Hydroquinone is a compound used in a variety of skin products, usually targeted at customers that are looking to reduce the appearance of dark spots, freckles, acne scars and other problem spots on the body.
Hydroquinone has been the subject of much controversy over the years, and there have been many groups calling for the FDA to put a ban on the compound.
In some countries, hydroquinone is already illegal.
While hydroquinone is still FDA-approved and legal in the United States, it does pose some serious health risks that medical sources acknowledge.
If you’re thinking about using hydroquinone, there are a variety of reason you should stay away from it.
Regular use of hydroquinone can cause serious irritation of the skin, especially for people that already have sensitive skin or allergies.
In some cases, hydroquinone can cause extreme redness, itching or even a burning sensation when it is applied to the skin.
In Combination with Other Products
Hydroquinone isn’t used on its own – meaning you won’t get a prescription or buy an over-the-counter product called hydroquinone.
In fact, hydroquinone usually only makes up a small percentage of the topical product it is used in.
Many of the other ingredients used in products that contain hydroquinone can also cause skin irritation and damage the skin, especially combined with hydroquinone.
Even small amounts of hydroquinone can increase your chances of a negative reaction to other ingredients within a skin lightening product.
UVA and UVB Exposure
Hydroquinone works to reduce the amount of melanin your skin produces, which in turn makes your skin lighter in appearance however, doing this makes your skin more susceptible to UVA and UVB rays that can lead to dangerous sunburns, and over a prolonged period of time, an increased risk of certain types of skin cancer.
Hydroquinone also makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage, much the same way topical treatments like salicylic acid do.
Most manufacturers tell users to limit their sun exposure when using hydroquinone treatments, but many people use them for a considerable amount of time, and few people are willing to avoid the outdoors completely.
Some people are surprised by how bad severe a sunburn can be or how irritated their skin becomes because of prolonged sun exposure when using topical products that contain hydroquinone.
Ochronosis is a long-term skin condition that is caused by exposure to certain chemicals. When ochronosis occurs, the skin becomes considerably darker and thicker than normal.
Think of the skin on the top of your food versus the skin on your heel. That’s the difference between healthy skin and skin affected by ochronosis.
Some scientists and researchers have made a connection between long-term use of skin lightening products that contain hydroquinone and this skin condition.
Hydroquinone is a Possible Carcinogen
A variety of different medical studies have stated that hydroquinone is a possible carcinogen, meaning that it’s a compound that may have cancer-causing properties.
While many of these studies have been performed without human test subjects, the evidence shows that hydroquinone may not be safe.
Is it really worth the risk of getting cancer, or even help cancer along to lighten your skin?
Age spots and acne marks might be a little embarrassing, but there are other alternatives that can take the place of a potential cancer-causing substance like hydroquinone.
There Are Safer Alternatives
Hydroquinone has long been the standard for skin whitening however, with all of this new evidence that it may be doing more harm than good, many researchers and skin care companies are working on products to take the place of ones that contain hydroquinone.
Many of these products are plant-based and natural, with few side effects.
While product specifics vary by manufacturer and individual product, kojic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, vitamin C and arbutin are all common ingredients in safe, all-natural alternatives to hydroquinone.
In many cases, these products work very well to help lighten the skin without the risks associated with hydroquinone.
Make the safe decision and avoid topical skin lightening products that contain hydroquinone, even in small concentrations.
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