Hydroquinone is a prescription skincare ingredient that is often used to treat melasma and hyperpigmentation. But did you also know that hydroquinone can be used on the body to lighten dark patches and treat a common pigmentation condition called acanthosis nigricans? Hydroquinone can be a powerful part of your body care routine for smooth, even-toned skin!
Let’s dive in on how to use hydroquinone and the benefits of use.
What is hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is the gold standard prescribed by dermatologists to lighten dark spots caused by melasma or hyperpigmentation from acne scarring. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the number of melanocytes present.
Melanocytes make melanin, which is what produces your skin tone. Used appropriately, it is not dangerous, but it does have side effects and it can cause allergic reactions in those with sensitive skin. However, the has ruled that hydroquinone is a safe and effective way to address dark patches.
What does hydroquinone treat?
Hydroquinone is used to treat skin conditions related to hyperpigmentation. This includes:
- Acne scars
- Age spots
- Post-inflammatory marks from psoriasis, eczema, and healed burns
- Acanthosis nigricans
Hydroquinone’s powers are best used to fade marks that are no longer active or inflamed. For example, the ingredient can help minimize hyperpigmentation from acne scarring, but it won’t have an effect on redness from active breakouts.
What is acanthosis nigricans?
Acanthosis nigricans is a very common skin pigmentation condition that appears as dark patches of skin with a thick, velvety texture. It typically affects people who have diabetes or prediabetes but can affect those with other medical conditions as well, such as:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Endocrine disorders
- Genetic Syndromes
- Malignancy or cancer
- Autoimmune disorders
Acanthosis nigricans can also present as a side effect of certain medications. While generally harmless, many people feel self-conscious about darker areas of their skin, especially during swimsuit season or more intimate moments. Hydroquinone is a safe way to treat acanthosis nigricans and lighten dark areas located in the underarms, groin, and anus.
How do I use hydroquinone to lighten?
Wisp’s Even Out! Hydroquinone Cream for Body contains:
- Hydroquinone - 5%
- Vitamin C - 1%
- Niacinamide - 4%
Apply a thin layer to the affected area. Begin at bedtime for 2 weeks and if you don’t experience adverse effects, you can increase to morning and night. Use it as a spot treatment and focus the cream application on the dark areas you wish to lighten, while avoiding application directly to the genitals.
You will cycle on for a maximum of 4 months of use of hydroquinone followed by at least a 2-month break to cycle off. This is to avoid chronic continuous use which can result in a rare side effect called ochronosis where the medication can stimulate new pigment production.
What Are The Side Effects of Hydroquinone?
You may experience redness, dryness, peeling, itching, burning, and irritation at the application site. Hydroquinone also carries a risk of developing exogenous ochronosis, a blue-black discoloration of the skin. This risk increases with prolonged use of hydroquinone and continued sun exposure. To avoid this, you'll need to take periodic breaks from hydroquinone. As always, follow the advice of your doctor and wear a daily SPF of at least 30.
This medicine, like many medicines, can cause dangerous and potentially life-threatening side effects. If any of the emergency side effects listed in the manufacturer’s pamphlet or those below happen to you please stop taking the medicine and call 911 or seek immediate medical help in person:
- Severe skin rash, blistering, or changes.
- Mucosal (eyes, mouth) rash/peeling.
- Shortness of breath or wheezing.
- Becoming pregnant while taking this medication.
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle twitching
What Else to Know
Don’t Use Hydroquinone With Peroxides
Hydroquinone is a powerful skincare active so there are some other common skincare products you should avoid when using it. Benzoyl peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, or other peroxide products can cause skin irritation, dryness, and temporary staining when used with hydroquinone.
Don’t Use Hydroquinone When Pregnant or Breastfeeding
We don’t have good data about how hydroquinone can affect babies or developing fetuses and hydroquinone can be absorbed by the skin and enter the blood. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor or dermatologist about alternatives for a skin-lightening agent if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant!
Wear Sunscreen Every Day
No matter what your skin concerns are, sunscreen is your best friend! Daily sunscreen application with an SPF of at least 30 will help protect your skin from UV damage and further darkening from the sun. You’ll be helping your hydroquinone deliver you the best results possible.
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