Hydroquinone is an ingredient commonly found in skin lightening creams and is used to treat hyperpigmentation and fade dark marks. It works by limiting the action of melanocytes (melanin producing cells) in the skin so that less pigment is produced.
You may be worried about the associated dangers of hydroquinone based products and looking for hydroquinone free creams to treat your pigmentation woes.
Why is it Dangerous?
Prolonged use of hydroquinone has also been shown to cause a condition called Ochronosis. Ochronosis is a condition where the user develops patches of thick dark brown skin or blue-black patches on darker skin.
It has also been said that hydroquinone is carcinogenic, meaning it can cause cancer. This has been disclosed in laboratory tests on rodents but there is not yet any real evidence to show that it is carcinogenic to humans.
Does That Mean I Should not Use It?
Using skin lightening creams with low concentrations of hydroquinone (less than 2%) for short periods of time minimizes the risk of these dangerous side effects. Using higher concentrations such as 4-6% or using any concentration for several months or longer means you are more exposed to the risk of skin cancer or developing worse pigmentation problems.
It is also important to remember that the sale of hydroquinone based creams is banned in most parts of the world. You can buy creams containing low concentrations of hydroquinone over the counter in the United States where you can also obtain higher concentrations by prescription from a dermatologist.
Although there is no concrete evidence to show that it can cause cancer in humans, you might not want to take that chance! If you require a skin lightening cream for use over a longer period of time (more than a few weeks), you are better off looking at hydroquinone free creams as an alternative.
What Hydroquinone Free Alternatives are Available?
There are many safe, natural ingredients that can be used for skin lightening. Common ingredients are arbutin (bearberry extract), kojic acid, lactic acid, licorice extract and citric acid. Finding a product that contains these ingredients is a safer way of giving you the same end result.
The well publicized dangers of hydroquinone mean that many more people are looking to safer, hydroquinone free creams and the market for these is rapidly growing.