Class is in session! Part of a healthy skin care journey involves understanding which cosmetic ingredients will actually help your skin.
Hydroquinone is a skin lightening ingredient; it’s used to lighten skin discoloration. It’s generally used in the treatment of freckles, brown patching, melasma, dark spots etc.
Recently, the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics and cosmetics traders signed a communiqué to ban products that contain mercury and hydroquinone. It’s not the only country to have concerns about hydroquinone; many countries keep it restricted to prescription use. Europe and Asia currently allow a hydroquinone prescription of 2-5% concentration.
How does Hydroquinone work?
Our skin contains melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color. Melanin is produced by the enzyme tyrosinase in melanocytes – melanin producing cells.
The chemical structure of hydroquinone allows it stop tyrosinase from producing melanin and damages the melanocytes.
How should Hydroquinone be used?
Hydroquinone should be used in 4 month cycles in alternation with other skin lightening agents. When you discontinue its use, your skin’s natural pigmentation will return.
If you throw caution to the wind and use it for more than four months straight, you could develop ochronosis. Ochronosis is a permanent darkening of the skin caused by a buildup of tyrosine.
Ochronosis is more common in darker skin tones.
What are the safety concern About Hydroquinone?
- Hydroquinone is one of the best ingredients when it comes to skin lightening but needs to be regulated due to misuse and bad product formulations. The FDA reported that they wish to establish that over the counter bleaching products are generally not recognized as safe or effective. To be on the safe side, only a dermatologist should prescribe you hydroquinone.
- Hydroquinone has not been linked to cancer in humans – just mice. There was a study were mice exposed to hydroquinone developed liver tumors. A 2006 review of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology explains that the results from the study were reported misleadingly. You can read more about this here.The International Agency for Research on Cancer also considers hydroquinone as not classifiable on its carcinogenicity (cancer causing-ness) in humans. More on that here.
Hopefully, this post has set the record straight regarding hydroquinone. Consult and follow your dermatologist’s advice, if you ever need to use it.
Since ochronosis is common among those with darker skin tones. I would recommend my fellow savvy African beauties to consider other cosmetic ingredients that are proven to be effective skin brighteners. This is also why despite how effective hydroquinone is, unlike other cosmetic ingredients classes, I will not be recommending products, especially after The Uganda National Bureau Of Standards banned it in the country. We gotta keep it legal, ya know?