enough time has passed, your naturally darkened skin cells will have diminished and replaced with newly reduced melanin skin cells showing active and visible results.
Of course, there are a few ways to speed up this process. Ideally, a product that contains Retin-A can be used with hydroquinone. This retinoid allows the molecules of hydroquinone to penetrate deeper and faster into the skin’s dermis. It also speeds the conversion of skin cells into lighter ones by fighting the pigmentation faster.
Retin-A is not very powerful on its own but can be useful when combined with hydroquinone. Just be sure to apply a daily moisturizer that’s compatible with hydroquinone as you may experience dry skin from using these
Finally, other great and non-prescription alternatives are glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid-based products. These will increase the absorption of hydroquinone and stimulate cell turnover. Look for an exfoliating body or face cleansers that contain these ingredients. Be sure to apply the cleanser first before using hydroquinone directly.
Check out this exfoliating body wash we found!