What is Hydroquinone?


Hyperpigmentation, acne scars, and dark spots are pesky skin issues many people fight against. While your best line of defense against hyperpigmentation is a good skincare routine, sometimes you simply need more. What more is a topical skin treatment found over the counter and prescribed by dermatologists in higher concentrations called hydroquinone.

What is hydroquinone and why is there such controversy surrounding it? Read on and let The Skin Spot give you all the information you need!

What is Hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone is found in a variety of topical skin treatments, from face moisturizers to cleansers to skin-lightening creams. It’s often used in combination with other products to help improve the complexion and treat a condition called melasma.

Melasma is a common condition with the skin that results in discolored, dark spots, or patches. It’s more common in women than in men and most often occurs on the forehead, cheeks, chin, and bridge of the nose, though it can happen anywhere on the body.

Why people develop melasma isn’t clear, but it may be associated with hormones, thyroid disease, and even stress. Sun exposure can also cause this condition since UV rays can have an adverse effect on the skin cells that control pigmentation.

Hydroquinone is used to treat these dark spots. It lightens the skin in order to get rid of the discoloration. It blocks an enzyme in the pigment-producing pathway of the body and is one of the most effective treatments for dark spots you can find on the market today.

What is Hydroquinone

Does Hydroquinone Bleach Skin?

You may think that hydroquinone works by bleaching the skin, but that’s not how it works at all. When used in a safe concentration, it actually evens out the skin tone by limiting the excess melatonin created by the skin cells. So, it works on a cellular level causing the dark spots to slowly fade – not by bleaching skin. Still, using it for long periods of time may not be recommended for safety reasons.

Is Hydroquinone Safe?

If hydroquinone is so effective, then you may wonder why there’s some controversy surrounding its use. The truth is that hydroquinone has been banned in some countries, including countries in the European Union because it was found to have adverse side effects. These include irritation of the skin, altered immune system function, and even certain types of cancers in some controlled animal experiments.

It’s important to note that in the United States, hydroquinone is available in over the counter products in concentrations up to two percent and you can get higher concentrations by prescription. The Food and Drug Administration has concerns about its safety in long term use, but it’s generally considered effective and safe in the short-term.

When Should You Use Hydroquinone?

The entire purpose of using hydroquinone is to lighten dark spots on the skin. So, if you struggle with dark spots on your skin, then it’s a product you should think about including in your skincare regimen. Simply be aware that it’s a product that should be used in conjunction with sun protection (like, obsessive sun protection!) and that it must be used for a period of time before you see results.

Using Hydroquinone Safely

The key to getting the most out of your hydroquinone products safely is to use them for only three or four months at a time. You will need to give your skin a break for at least two months in between. If in those two months you notice that the hyperpigmentation, you’re targeting is still an issue, then you can use the product again for another three to four-month period.

What Are the Side Effects of Hydroquinone?

Some people that use hydroquinone report temporary and minor skin irritations such as reddening, stinging, and itching. Some people also report cracking, dry skin, and bleeding as well as blisters or oozing. You may even experience a darkening of the skin. It’s recommended if you experience these side effects and they do not go away that you discontinue use of the product.

Does Hydroquinone Permanently Remove Hyperpigmentation?

The effect of using hydroquinone to reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots is temporary. After you discontinue using it, then the dark spots can return as the skin begins to renew its production of pigment.

Want to Give Hydroquinone a Try?

If you want to try out hydroquinone for hyperpigmentation, then The Skin Spot proudly offers Illuminate. This product is tailored to suit your needs in concentrations of 4 percent, 6 percent, or 8 percent, depending on your specific needs and the body part you are trying to treat. It is available in-office and is mixed on-site to the appropriate strength to fit your needs.

Alternatives to Hydroquinone

If you’re not entirely sold on the idea of using hydroquinone, there are effective alternatives available to it. In fact, at The Skin Spot, you can find these alternative treatments:

NazarianSkin Pigment Correct


From NazarianSkin comes NazarianSkin Pigment Correct – a combination of botanicals and natural skin brighteners that can help to target hyperpigmentation. It is a hydroquinone free formula that uses arbutin, extracted naturally from the bearberry plant, to treat discoloration, and brighten the skin by preventing the formation of melanin.

SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum


Lytera is a pigment-correcting serum from SkinMedica that was formulated specifically to visibly correct hyperpigmentation of the skin. It contains no hydroquinone, retinol, or parabens. It’s also non-comedogenic and free from fragrance, making it a great choice for skin that may be sensitive or prone to blemishes.



Manufactured by Sente, Cyspera uses cysteamine to correct hyperpigmentation by inhibiting melanin production to lighten the skin. It’s an incredibly potent product but is free from hydroquinone and retinol, which means it’s safe for all skin types. In studies, it has been shown to be as effective as hydroquinone.

Dr. Nazarian’s current regimen as an alternative to hydroquinone is the use of Cyspera and Pigment correct together.

More Products to Try

If you want some additional products to help keep your skin healthy as you tackle hyperpigmentation and dark spots, then you should consider adding these products to your skincare routine:

NazarianSkin Glycolic Pads


If you’re looking for a product for skin maintenance, then NazarianSkin Glycolic Pads need to be your go-to. These are the perfect product for those of you who are always on the go to help exfoliate, cleanse, and hydrate your skin throughout the day. Throw them in your gym bag, backpack, or purse to use as you need to keep your skin healthy and fresh.


NazarianSkin Triple AntiOx


Maintain your skin’s important moisture barrier as you keep fine lines, wrinkles, and redness at bay. NazarianSkin Triple AntiOx is specifically formulated to help address skin issues that can sneak up on us as we get older, such as large pores, as it stimulates your skin with natural green tea extracts and caffeine.  

Revision Skincare Retinol Complete


Everyone needs a facial serum they can count on to smooth and brighten skin as it works to hydrate – and you can find that with Revision Skincare Retinol Complete. Botanical extracts combat dryness as Retinol works to improve the appearance of your skin. A great choice for any skin type.

You Can Trust The Skin Spot

If you struggle with melasma or hyperpigmentation and dark spots, then The Skin Spot has the quality products you need to address it. Whether that involves hydroquinone or not, we offer products we have full confidence in to address your concerns and produce the smooth, flawless skin you’ve always wanted. 

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1 comment

Hi! I’m 45 years old and have PCOS. I have hormonal chin acne recently. I don’t know if I have hyperpigmentation, heat Induced hyperpigmentation, or melasma ? I have spots along my cheek bones, temples and upper lip. I got the spots above my upper lip after after a microdermabrasion since my sunscreen was not sweat proof. That area bothers me the most since it looks like I have a mustache. I currently just finished using 8% hydroquinone & trentoin .25% and don’t see a difference. I used it for 3 months and am taking the 1 month break. I have sensitive skin and my cheeks often look flush. I’m wondering if Cyspera would be a good fit for me? I’m an Asian. PLEASE help me! TIA

Tina Raaum

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