Hydroquinone Cream – Uses And Side Effects

posted in: Skin Care | 3

hydroquinone cream

Hydroquinone cream, also called hydroquinol, is commonly referred to as the skin bleaching cream. It is a generic name and is sold under several brand names. It is the reduced form of quinone. It is an aromatic compound, popular as a skin bleaching agent. Hydroquinone is sold in the form of a cream. It was available as an over the counter cream a few years ago but today it cannot be purchased without a doctor’s prescription.

Uses of Hydroquinone cream

Cosmetic uses
It is used to treat skin conditions like:

  • Age spots
  • Freckles
  • Acne marks
  • Dark spots
  • Melasma
  • Dark skin tone
Skin discoloration caused due to pregnancy, usage of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy etc.

Industrial uses
Its chemical properties have made it useful in several industrial applications. It is used as a developing agent for black and white photos, lithograph and x-rays. It is also used in food industries for production of antioxidants.

How does this cream work for skin lightening?

Melanin is responsible for the complexion of the skin. The more the melanin pigments the more the skin is darker or browner. Melanin is produced in melanocytes or skin’s pigment cells. Hydroquinone decreases the production of melanin pigmentation. It also decreases the breakdown of melanin pigment granules called melanosomes. How is it possible? Tyrosinase is the enzyme that is needed to make melanin. When the activity of tyrosinase is inhibited, melanin production is reduced. Hydroquinone acts by inhibiting the activity of this enzyme.

How long does it take to show results?

This cream is popular because of two main reasons. The first one is that it yields rapid results and it is affordable when compared to other skin lightening options. Most users have seen visible results in 4 weeks. It may take a little longer than 4 weeks for a few. To increase the effectiveness a few cautions have to be followed:

  • It should be used regularly as directed by the doctor to attain the best results.
  • The dosage could be reduced after the desired results are attained.
  • The cream may be used periodically for maintenance.
  • Avoid exposure to sun. Wear protective clothing while stepping out into the sun. Applying sunscreen lotion is a must.
  • The usage of sunlamps must be avoided. Tanning salon treatments should be avoided.

Side effects

This cream may cause common as well as severe side effects. The common side effects are not very dangerous but may need medical attention if the symptoms worsen.

Common side effects

  1. In the beginning there can be a mild burning sensation. This is a common side effect experienced almost by all users. The burning sensation may go off in a few minutes but it may persist for a few people.
  2. Redness in the area is also a common side effect.
  3. Continuous use may lead to itching and tingling sensation.
  4. Drying up of skin.
  5. Sensitivity to sunlight. When used for a longer duration of time, the skin becomes sensitive to sunlight. It becomes impossible to step into the sunlight without wearing sunscreen lotion.

Severe side effects

  1. Allergic reactions like rashes and hives on skin
  2. Swollen mouth and lips
  3. Blisters on the skin
  4. Blue and black patches on skin
  5. Headaches
  6. Nausea
  7. Vomiting
  8. Difficulty in breathing
  9. Fever
  10. Edema and Convulsions.

Health hazards

It was found that this cream increased the risks of tumor when tested with rats. It has not been proved that it can cause tumors in humans but the increased risk cannot be denied. It can cause a skin condition called exogenous ochronosis. In this condition the skin becomes thick and dark. Some raised yellowish gray spots may appear on the skin.

The side effects can be avoided if certain precautions are followed:

  1. Apply the cream in a small patch of unbroken skin. Wait for 24 hours. If there are no alarming side effects like excessive redness, blisters and rashes etc., the cream can be used.
  2. Follow the recommended dosage strictly. If a dosage is missed skip the missed dosage and then follow the regular schedule. Avoid doubling the dosage at the same time. Do not go for prolonged use of the cream unless recommended by your doctor.
  3. Avoid applying hydroquinone cream 4 near sensitive areas like eyes and nose.
  4. Check for the ingredients list. If there are any products that you are allergic to, avoid usage of that product.
  5. Let your doctor know if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. It should be avoided by breast feeding mothers. Children below 12 years should not use it.
  6. Usage of products containing hydrogen peroxide should be avoided when Hydroquinone is used.
  7. It should be avoided by people suffering from kidney and liver diseases.
  8. Avoid usage of soaps and lotions containing strong chemicals.
  9. Avoid exposure to sunlight.

Hydroquinone cream is an effective skin lightener but should be used with great care and caution. If there are concerns of safety it is always best to consult your dermatologist.

3 Responses

  1. monica

    I have been using the cream 3 days on the nigh and have put a thin layer of it but i have notice a little red in the area i dont know of ita normal or bad is it part of the side effects and when does it have to go alway? Ots not so bad but i notice a little.

  2. Camilla

    Topical azelaic acid is another choice in 15% to 20% concentrations to be as efficacious as hydroquinone with a decreased risk of irritation. Several plant extracts and vitamin C also have some research showing them to be effective for inhibiting melanin production.

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