Hydroquinone is a popular ingredient that is used in an increasing number of skin whitening brands. It is incorporated in creams, serums, and lotions. Likewise, it is the main whitening agent in skin bleaching and scar treatments. Hydroquinone is designed to minimize melanin production in your skin; thus, addressing acne marks, freckles, melasma, sunspots, and other skin discolorations. What makes hydroquinone stand out is the fact that it works just as effective as it is fast. Hydroquinone has long since been regarded a miracle skin-care ingredient and has claimed its title without a doubt. But in spite of all this, hydroquinone has reaped bad impressions among dermatologists and health-conscious individuals.
7 Dangers of Hydroquinone
The efficacy of hydroquinone as a skin whitener is unsurpassable thus far, but its safety remains highly questionable. Although hydroquinone is still considered safe and FDA-approved in the United States of America, the US Cosmetics Ingredient Review Panel stated otherwise. In addition, European countries have already banned hydroquinone since 2001 due to the health risks it imposes. There are at least seven reasons why hydroquinone is discouraged.
A skin whitening product with hydroquinone is not designed to be hypoallergenic. People who have sensitive skin (and those who are susceptible to to allergies in general) are most likely to experience rashes, redness, itching, and contact dermatitis in the course of its usage. Even small amounts of hydroquinone (2% – 4%) can cause negative reactions. In addition, skin whitening products that contain hydroquinone tend to have other similar ingredients that can cause allergic reactions as well, such as mercury, steroids, parabens, etc.
Long-term use of hydroquinone products increases your chances of acquiring exogenous ochronosis, especially for those who expose themselves to skin bleaching. Ochronosis is a symptom of phenol poisoning and causes your skin to have a bluish black hue and a thick leathery texture. In some cases, brown spots and small bumps may also occur. It is unfortunate that the very skin whitening agent you rely on to enhance your complexion can also bring as much damage in the long run.
While hydroquinone inhibits the production of melanin, which makes your complexion lighter in appearance, it also increases your skin’s susceptibility to UVA and UVB radiation similar to other harsh chemicals such as salicylic acid. As a consequence, you have to limit your sun exposure or completely avoid the outdoors during daytime, both of which are not doable options. To prevent sun damage, you must wear sunscreen and protective clothing; otherwise, you can easily get a severe sunburn and increase your risk of certain types of skin cancer.
Various medical studies have stated that hydroquinone is a possible carcinogen. Though these studies have not performed on human test subjects but on mice, it is still not a wise decision to gamble your health. Moreover, the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database has included hydroquinone in its list of carcinogens as well. Its potential cancer-causing effects are the main reason why several countries have banned the use of hydroquinone.
Again, skin whitening products that contain hydroquinone also contain other harsh chemicals. The main dangers with such products are its mercury content. This composition is linked with kidney and liver disease. Likewise, hydroquinone becomes toxic when exposed to sunlight.
Miscarriage and Birth Defects
Pregnant women and lactating mothers should never use skin whitening products that contain hydroquinone as it causes miscarriage or birth defects. Hydroquinone, even in 2% concentrations, is still very potent.
Hydroquinone whitens skin and corrects dark pigmented areas fast and effectively. Ironically, it also causes hyperpigmentation. When you stop using hydroquinone after a long time, especially when you start to realize its long-term side effects, the suppressed melanin becomes more hyper-pigmented as the normal enzyme reactions within the cells had disrupted.
Choose Safe Alternatives
Hydroquinone may work like a dream and has long since been the standard for skin whitening products. However, medical studies have brought its disadvantages to the surface; proving it to do more harm than good. It is not enough to just weigh its advantages and disadvantages. If many countries have banned the use of such chemical in skin whitening products, that should give you an inkling regarding its long-term safety.
Fortunately, there are skin whitening products today that are equally effective and clinically-proven safe. You want a skin whitening product that is natural and has minimal or no side effects at all. The best all-natural alternatives to hydroquinone are Kojic Acid, Vitamin C, and Arbutin. Know that the very first thing you should look for when buying a skin whitening product is its list of ingredients. It pays to check the label. So if it has hydroquinone in it, you better stay away from the dangers it is associated with.