Hydroquinone works by inhibiting an enzyme that produces excessive pigmentation. Sun damage and other sources of injury to the skin such as acne may produce excessive amounts of melanin pigment on the skin. This appears as freckles, age spots, post-acne marks or a general dull appearance of your skin. Ever hear of the mask of pregnancy? It is also called melasma. This condition develops due to hormonal changes in a woman’s body and can leave a woman with a light brown mask on the skin of her face. These common skin conditions can be treated with over-the-counter Hydroquinone. Once the skin is lightened by using the Hydroquinone, re-exposure to UV rays will trigger the return of pigmentation. That is why broad spectrum sunscreen is imperative, as well as protective clothing to prevent return of the hyperpigmentation.
Hydroquinone is valued and regulated worldwide to protect against misuse and bad formulations. Hydroquinone is regulated in the USA by the FDA. The FDA devised the skin bleaching over-the-counter monograph in 1982 and currently allows over-the-counter sales of products with 1.5 to 2% concentration of Hydroquinone. When used properly, and spread evenly over the entire face, Hydroquinone reduces discoloration to create a more visibly even skin tone. Hydroquinone is the only skin lightener allowed for use by the FDA monograph. In contrast, skin brighteners like Licorice, Kojic and Vitamin C to name a few, do not lighten brown discolorations, but provide an overall brightening effect.
You may wonder what exactly is a FDA monograph and how does the FDA set safety standards for non-prescription drugs in the USA. The process involves a three public rulemaking steps to determine both safety and effectiveness. During phase one, the advisory panel of the FDA reviews active ingredient(s) and determine if they are generally recognized as safe and effective for the use in self-treatment. They also recommend dosages, usage instructions, warnings and appropriate claims. Then they publish the panel’s conclusions in the Federal Register and allow a lengthy period of time for interested parties to comment. In the second phase, the FDA further reviews the active ingredients along with the public’s comments plus any new data that may become available, and publishes a tentative monograph. That once again is opened for public comments. In the third and final phase, the FDA does its final review and publishes the final monograph. After publication, the FDA continuously monitors and updates the monograph when necessary.
Hydroquinone is found naturally in a wide variety of foods including berries, pears, wheat and coffee. Since it is present naturally in many common household foods we ingest, it is likely we absorb far more in food items than what we absorb topically from skin creams containing either over-the-counter 2% strength or even in prescription strength doses of 4%, if applied to limited parts of the face and body.
In recent years, Hydroquinone has come under review for a few reasons. One reason is that laboratory rats who ingested high doses of hydroquinone developed tumors or liver damage. Nonetheless, there has never been any link of Hydroquinone and such outcomes in humans. Secondly, buildup of black-blue pigment on the skin (i.e. Ochronosis) has been observed in users in Africa after long term application of high doses (typically 5 times higher than what is permitted in the USA) when used over large area of the body. Rarely has this condition been observed in the USA when medical grade Hyrdoquinone is used appropriately at the recommended dosage for topical application. Hydroquinone should NOT be used during pregnancy nor breast feeding as studies have never been performed and therefore the risk to a fetus is unknown.
Since the inception of Hydroquinone for use as a pharmaceutical drug for excessive and irregular skin pigmentation, there has been an extremely low rate of reported side effects in the USA. Further, most of the adverse effects outside the USA are associated with questionable grade of material and likely due to contaminants and extreme misuse.
Drs. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields, Stanford trained cosmetic dermatologists, have prescribed Hydroquinone throughout their years of medical practice in the field of dermatology. Together they have a combined 50 plus years of experience in the field of dermatology. They have used Hydroquinone on their own skin. It is felt to be the "gold standard" drug for gradual fading of uneven pigmentation and dullness associated with sun damage, pregnancy and hormones. It is and has always been Rodan + Fields' mission to develop safe and effective products. They follow the FDA monograph to ensure all safety aspects are met. Any concerns about Hydroquinone for yourself can always be discussed with your personal health care professional.
If you have any questions on the best products to use if you suffer from hyperpigmentation of your skin, I recommend 2 products by Rodan + Fields. The first one is called REVERSE Skin Lightening Accelerator Pack for Stubborn Dark Marks and Pigmentation. It contains Hydroquinone 2% toner, followed by the Hydroquinone 2 % lightening cream. It is NOT for extended use, and I generally recommend two 60 day cycles of it, and then stop. Again, using sunscreen also formulated by the Doctors will help prevent the dark marks and hyperpigmentation from returning. A second product designed for long term use is called REVERSE Regimen for the Appearance of Brown Spots, Dullness and Discoloration. It contains a Deep Exfoliating wash, followed by Intensive Brightening Toner, then Dual Active Brightening Complex, and tops off the treatment with Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ Sunscreen. I personally love the Vitamin C tube in the Dual active Brightening complex as one of my favorites.
I hope you found this informative, and if you have questions, please ask in the blog comments below and discuss it with your personal health care professional! Also, if you LIKE this information, please LIKE it and SHARE it!
Here is to Good Health and Much Happiness :)
Your Friend, Dr. Younger You
P.S. To browse and shop for products for hyperpigmentation, brown spots, dullness and discoloration, I invite you to browse my product site CLICKDrYoungerYou.myrandf.com/Shop/REVERSE-BRIGHTENING
Source: R + F Hyrdoquinone & The FDA OTC Monograph, for US only, updated 01/04/2107