Evidence Basedcheckmark

Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is a skin lightening topical skincare product to treat common hyperpigmentation skin concerns. Hydroquinone comes in both over-the-counter and prescription-strength forms.

Hydroquinone

The Skinny


Average Recovery

1 days

Permanence

Temporary

Application

Topical

Surgical

No

Cost

$50 - $298

The Specifics


What is hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone is both an over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription-strength skin lightening or skin bleaching topical skincare product. Hydroquinone functions to reduce hyperpigmentation by decreasing the activity of melanocytes or skin pigment (melanin) producing cells.

Historically, there have been concerns about the safety of hydroquinone, however, current guidelines from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest hydroquinone is safe in certain concentrations. Hydroquinone can be used to treat acne scars, melasma, age spots, freckles, and other post inflammatory skin lesions. While using hydroquinone, patients should limit sun exposure and use a quality sunscreen to protect skin, enhance results, and mitigate side effects.

What cosmetic concerns does hydroquinone treat?

By altering the number of skin pigment cells (melanocytes) and skin pigment (melanin) production, hydroquinone can lighten areas of discoloration and reduce the appearance of some skin lesions like age spots, dark spots, freckles, and melasma. It can also address uneven skin tone concerns.

Who is the ideal candidate for hydroquinone?

The ideal candidate for hydroquinone therapy is an individual with normal or oily skin who is looking to correct the appearance of acne scars, age spots, melasma, and age spots. Hydroquinone is not recommended for those with dry or sensitive skin or individuals with dark skin tones as hyperpigmentation can be worsened.

What is the average recovery associated with Hydroquinone?

There is no recovery time associated with hydroquinone use, however, there are some considerations to take while on hydroquinone therapy. Hydroquinone can increase skin sensitivity and dryness so diligent skin care with a quality moisturizer, limited sun exposure, and use of a broad spectrum sunscreen is necessary.

What are the potential side effects of hydroquinone?

Potential side effects of hydroquinone use include skin redness, dryness, irritation, flaking, and peeling. In severe cases, a condition called ochronosis may occur, which is development of papules and blue-black skin pigmentation.

What can someone expect from the results of hydroquinone?

The benefits of hydroquinone therapy will begin to develop after several weeks of regular use, however, results will optimize over the course of months. Duration of treatment, and discontinuation of therapy should be discussed with a certified dermatologist.

What is the average cost of hydroquinone?

The average cost of hydroquinone is dependent on insurance. The actual cost of the hydroquinone topical will vary by location, healthcare provider, and individual candidate needs.

Pros

TopicalRelatively low costSustained Results With Consistent Use

Cons

Irritation While Skin AcclimatesConsistent Use RequiredIncreased Photosensitivity

Invasiveness Score

mildmoderatesevere
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Invasiveness is graded based on factors such as anesthesia practices, incisions, and recovery notes common to this procedure.

What to Expect


Hydroquinone therapy is a regular prescription or OTC topical treatment. Here is a general guide for what to expect before, during, and after a hydroquinone application:

The Takeaway


Hydroquinone is a skin lightening or skin bleaching agent altering melanin production to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation like age spots, dark spots, freckles, melasma, and acne.

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Source List

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AEDIT uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Many Ways to Firm Sagging Skin
  2. The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery Skin Tightening americanboardofcosmeticsurgery.org
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