Here’s What Hydroquinone In Your Skin Care Do To Your Body.

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024 at 05:56 pm

10 minutes read.   

In this article:

The use of bleaching agents in some products can have a medical or cosmetic purpose. Skin whitening/lightening products are the most widespread in countries where darker skin colour prevail and can be driven by psychosocial, cultural and economic reasons.

Skin-whitening products containing highly toxic active ingredients (in particular mercury derivatives, hydroquinone and corticosteroids) are easily found in the market.

The use of these depigmenting agents can be followed by variety of adverse effects with very serious and sometimes fatal complications, and is currently an emerging health concerns in many countries.

In this article you will learn everything you need to know about hydroquinone.

Feel free to skim through.

What’s hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent. It bleaches your skin, which can be helpful when treating different forms of hyperpigmentation.

Historically, there’s been some back-and-forth on the safety of hydroquinone. In 1982, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized the ingredient as safe and effective.

Several years later, concerns about safety prompted retailers to pull hydroquinone from the market.

The FDA went on to discover that many of the products in question contained contaminants like mercury. They established that these contaminants were behind reports of adverse effects.

How Hydroquinone Works?

Hydroquinone acts as a skin depigmentation agent by inhibiting melanin (natural pigment that give your skin its colour) synthesis.

It inhibits the conversion of L-3,4- dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) to melanin by inhibiting tyrosinase due to its structural similarity to an analog of melanin precursors.

In a more simple explanation; Hydroquinone bleaches your skin by decreasing the number of melanocytes present. Melanocytes make melanin. Melanin is the pigment that produces your skin colour.

In cases of hyperpigmentation, more melanin is present due to an increase in melanocyte production. By controlling these melanocytes, your skin will become more evenly lighter over time.

It takes about four to eight weeks on average for the ingredient to take effect. It may take several months of consistent use before you see full results.

If you don’t see any improvements within three months of over the counter (OTC) use, talk to your dermatologist. They may be able to recommend a prescription-strength formula better suited to your needs.

Who can use hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone can be used as single or added in some cosmetic product to treat skin conditions related to hyperpigmentation. Such as:

  • acne scars
  • age spots
  • freckles
  • melasma
  • post-inflammatory marks from psoriasis and eczema

Although hydroquinone can help fade red or brown spots that have lingered especially on a white skin person, but it won’t help with active inflammation.

For example, the ingredient can help minimize acne scarring, but it won’t have an effect on redness from active breakouts.

Is hydroquinone safe for all skin types?

Although hydroquinone is generally well-tolerated, there are a few exceptions.

Unfortunately hydroquinone maynot be good for people of colour because it will bleach your melanin and end up making your skin prone to sun burn and other skin infection.

Also if you have dry or sensitive skin, you may find that hydroquinone causes further dryness or irritation. This usually tapers off as your skin adjusts to the ingredient.

People who have normal or oily skin are less likely to experience these side effects.

The ingredient tends to work best on fair skin tones. If you have a medium-to-dark skin tone, talk with your dermatologist before use. Hydroquinone may actually worsen hyperpigmentation in darker skin tones.

How to use hydroquinone

Consistency is the key to treating hyperpigmentation if you’re white or have very fair skin. You’ll want to use this ingredient every day for maximum results. Follow all product instructions carefully.

It’s important to do a patch test before your first full application. This will allow you to determine how your skin will react and whether it results in unwelcome side effects.

First rub a small amount of the product into the inside of your forearm. Cover the area with a bandage.

Wash your hands to prevent the product from staining your clothes or other materials. Wait 24 hours.

Discontinue use if you experience severe itching or other irritation during this time.

If you don’t experience any side effects, you should be able to safely add it to your skin care routine. You should apply it after cleansing and toning, but before your moisturizer.

Take just a small amount of the product and apply it evenly across the entire area of skin. Gently massage into your skin until it’s completely absorbed.

Make sure you wash your hands after use — this will prevent the product from affecting other areas of skin or staining your clothes and other materials.

You should also wear sunscreen while using this ingredient. Sun exposure can not only make hyperpigmentation worse, but also reverse the effects of your hydroquinone treatment.

This is one of the reason you as a black should not patronize any skin care containing hydroquinone or mercury (bleaching agents) especially if you live in a sun dominating country.

Sunscreen is usually the last step of a skin care routine. Be sure to reapply as needed throughout the day.

While consistency is important for maximum results, you shouldn’t use it for long periods of time. If you don’t see any improvement after three months, discontinue use.

If you do see improvement, you can use the product for up to four months, and then begin to taper off use. You shouldn’t use it for more than five months at a time.

If you want to begin using the product again, wait two to three months before you resume use so that your melanin can grow back.

Side Effects Of Hydroquinone

To date, hydroquinone is deemed safe in the United States. There isn’t any clinical evidence currently to suggest that hydroquinone is harmful to humans but can make your skin prone to sun damage.

However, minor side effects are still possible. It may cause a temporary uptick in redness or dryness at first, especially if you have sensitive skin. These effects should fade as your skin becomes used to the product.

In rare cases, hydroquinone has caused a condition called ochronosis. It’s marked by papules and bluish-black pigmentation.

This can occur after prolonged daily use. As such, you shouldn’t use products with this ingredient for more than five months at a time.

Related: Adverse Effect Of Mercury Salt In Your Cosmetic.

NAFDAC Found Body Soap Brand Containing Toxic Mercury Already In The Market


Here are the factors that will always fight against the lightening effect of hydroquinone in your skin.

1. Allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to hydroquinone

2. Sun exposure or heat

The use of this drug requires caution with other medications that cause photosensitivity.

However, some manufacturers add it as an active ingredient in skin care products and people use it as their daily body care which normally lead to an awful skin bleaching especially among people of colour (the blacks) that live in sunny countries.

If you choose to use any skin care product that contain hydroquinone you must always wear cloth that cover all your skin and protect you from UV light. And avoid sun or heat exposure directly to your skin. E.g oven heat.

Melanocytes become stimulated on exposure to sun light and even visible light leading to pigmentation. Therefore, broad-spectrum sunscreens are a recommended strategy.

Have you ever seen a white person bleaching? No! Why then do you want to risky your melanin which protect your skin most especially from sun burn and certain skin infection?

Honestly I stopped applying any conventional skin cream since 2017 because of this, because almost all of them contain certain amount of bleaching agents.

I am a light-brown skin colour girl with very sensitive skin any skincare that contain bleaching agent no matter the quantity will normally bleach my skin within two months of use. Does this sound familiar to you? I like to know in the comment below.

When your melanin bleaches, the thickness of your skin layer reduces exposing the colour of your vein, and eventually increase skin dryness and wrinkles especially as you get older.

If you doubt me, closely observe the skin texture of 60 years old woman or man who have used bleaching cream for a long period in their life. What do you see? let me know in the comment section.

Is hydroquinone legally approved?

Well in some country like U.S hydroquinone is generally refer as safe.

However, hydroquinone is not FDA approved due to its unknown safety profile. It is banned in the EU, Australia, and Japan.

Also in Nigeria, the regulatory agency NAFDAC prohibit addition of all bleaching agents in cosmetic.

Although many manufacturers and importers in Nigeria are not complying with this law and that is why there are uncountable bleaching skin care products in Nigeria market.

But anyone who is caught by NAFDAC will face the law especially if products contain high amount of bleaching agents than recommended amount.

Natural alternative to hydroquinone

Below are some natural alternatives any manufacture who wants to explore safer means of skin lightening can opt for

If you’d rather not use a chemical agent like hydroquinone, natural skin-lightening products are available.

These typically include one or more of the following:

1. Antioxidants; Vitamins A and C are commonly used in anti-aging products to brighten the skin and improve your overall tone. When used over time, antioxidants may also help lighten areas of hyperpigmentation.

2. Plant-based acids; Contrary to popular belief, acidic compounds are not always manufactured. Many acids in skincare products are actually derived from plants. For hyperpigmentation, you might try kojic or ellagic acids. These work by slowing down your skin’s melanin production.

3. Vitamin B-3; commonly labeled as “niacinamide,” this ingredient has the potential to prevent darker areas of pigmentation from rising to the surface of your skin.


Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent. It bleaches you skin, which can be helpful when treating different forms of hyperpigmentation.

Hydroquinone acts as a skin depigmentation agent by inhibiting melanin (natural pigment that give your skin its colour) synthesis.

Although hydroquinone can help fade red or brown spots that have lingered especially on a white skin person, but it won’t help with active inflammation.

Hydroquinone maynot be good for people of colour because it will bleach your melanin and end up making your skin prone to sun burn and other skin infection.

Natural and healthier alternatives to hydroquinone includes:

1. Antioxidants particularly Vitamins A and C

2. Plant-based acids like kojic or ellagic acids.

3. Vitamin B-3; commonly labeled as “niacinamide,”

Hydroquinone is generally well-tolerated by many people, however regulatory bodies in many countries do not approve it due to the unknown health effect it may pose to users on the long run.

I hope you get the value worth your time, I appreciate the time you spend with me. Leave a comment below if you find this article helpful and don’t forget to drop your question, opinion or criticism if any. Cheers!


The content provided in Living Good is for informational and educational purpose only. It’s not intended to provide medical advice or take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal doctor. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Living Good takes no responsibility for possible health consequences of any person(s) reading or following the information in this educational content. Viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over the counter medication, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

Spread the message