Hydroquinone – probably one of the most heard-about ingredients by beauty enthusiasts to date. If you’re a fan of using skincare routine Philippines’ products for fairer skin, you must have stumbled upon this ingredient in one of your skin whitening products. If you ever wonder what really hydroquinone is and how it affects the skin, read on.


Hydroquinone is an active beauty ingredient with skin lightening properties. In layman’s term, it bleaches the skin, which is why it’s a valuable agent in the treatment of different forms of hyperpigmentation, as well as other stubborn skin problems including acne marks, sun spots, and melasma.

It’s a synthetic organic compound and skin brightening agent found in a plethora of brightening serums and creams these days, which claims to effectively lighten dark patches. While a good number of licensed dermatologists recommend it as a treatment to hyperpigmentation and uneven skintone, it’s not without controversy. As a matter of fact, hydroquinone is currently banned in Europe, Japan, and Australia.

In Canada and US, high concentrations of this skin-lightening agent can only be purchased by prescription. This leads us to a very important question: is hydroquinone your skin’s friend or foe? Let’s start the evaluation by learning how it works.

How It Works

Hydroquinone lightens your skin by reducing the number of melanocytes in it. Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment responsible for your skin tone. In the event of hyperpigmentation, excessive melanin populated the skin’s surface caused by an increase in melanocyte production. When melanocyte production is regulated, the skin tone will become more even over time.

Normally, it takes around four weeks (average) for the hydroquinone to use its powers. Full results may show after several months of consistent use. If you’ve been using hydroquinone and you don’t notice any change within 3 months of use, seek advice from your dermatologist. Ask for recommendations on the prescription-strength formula that’s best fits to your skin’s needs.

Safety Concerns

It may seem like a miracle solution to get rid of dark spots once and for all, but dermatologists don’t all agree about hydroquinone’s safety or efficacy. This is because hydroquinone is not universally considered safe at the moment. With improper use, it can easily become a skin irritant, especially for people with sensitive skin. Another skin disease that can also happen is ochronosis, explained as increased darkening of the skin that is caused by hydroquinone in high concentrations and with long-term use.

In the US, hydroquinone is still be purchased over the counter. While the ingredient is generally considered safe and effective, the number of long-term safety concerns with this ingredient is higher in quantity as compared to other products with skin actives.

How Safe is Hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone is usually well-tolerated by most users, however, there are a few exceptions:

  • If your skin is dry or sensitive, the condition may worsen with continued use. This usually tapers off over time as your skin adapts to the ingredient.
  • If you have normal or oily skin, you’re in luck since you have lower chances of experiencing these side effects.
  • Hydroquinone tends to provide better results on fair skin tones. If your skintone is darker, consult your dermatologist before use. The ingredient may worsen hyperpigmentation in darker skin tones.

How To Use Hydroquinone

When treating hyperpigmentation, consistency is key. You want to use this ingredient daily to get optimal results. To stay safe, follow all product instructions with caution.

Before applying hydroquinone onto your face, it’s highly important to perform a patch. This will help you to figure out how your skin will react and if there are side effects.

To do this:

  1. Apply a small amount of the product on the inside part of your forearm.
  2. Use a bandage to cover the affected area.
  3. Wash your hands to remove the residue that can potentially stain your clothes or other materials.
  4. Let sit for 24 hours.
  5. Stop using if you experience severe itching or other forms of irritation.

If you don’t feel any side effects, you should be able to safely add it to your skincare routine. Ideally, hydroquinone should be applied it after cleansing and toning and before applying moisturizer.

Helpful Tips When Using Hydroquinone

Be sure to apply sunscreen as the last step of your skincare routine. Beauty and wellness experts recommend reapplying as necessary throughout the day.

While consistency can help you achieve the best results, hydroquinone can’t be used for a long period of time. If there’s no improvement in your skin after three months, stop using hydroquinone at once.

Otherwise, the product can be applied for up to 4 months and then slowly taper off use. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use it for more than 5 months at a given timeframe.

If you do want to begin using the product again, it’s best to wait for at least two to three months before continuing.

Possible Side Effects and Risks

At present, hydroquinone is considered safe in the US. Based on research, there isn’t any clinical evidence currently that proves hydroquinone is harmful to humans.

However, minor side effects may still occur. It can lead to a temporary uptick in redness or dryness initially, more so if your skin is sensitive. These should fade eventually as you get used to the product.

It’s quite rare that hydroquinone caused a condition called ochronosis, which occurs after prolonged daily use. This means you shouldn’t use products containing this ingredient for more than 5 months at a given time.

Natural Alternatives

If you prefer not using chemical agents for hyperpigmentation such as hydroquinone, there are natural skin-lightening products at your disposal.

Typically, these come in the form of:

  • Vitamins A and C are used habitually in anti-aging products since they help brighten the skin and improve overall tone. Used consistently, antioxidants may also lighten skin with hyperpigmentation.
  • Vitamin B-3. Also known as niacinamide, this vitamin is a potent ingredient that prevents darker pigmentation from making it to the surface of your skin.
  • Plant-based acids. Acids aren’t always derived from chemicals. A lot of acids in skincare products are extracted from plants. Try kojic or ellagic acids if you’re suffering from hyperpigmentation. These acids work by slowing down melanin production on your skin.

The Bottom Line

So, is hydroquinone an ally or enemy? The answer depends on your skin tone and condition.

Hyperpigmentation is one of the most problematic skin mishaps to treat. Although hydroquinone may help lighten your skin, it may not be appropriate for everyone.

Before starting on a hydroquinone skin regimen, consult your dermatologist for expert advice. Do this especially if you have sensitive or a medium to dark skin. They should advise you on whether or not using this ingredient is good for you.

A licensed skincare and health practitioner can also suggest alternative skin-lightening treatments such as chemical peels and natural products.