Get To Know Your Ingredients: Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone

Can also be listed as:

1,4-BENZENEDIOL; 1,4-DIHYDROXYBENZENE; P-DIOXYBENZENE; 4-HYDROXYPHENOL; P-HYDROXYPHENOL; 1,4BENZENEDIOL; 1,4-BENZENEDIOL; 1,4-DIHYDROXY-BENZEEN (DUTCH) ; 1,4-DIHYDROXY-BENZOL (GERMAN) ; 1,4-DIHYDROXYBENZEN (CZECH) ; 1,4-DIHYDROXYBENZENE

Hydroquinone is an organic compound used in skin lightening creams.  The FDA has recognized hydroquinone as harmful and proposed a ban of using the chemical in over-the-counter products in 2006.  Despite the proposed ban, it is permitted to sell products with hydroquinone in concentrations of up to 2% without a prescription in the United States.  The proposed ban in 2006 arose from the increasing tumor rates in laboratory rats.  It is banned in the EU and Japan.

Along with being a carcinogen, hydroquinone causes ochronosis.  Ochronosis is an irreversible disease that causes dark blue discoloration in cartilage and skin, dark urine, and arthritis.

Hydroquinone is the only ingredient the FDA recognizes as a skin lightener.  No other ingredient can be labeled as a “skin lightener”.  Any nonhydroquinone ingredients that operate as a skin lightener are labeled as a “brightener”.

  • Some safe alternative ingredients to skin lightening hydroquinone are: lactic acid, fennel extract, kiwi extract, licorice extract, bearberry extract, mulberry extract, pumpkin enzyme, green tea, white tea, and vitamin C. These have all been shown to inhibit the melanin process associated with discoloration.

Hydroquinone is found in over-the-counter and prescription “skin lightening” treatments.  It may also be found in anti-aging products, sunscreen, hair color, and hair bleach.

Get to know what your products contain.  You can limit your hydroquinone intake.