Know Your Ingredients: Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone molecular structure

What it is
Hydroquinone is a white crystalline solid.

What it does
Hydroquinone is used to lighten hyperpigmentation, like melasma, dark spots, age spots and freckles. It works by inhibiting melanin production.

Side effects
Hydroquinone can cause sun sensitivity and should therefore always be used with a sunscreen.
It can cause a condition called exogenous ochronosis (it makes areas of their skin become darker).
In addition, it can also cause irritations in people with sensitive skin.
Allergies are rare, but can occur.
When exposed to sunlight or hair, hydroquinone oxidizes and becomes brown. Therefore, products containing this ingredient should be packaged in non-transparent containers.

(Sources: Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, March 2010 and Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, November 2007)
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  1. beautifulwithbrains says

    Hydroquinone can have quite a few side effects, but if you use it carefully you shouldn’t have any problems. Although it would probably be best to talk to your doctor first.

  2. says

    Btw, I really like these entries. I like learning more about the products I might put on my face and body. How do you come up with what substances to feature and where to get info about them?

  3. beautifulwithbrains says

    Emilita: I’m really glad that you like this posts. I think it’s very important to know what we apply on our skin and wheteher ingredients found in products are actually effective or ould cause iritations or other negative reactions.
    It’s actually difficult to chosoe which ingrdients to feature as there are so many! I usually talk about active ingredients that are widely used or those who have a bad reputation to know whether they’re actually dangerous or not. There are plenty of sits who feature this kind of imformations like Paula’s cosmetics cop or You can also find scientific studies about ingredients although they can be difficult to understand.

    Sara: I feel exactly the same about hydroquinone. There’s no doubt it works, but still the side effects scare me a bit. That’s why I think you should always talk to your doctor before using this ingredient. He/she’ll be able to explain the risks of the substance as well as determing whether it’s the best skin-lightening ingredient for you.

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