Hydroquinone cream has been shown to be an effective whitening agent for discoloured skin and damaged skin areas. It can also be used to lighten scars and is popular in parts of Asia and Africa to whiten the skin.
What is Hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is a crystalline material which is the bleaching agent in most skin whitening creams. In fact, Hydroquinone does not actually bleach the skin (calling it a bleaching agent is a misnomer); it only disrupts the synthesis of melanin. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production and increasing the breakdown of melanosomes (melanin pigment granules) in the skin's pigment cells (melanocytes). Melanin is a dark pigment that is produced by the oxidation of tyrosine to dopa and dopaquinone by the enzyme tyrosinase, to produce compounds that polymerize to form melanin. Another mechanism by which hydroquinone acts is through competition with tyrosinase, the enzyme that converts tyrosine to melanin. Melanin is the protein in the skin that gives the skin its colour. Hence, the more melanin there is in a person's skin, the darker that person's skin will be. The complexion appears fairer as the melanin content of the skin reduces. This is why when you use skin whitening cream with hydroquinone the skin tone whitens.
Uses of Hydroquinone cream
Often, Hydroquinone cream is used to minimize dark spots that occur due to sun exposure damage, age spots, acne scarring, and even birth control pills. The main use is to treat hyperpigmented skin. Hyperpigmentation occurs when patches of skin become darker than the surrounding areas. Hyperpigmentation can affect the skin colour of people of any race. Hyperpigmentation, particularly on the face, however, can be a source of cosmetic disability and mental distress. An alternative treatment to hydroquinone cream can be by using intense pulsed light or chemical peels. Another use is for Melasma. Melasma is a condition where the skin develops dark areas of pigment. Melasma occurs in women and is often triggered by pregnancy or hormonal changes. Melasma appears as a blotchy, brownish pigmentation on the face that develops slowly and fades with time. In most cases, whitening of the skin should be seen after 4 weeks of treatment, however, it can take 3-6 months to fully see results.
Dangers of Hydroquinone cream
Hydroquinone can be an unstable ingredient when placed in cosmetics. It is also a suspected carcinogen and is banned by several countries including the European Union. Some research has linked the cream to leukaemia, but this is often due to additional ingredients such as mercury being added. Probably one of the biggest dangers of hydroquinone cream is that it reduces the skins natural protection against harmful UV rays. Melanin is the most efficient sun screen available and is naturally produced by the skin. Since hydroquinone reduces the amount of melanin this reduces the amount of sun protection offered. Thus if you use the cream make sure to wear lots of sun protection.
Hydroquinone cream has been shown to be effective whitening agents for pigmented skin lesions. Significant importation of hydroquinone cream still occurs from countries where it is yet to be banned and a strong black market trade exists, including many creams available online. Always take care if you are considering using skin whitening treatment like hydroquinone.