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How safe is the use of hydroquinone?

By October 23, 2008 - 8:51pm
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I am very fair skinned and my skin is very clear except for some teeny "freckles" on my forehead and cheeks. My dermatologist recommended a bleaching cream which has 4% hydroquinone as an ingredient.
I find that it works very well, lightening the marks with continued use every night. I read that this ingredient is banned in Europe and some Asian countries as it can be dangerous when used for prolonged periods and it can also cause more sensitivity to sun.
I use a 50 sunblock every day and plan on using the hydroquinone cream temporarily to fade the freckled areas. Do you think that this is safe?

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EmpowHER Guest

what is the effect of combining a formulation containing 2% hydroquinone and fadeout cream.

August 30, 2011 - 11:26pm
EmpowHER Guest

I'm 15 years old. I'm planning to buy a whitening powder for my underarms. One of the ingredients of the powder is hydroquinone. It has a 2% hydroquinone. Is it safe for me?

August 7, 2010 - 11:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

My melasma started three months after getting on Oral contraceptives. i used 4% Hydroquinine back then for 6 months. In October 2009 I stopped using Hydroquinine. In January 2010., I woke up one day with melasma around my lower lip. It is very bad. I have been trying to keep it lighter by natural spf 30 sunscreen. vitamin c serum. azelic acid and yogurt and turmeric mask. I also take vitamin c and msm supplements.

Back in May, 2010, my dermatologist prescribed me 4% hydro quinine again and suggested me to use it for 2 months only. i have been holding on to the prescription and sticking with natural cure. But nothing is helping. My question is can i take a risk of applying 4% hydro quinine for 2 months to get rid of this darkness.


July 12, 2010 - 7:16am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hey I tried 4% for 2 months then I am now using 2% until I find a non hydro cream I have really bad melasma nothing worked after I stopped hydro the first time ... I have dark skin I love but my face was 5 shades darker than by body...

February 24, 2013 - 9:57pm
EmpowHER Guest

great info, Diane!!! thank you!

April 25, 2010 - 5:42pm

Rlyons, you're so very welcome. And remember, there are a lot of things that are good for us in small doses but toxic in larger doses. We could say that about antiinflammatory drugs, about cough syrup (especially with codeine), about antihistimines -- even about aspirin.

The best bet we have is to do exactly what you're doing -- find a doctor you trust, listen carefully to him or her, ask questions, get information, and then move forward. More and more it's clear that we are our own best advocate in any form of health care, no matter how "minor" it may seem in the grand scheme of things.

Take care!

October 27, 2008 - 8:12am

Hey Diane,
Thanks so much for your reply. I had no idea that hydroquinone is an "industrial chemical" as described on one of your links! That scares me a little .....though I am using it at a relatively low strength. I don't fancy the idea of my collagen breaking down...I need it!!! LOL!
It IS funny to me that a doctor woud prescribe something for reasons of vanity that may cause greater harm than good physically! I wouldn't want to give up my freckles at the expense of my collagen(that's the thing that keeps it all togeter afterall!.
I am not pregnant or nursing and have no immediate plans in that area though my Doc did warn me about that.
I appreciate all your research!
Thanks again.

October 24, 2008 - 12:30pm

Rlyons, First of all, freckles are cute! Are you sure you want to get rid of them? (LOL we all love the things we don't have. I have olive skin and dark hair, which I love now, but I grew up wanting to be blond and blue-eyed.)

Hydroquinone acts to lighten freckles, age spots, melasma and chloasma because it decreases how much melanin forms in the skin. Melanin is the pigment in your skin that gives it whatever shade it is.

That's why you are more sensitive to the sun when you use it. Melanin is also what turns a person's skin darker in the sun, to protect it.

Drugs.com offers these cautions:
"Do not use hydroquinone topical on skin that is sunburned, windburned, dry, chapped, or irritated, or on an open wound. It could make these conditions worse. Wait until these conditions have healed before applying hydroquinone topical.
"Before using hydroquinone topical, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, or if you have:
"liver disease; or
"kidney disease.
"If you have any of these conditions, you may need a dose adjustment or special tests to safely use this medication.
"This medication may be harmful to an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. It is not known whether hydroquinone topical passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. "

Any cream with hydroquinone at a higher percentage than 2% requires a prescription, so there is a margin of safety built in. Your doctor probably asked about allergies and other conditions before prescribing the cream for a short period, and made sure to tell you to keep it away from your eye area.

Side effects: Some patients actually experience a darkening of the skin where they are using the cream, and/or the bumps that signify contact dermititis. Collagen in the skin and elastic fibers can deteriorate, which is why use is generally discontinued if there's been no improvement in 4-6 months.

Here's a page that discusses this:


Some of the formulations that caused trouble in other countries had higher percentages of hydroquinone than you are using. Another product was banned because the hydroquinone was not mentioned on the label.

You may have heard reports of hydroquinone causing such things as leukemia. Hydroquinone is made by breaking down Benzene, which is a known carcinogen. However, here's a report that shows that when leukemia did appear, genetic and lifestyle aspects were also present as an explanation:


Here's the history behind the FDA's proposed ban of hydroquinone in any product that has not been approved through the New Drug application process:


Interesting to note that the American Dermatological Society opposes this action.

It appears that the danger results from "lifelong excess exposure." In short, if you use a 4% or lower cream, and you use it as your doctor has prescribed, for a short term, it appears that dangers are minimal. If you notice any irritation to your skin or darkening, you need to get back to your doctor for advice.

But don't forget -- freckles are cute!

October 24, 2008 - 9:02am
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