Hydroquinone (HQ) is strong stuff. It’s currently banned in the European Union, Japan, and Australia. Studies conducted in rats have linked hydroquinone with cancer and some individuals have developed ochronosis, a skin disorder resulting in the blue-blackening of the skin, due to hydroquinone use.
Why then would anyone use hydroquinone?
Simply put, when it works for you, it works well. (Some people are extremely sensitive to HQ and cannot tolerate it.) If you’ve ever tried to lighten dark spots, you’ll know how stubborn they are. Hydroquinone has proven to be one of the most effective skin lighteners and many dermatologists prescribe it to treat hyperpigmentation.
Despite the drawbacks mentioned above, I decided to try it out for the following reasons:
1) The long-term studies pointing towards HQ being a carcinogen were conducted in rats and not humans. Moreover, these were gavage studies, meaning the rats were fed with hydroquinone. I would like to see a longitudinal study of hydroquinone use in humans.
2) Ochronosis seems to primarily occur in cases were hydroquinone has been abused. Long-term users of hydroquinone especially in countries where the HQ percentages are not regulated tend to have a higher risk of developing ochronosis. HQ users are warned not to use it for a period of longer than 3 months.
Over the counter products in the US contain up to 2% hydroquinone while prescription products usually contain up to 4% hydroquinone.
I read some reviews and decided to go with an over the counter product that got relatively high reviews on multiple sites:
This formulation contains 2% hydroquinone, other skin brighteners, as well as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) to exfoliate skin. It packs quite a punch.
[info_box]Active Ingredient: Hydroquinone 2%. Inactive Ingredients: Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Alcohol Denatured, Water, Propylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Kojic Acid, Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose[/info_box]
- Brightening ingredients: Hydroquinone, Azelaic Acid and Kojic acid
- Exfoliating: Lactic Acid (Alpha Hydroxy Acid: AHA)
Cost: $42/1 oz
Here are my initial impressions:
Texture: Light yellow/brown gel.
Scent: It has a harsh chemical scent. At first, I thought that perhaps my bottle of HQ had gone bad, but then I noticed other people mentioning the scent. I also went to Sephora to smell the tester bottle for Murad Rapid Age Spot (2% hydroquinone), one of my other picks, and that smelled equally noxious.
Application instructions: Use as spot treatment for no longer than 3 months.
Due to the strong smell, I didn’t want to use my hands to apply the HQ so I used a Q-tip to spot treat. It took me quite a while to do this.
After five minutes, I started feeling a mild heat so I took a look in the mirror and lo and behold, I was red in the areas where I had applied the product. I decided to only apply this at night to avoid looking like I’d come down with chicken pox.
To soothe my reddened skin, I smothered my face with a coconut oil based moisturizer from VMV Hypoallergenics.
I went to sleep with my nose pinched and for the first few minutes, I had a few tears rolling down my face from the stinging…
Hydroquinone results and pictures coming up…
Your faithful lab tester.