What Is Hydroquinone and What Are the Side Effects?

By | January 19, 2018

What Is hydroquinone and what are the side effects? Things to know before you purchase a skin lightening cream that contains hydroquinone

Hydroquinone (HQ) is an industrially produced organic compound that is widely used for skin lightening, fading uneven tone and removing black and brown spots on the skin, freckles and age and sun spots. It has a reputation of an irreplaceable ingredient in skin lightening products, though many kinds of research about its side effects have been carried out and many are yet to be undertaken. In this article, we will learn about hydroquinone side effects

Hydroquinone Side Effects

The main problem about hydroquinone is that it has been associated with some serious health problems. Hydroquinone has been banned in Europe, Australia, and Japan but is still sold over the counter in the US and is regarded as a safe by the FDA. While there are many possible side effects from using hydroquinone, the most frightening one is a skin disorder known as exogenous ochronosis – a state in which the skin becomes darker and grayish-brown spots appear in the areas where the product is applied.

Side Effects

Being an ingredient with quite a questionable safety and insufficiently researched effects, hydroquinone should always be used with caution – there’s basically nothing related to its true nature that is completely black or white. Here are a few known side effects:

Sensitivity to Sunlight (Photosensitivity) – Long-term use of hydroquinone can seriously affect your skin and make it very sensitive to sunlight.

Skin Irritation and Contact Dermatitis – The texture and color of your skin can experience some changes and the skin can become drier, red and itchy. Contact dermatitis is one of the main causes of rash and skin irritation.

Allergic Reactions – As is the case with the majority of ingredients that are commonly found in popular cosmetic products, hydroquinone can cause some allergic reactions. Luckily, the probability of someone being allergic to it is very low and it is very unlikely that anyone will be prevented from using hydroquinone for any health reasons.

Exogenous Ochronosis – As mentioned above, some studies have opened our eyes and proven that hydroquinone can cause exogenous ochronosis.

It Is Toxic at Larger Quantities – If you have already started your treatment, give your best to be disciplined with your daily dose and take a break every once in a while, so that your body can retain the balance and get rid of the unnecessary amount of hydroquinone.

After reading all of this, you get to ask yourself how the manufacturers still manage to launch any controversial products on the market in spite of numerous research proving that hydroquinone may put your health at risk. The optimal concentration stands at around 2% and everything over the recommended value represents a path to the unknown. In fact, you’re required to have a prescription if you want to buy a product with more than 4% of hydroquinone (at least in the United States).

Many skin lightening creams contain hydroquinone, the side effects caused by this substance are most likely due to prolonged use. There are however many skin whitening products that are hydroquinone free and are safe for everyday use. It is important to read the labels on all cosmetics and skin creams to ensure they don’t have hydroquinone and for that matter any other chemical substances that might cause unnecessary side effects.

If you do consider using a skin lightening product containing hydroquinone you should apply a very small amount on your skin to ensure that it does not cause irritation, rash, or any sort of allergic reaction.


No matter how you are planning to use the products that contain hydroquinone and how desperate you are to improve the quality of your life, you should always put your health first. Never expose yourself to risk if you do not have to, so make sure to check if you have allergies to any of the ingredients and let your doctor or pharmacist know about the medicines you’re using – some of the ingredients may react with hydroquinone and put you in a quite undesirable situation.

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