Is hydroquinone good for your skin & safe for skin lightening?
Though ”beauty”, is a relative word, specific to each one’s interpretation, there is a growing perception that a woman with smooth glowing skin is more sought after than her peers with manifestations of aging catching up with them.
Although this argument rages on, further inroads are being made by researchers into the psychological perceptions of beauty. With age however, our skin tones deteriorate to expose brown marks and discoloration, which appear as pigmentation on our skin.
It is at this stage that many are worry and start looking for effective solutions to tackle the problem at hand. Your initial reaction might well be to reach out to hydroquinone creams for pigmentation, glorified in the past as a miracle bleaching product.
Considered then, as God’s own gift to mankind, hydroquinone has now fallen from grace due to allegations of inciting cancer and a variety of other side effects.
It cannot, however, be denied that, at one time it was considered the Rolls Royce among skin whiteners, for its effectiveness and quick results.
To be specific, for the advantage of the readers, hydroquinone is an aromatic organic compound, a type of phenol if you like, with two hydroxyl groups bonded to a benzene ring, in para-position, and hydroquinone are the solid granular derivatives of the primary compound.
Under the circumstances, the use of products with this ingredient should be reviewed critically and better alternatives without any side effects must be identified safely to serve the purpose of whitening your skin.
Skin lighteners, are mainly used to restrain the aggressive production and aggregation of melanin, or hyper-pigmentation, resulting from hormonal and other changes in the body.
Melanin is a product of melanocyte cells, which are activated by an enzyme known as tyrosinase, and it would be interesting to note that the tan, which you so fondly yearn for, is melanin’s response with enhanced production, in deference to the abundant sunlight.
Over a period of time, with constant application of the right product, the skin regains its original tone.
Hydroquinone, acts to restrict the propagation of tyrosinase, and thus retards and eradicates the problems arising from melanin.
Studies about the side effects of using hydroquinone on rodents have proven the product as controversial, and potentially inclined to invite cancer and other side effects leading to ochronosis (thickening and darkening of skin, especially for people of color), abnormal function of the adrenal glands, severe allergic reactions, blood diseases and on the skin: dryness, tingling, redness as well as blistering.
The latest generation of skin products, which can bleach, as well as stem the tide of hyper-pigmentation, are all milder and safer, but you are advised to use a liberal quantity of sun-screen lotion, to keep away from the harmful effects of excessive exposure to the sun.
It is imperative that you consult a doctor, and have a skin evaluation done, in order to ensure that the issues are not related to more serious problems.
Hydroquinone has been banned in several countries, and the very survival in the US, seems to be a time bound one, as the FDA is said to be considering banning it or converting it to a prescription format.
Some of the alternatives to hydroquinone are:
1. Other tyrosinase restrictors like arbutin and dexarbutyn, known to be far safer, and are increasingly being used in the skin lightening industry.
2. Kojic and azelaic acids from micro organisms
4. Vitamin B, C and vitamin E from other sources.
5. Other products which help to restrict the rise of melanin to the skin surface are extracts of soymilk and soybean.
6. Peptides palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 are known for their value in skin care and lightening.
8. Exfoliation with alpha and beta-hydroxy acids are known to give good results.
Personally, with all the hydroquinone side effects, I wouldn't risk my health so my skin can look lighter. If you want to pursue a lighter tone for your skin or get rid of pigmentation go for non-hydroquinone skin lighteners with the maximum botanical extracts, which are believed to promote good skin lightening without side effects.
When shopping for skin lightening products, read the labels to ensure that it does not contain dangerous chemicals that could have side effects in the short or long term.
For more information about hydroquinone uses and health effects check https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/hydroquinone.pdf.
1. Is hydroquinone bad for your skin?
Long-term use causes a condition where the skin turns a bluish clack color in lighter skinned people and sooty black for dark skin people, known as exogenous ochronosis.
The cream works by inhibiting the production of melanin in order to lighten skin but prolonged use damages the pigment cells causing increased sensitivity to the sun.
The result is hyper-pigmentation due to exposure to UVB and UVA. Also, hydroquinone is toxic if exposed to the sun and hence should be better used at night.
In addition to these effects it could also cause thick, leathery, bumpy skin, irritation, redness and contact dermatitis.
Because of the associated risks it has been banned in many European and Asian countries.
2. Does hydroquinone cause cancer?
A study published in the British Cancer Journal linked high doses of hydroquinone in mice to cancer. These results were confirmed in a subsequent study.
Because of this its use was banned in Australia, Europe, and parts of Africa and Asia.
The link between hydroquinone and cancer in mice is concerning since 99% of the DNA have homologues in our DNA, however, there has been no empirical evidence to date that proves that it would cause cancer in humans.
Also, the fact that it causes increased exposure to the sun links it to increase the risk of skin cancer.
It is important to use a broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen if using skin care products that have this ingredient.
3. Do lightening creams really work?
The complexion of skin is predetermined by the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced in the skin by enzyme tyrosinase and melanosomes.
Increase in melanin causes the skin to grow darker and decrease causes the skin to be lighter. Although predetermined by genetics, skin lightening creams contain Hydroquinone, Mandelic and Kojic acid working in tandem to regulate the amount of melanin.
They inhibit enzyme tyrosinase to regulate the amount of melanin produced. Melanin that already exists on the skin is broken down when the cream is applied.
The melanin that is broken down is re-absorbed into the cells and the area applied becomes lighter. So, yes, these skin lightening creams really work.
4. Who should not use hydroquinone?
Different people have varied reactions to hydroquinone. It is important to test it on a small patch of skin and observe for 24 hours to see your body’s reaction.
For some people the cream causes redness, excessively dry skin or a burning sensation. The cream should also not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Generally hydroquinone is considered safe (best under professional supervision) for use by light-skinned Asians and Caucasians but not as safe for dark-skinned people like Africans.
5. Is hydroquinone an steroid?
Hydroquinone is not a steroid. Topical steroids should not be used to lighten skin. If used this way they will most definitely damage the skin.
Skin turning pale in color or getting lighter is a common side effect of the use of topical steroids.
It makes your skin thinner causing stretch marks, dark patches on the skin, skin that cracks and bleeds easily and pimples and boils on skin.
Damage to the skin caused by the use of steroids as an skin lightener is difficult to treat and very severe.
6. Is hydroquinone bleach?
Hydroquinone does not bleach the skin but lightens the skin by preventing the synthesis and production of melanin.
In line with the concerns expressed about the safety of the use of hydroquinone on skin, research on its
topical application have found negative reactions.
Most times these are as a result of the use of very high concentrations of the cream or from other added dangerous skin lightening agents like mercury iodine or glucocorticoids.
Most of the perceived risk is applicable to women of African descent (black women).
7. Is it safe to use hydroquinone cream?
Hydroquinone available in cosmetics is topical 2% and from a physician 4% concentration or more.
In the United States it is sold as an over the counter drug but with a concentration no more than 2%, higher doses require prescription.
One of the reasons it has garnered such a bad reputation is because bootleg creams produced in developing countries often contain hazardous materials like mercury which lighten skin very quickly but are extremely poisonous.
Most experts agree that hydroquinone creams should be used under the guidance of a dermatologist. If you are looking for more information read this article.
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