Hydroquinone: what is it for?

There are products with different concentrations of hydroquinone in their composition. The higher the concentration, the stronger the depigmenting action.

Hydroquinone is a chemical that is used in cosmetics for depigmenting treatments . It is mainly used to lighten especially dark spots on the skin.
There are products with different concentrations of hydroquinone in their composition. The higher the concentration, the stronger the depigmenting action.

Mechanism of action: How does hydroquinone exert its effect?

Melanin is the substance responsible for pigmentation of the skin , so hydroquinone will act on it. Hydroquinone exerts its action by blocking melanin production and increasing the degradation of cells that store melanin.
Blocking melanin production is carried out by inhibiting tyrosinase , enzyme that converts tyrosine to melanin. In addition, it alters the structure of melanosomes causing their degradation to increase or their production to decrease. The result of hydroquinone treatment is much smoother skin with a unified tone.

What is it indicated for?

Hydroquinone is indicated to treat skin hyperpigmentations such as melasma , chloasma or lentigines . Lentigines are a fairly common type of spot, appearing from chronic exposure to the sun and normally seen after summer.
There are different alternatives and treatments depending on the type of skin spot . Hydroquinone is one of them; however, it is important that the professional determine which is the most appropriate option in each case.
When you are exposed to ultraviolet radiation, the body detects it as an attack and defends itself by increasing the production of melanin. As studies show , increased melanin can cause skin blemishes, being more frequent in more exposed areas, such as the face.
There are several causes that favor the appearance of spots, but the most frequent is sun exposure . Although solar radiation is a determining factor, it is not the only one; There are other factors that intervene in the appearance of the spots, such as:

  • Skin phototype : they are more frequent in light skin, phototypes I or II.
  • Medications : Some drugs, such as contraceptives, are photosensitive and can cause skin blemishes.
  • Pregnancy .
  • Tobacco use .
  • Genetics and age.
  • Previous skin lesions .

How is hydroquinone used?

This compound can be used on any part of the body that has a stain that you want to remove. However, be careful with eyes and mucosa.
It is applied at night on the area to be treated, which should not be exposed to the sun without sunscreen . In case you have sensitive skin, it is advisable to do the sensitivity test before using the product.
Hydroquinone interferes only in the formation of new melanin, so the depigmenting effect is not immediate and it takes several weeks to see its benefits on the skin.
Furthermore, the effect of hydroquinone is temporary. This is because melanin production is reactivated when treatment is stopped. However, depigmentation can be maintained between 2 and 6 months after the end of treatment.

What are the adverse reactions it can cause?

Among the most frequent complications that the use of hydroquinone can cause are:

  • Irritating contact dermatitis .
  • Redness of the skin.
  • Component allergy.
  • Burning sensation.

However, other reactions may also occur in some people, such as blisters, swelling of the skin or tongue, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. Additionally, hydroquinone is photosensitive, which means that, when exposed to sunlight, it can cause other blemishes and make your skin look even worse.
Other side effects are related to applying the cream for long periods, such as loss of elasticity of the skin or discoloration of the nails. Also, prolonged use can produce excess pigment, which is known as ochronosis . It is a dark blue stain, almost irreversible and very difficult to remove.
There is also a risk of developing an allergy to the product . To know if you are sensitive to hydroquinone, it is advisable to apply it previously to a small area of the skin. Although a slight redness is considered normal, if signs of an allergic reaction appear, you should stop using it


It is convenient to use the depigmenting product regularly and combine it with the specific sunscreen for each case. In this way, the results obtained with the treatment will be much better and more lasting. Do not forget to consult with the specialist if this is the most suitable treatment for you.

About Author

Leave a Comment