There are plenty of different skin conditions and issues that we seek to address with creams, serums and other treatments. Frequently, they relate to symptoms of natural aging. In other cases, we may be trying to counteract skin conditions or breakouts. Indicators of deterioration such as wrinkles, creases and sagging are always big subjects of focus. However, sometimes the most prominent and visibly obvious signs are discolorations and spots. Hydroquinone is among the most popular ingredients for reducing the appearance of such problem spots. However, it also has a somewhat controversial reputation. What are the hydroquinone side effects, and how nervous should they make you?
First, let’s cover the basiscs of what this ingredient is and what it does.
What is Hydroquinone
It is an aromatic organic compound that falls under the category of phenols. It has a number of chemical uses but one of its most prevalent applications is in skin care. The ingredient serves as a skin whitening agent and helps treat dark patches on the skin. These carry many names and causes, such as hyperpigmentation, age spots, melasma, liver spots, or simply freckles. Hydroquinone works as a topical bleach by altering the processes within the skin that lead to these discolorations.
There is little question that hydroquinone is very effective at what it does. Topical products featuring this property can quickly fade many different unwelcome skin marks. However, there are a number of potential hydroquinone side effects that call its safety into question.
Hydroquinone Side Effects
Once readily available and easily accessible, hydroquinone is now a little harder to come across. You can still get lower concentrations (in the 2% range) over the counter. However, strong blends now require a prescription. This owes to the significance of hydroquinone side effects that some have experienced. The Food and Drug Administration issued warnings in 2012 suggesting that the substance may have carcinogenic properties. This came after studies on mice led to the development of cancer.
Although there isn’t much research demonstrating the same risks for humans, it is a concerning development. There are also linkings to the possible skin condition ochronosis. This refers to a bluish, blackish or yellowish discoloration of skin tissue. Is it one fo the more rare hydroquinone side effects, but another one to be aware of. Obviously further discoloration is the opposite of the aim for most people using these products.
Finally, by lowering melatonin pigments, hydroquinone also shows the propensity to reduce your natural protection against UV rays. Preventing skin damage from the sun is a critical objective for diminishing the ravages of age. This becomes a twofold problem. Firstly, you’re exposing your skin to the risk of drying and wearing down for more rapid structural degeneration. And secondly, you’re at even greater risk for developing more hyperpigmentation due to photoaging (sun spots).
Hydroquinone reacts very badly when the sun shines on it, so if you choose to use it, make sure it’s only indoors as a spot treatment. And also, during periods where you’re applying it, always ensure that you are wearing high-SPF sunscreen every time you go outside. You never want a skincare product to work against you, and the varying hydroquinone side effects can make that happen if you’re not careful.