Skin lightening, bleaching and whitening – some people think they need to use chemical agents to get effects. Hydroquinone is a chemical compound that is used in some skin whitening product to reduce the color of skin.
Ban on hydroquinone
However, the United States Food and Drug Administration has since 2006 proposed a ban on all over-the-counter cosmetics containing hydroquinone. In the European Union, hydroquinone has been banned in cosmetic creams since 2000. This is due to concern that hydroquinone is a possible carcinogen and could cause increased rates of tumours, cancer and cell defects.
Overuse of hydroquinone can in fact have the opposite effect - exogenous ochronosis is a condition caused by the excessive use of hydroquinone even in products with amounts as small as 2%. Signs of this condition are patches of yellow, grey and brown colored lesions.
Skin irritation and sensitivity
Hydroquinone can also cause skin irritation or even a burning sensation when applied to the skin. It can also cause sensitivity to UV exposure. So people using hydroquinone may find that they burn more easily in the sun. Other side effects include the reduced response to other more natural lightening creams.
With so many people concerned about the dangers of hydroquinone, many companies are working on products with ingredients powerful enough to replace this chemical. Many cosmetic products are now using plant-based and natural formulas with research showing good results. Some formulas include ingredients such as kojic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, vitamin C and arbutin. Avoid taking risks with your health and ensure that you use only reputable products that contain no hydroquinone, even in small amounts.
| Example of skin damage seen under ultraviolet camera.