Hydroquinone as a Bleaching Agent

Hydroquinone is an older bleaching agent and used for many years. It has the ability to decrease the syntheses of the skin pigment (melanin) and prevents skin discoloration. Hydroquinone is frequently used to treat skin blemishes like age spots, cholasma, freckles and acne scars.

Once hydroquinone is applied to the skin, one should avoid sun exposure as this will cause more darkening of the skin. One should either avoid the sun or wear protective sunscreen lotions (SPF >20). Protective clothing and hats should be worn if one goes out into the sun. Hydroquinone is a mild bleaching agent and must be used regularly for prolonged periods to have an effect

Facts about hydroquinone

Dry skin: Hydroquinone should not be applied to sunburnt, dry or broken skin or skin which has an infection. It can worsen the skin condition. One should always wait for the skin condition to heal before applying hydroquinone.

Allergy: There are individuals who do develop allergic contact dermatitis. Thus all individuals who use the product must first apply a little chemical on the skin and wait 24 hours to determine if they develop an allergic reaction

Medical illness: Individuals with liver and kidney disease should be cautious about using hydroquinone

Pregnancy: Hydroquinone like any other chemical has the potential to cause damage to the fetus and thus its use during pregnancy is not recommended. The same applies to nursing mothers.

Hydroquinone Application

Hydroquinone is only for topical use. It should not be placed in the mouth or any other mucosal surface like the vagina, anus or nose.

Hydroquinone should always be tested before application to ensure that one does not have any allergy

The skin should be dry and a thin film applied

The chemical should be avoided near the eyes, mouth, nose and other mucous membranes. The hands should always be washed after application of the drug.

One should not combine the hydroquinone with other chemical peeling agents or creams.

Anytime hydroquinone is combined with hydrogen peroxide a dark stain will occur.

When swallowed hydroquinone has a metallic taste and may also cause numbness around the lips.

If it does get in the eyes, rinse thoroughly with water

The occasional patient may have a sensation of burning, itching, redness or tingling at the site of application.

If you develop an allergic reaction to hydroquinone like itch, swelling or hives, you should stop using hydroquinone.


Hydroquinone has recently been banned by the FDA. The product is already banned in Europe and Asia. It is believed that hydroquinone may act as a cancer causing agent. Further the chemical has also been known to cause a condition called ochronosis (deformed thick and dark skin-which is irreversible).

According to the FDA ban, only products that contain 2% hydroquinone in its formula are allowed for sale in the United States without a prescription, and 4% for those prescribed by a doctor.

Hydroquinone does not work immediately and the fading of the skin blemish can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks. In some cases there is no response. In such cases, further use of hydroquinone is of no use.

For the best results with hydroquinone, one should avoid the sun. If this is not preventable, wear a sun screen or cover the sun exposed areas and avoid tanning salons.

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