Has hydroquinone been demonized because it is the best skin active ever?

Hydroquinone seems to improve everything: sun spots, fine wrinkles, pimples, acne, freckles everything.
It smooths out the skin like nothing else.

This video pretty much replicates my findings on what's effective and what's not for face skin care:

Hydroquinone is quite safe.
Those horrow stories are overblown and are only limited to those who kept on using very concentration hydroquinone creams (10 to 30%) for extended periods of time despite watching the first adverse reactions appear.

On the other side, I do agree that hydroquinone can irritate the skin during the first weeks (best to limit use 2-3 days a week for the first weeks to allow the skin to get used to it).
But other than that, it's a very safe and effective ingredient, in my opinion.
It has been bashed by small manufacturers unwilling to undergo the FDA OTC approval process (for 2% concentration).


  • Don't agree. Banned in many countries (including the UK)
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • and to add that even at two percent use for extended use, causes ochronosis in black people 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I'm not sure everyone would agree with the assessment that it is "quite safe." I think it can be safely used, but it is more dangerous than most other cosmetic ingredients.

    There's some interesting information about hydroquinone safety here.

    "CIR concluded that hydroquinone is safe at concentrations of ≤ 1% in cosmetic formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by rinsing from the skin and hair. "

    "In 1982, FDA published a rule proposing that OTC skin bleaching drug products containing 1.5 to 2 percent hydroquinone be generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE). Subsequently, in 2006, FDA published a proposed rule that would withdraw the 1982 rule, along with a recommendation for additional studies to be conducted before a final determination on regulatory status can be made."

    But also...

    "Physicians have been safely and effectively using hydroquinone to treat disorders of skin pigmentation, most commonly hyperpigmentation (i.e., skin darkening), for over 50 years. These uses were reaffirmed by the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) 2006 letter to FDA, which outlined their scientific belief that 4% hydroquinone is safe and effective and an important therapy for many patients."
  • I have been using it for about a month already. I don’t see much difference yet to be honest. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations. Reduced freckles a bit. But the formula has 5% of lactic acid, and I bet it’s lactic acid did the job. A large sun spot is still there and overall complexion didn’t change. I have to notice it’s quite a simple ingredient to work with. Doesn’t cause a lot of trouble in formulating. It doesn’t cause any irritation or sensitivity either. Seems quite harmless to me so far.
  • In black people with active melanin, you can't seem to be able to withdraw from use because the results aren't permanent, so you get tempted to keep using and it still causes issues after prolonged use. 
  • I agree the mechanism of action of hydroquinone is not permanent by its substance. It's blocking tyrosinase transfer only when applied. Once you stop applying it, the pigment gets back to normal (normal for the particular individual). But all research papers about its side effects specify that they were only observed after prolonged use of hydroquinone formulated at a very high concentration (and in many cases presence of substances like mercury). I haven't seen any evidence suggesting that up to 4% of Hydroquinone that was used for no more than several months is dangerous (even for individuals with deeper skin tones). If someone has evidence, will be happy to change my mind.
    So, I personally see it as a nice treatment for winter months to get rid of stubborn freckles that were developed during summer and potentially some larger sunspots, although as I mentioned previously, I am not very impressed yet.

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