Skin whitening is popular in many Asian countries, and it’s becoming more and more popular in the United States and the rest of the world each year, though skin whitening is still a controversial subject in countries like India and among certain ethnic groups.
It’s important to know about what hydroquinone is though, before opting to use a skin whitening cream. Not all of the skin whitening products available are safe or effective for long term use. Hydroquinone is an ingredient that should be avoided at all costs.
Skin whitening products that contain the ingredient hydroquinone can be especially dangerous, though it’s a common ingredient. If you’re considering using skin whitening products, educating yourself about the dangers of hydroquinone, as well as what safe alternatives are available is essential.
The Hydroquinone Debate: Is It Safe?
Hydroquinone has been banned in many countries, though it is legally sold for use in the United States in certain formulas despite the fact that it was banned in 2006 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Typically, hydroquinone is only used in skin whitening products prescribed by dermatologists because of its unstable, dangerous nature when used incorrectly. However, skin whitening products that contain up to two-percent hydroquinone can be sold over-the-counter in the United States.
Topical use of hydroquinone is a major safety concern because in laboratory tests, there is some evidence that hydroquinone may be a carcinogen – meaning that it may have cancer-causing properties. These laboratory tests were performed on rodents, but there is serious risk for people that use hydroquinone-based products on a regular basis.
Hydroquinone use has also been linked to a serious skin condition called ochronosis. Ochronosis causes the skin to become dark and thick, and in some cases, the skin may also develop yellowish or gray-brown spots on the skin where hydroquinone-based products have been used.
How Does Hydroquinone Work?
Many people that use hydroquinone-based products don’t actually know how they work – they’re just told that the products will work to whiten the skin and treat skin conditions like melasma and hyperpigmentation.
Hydroquinone works by suppressing melanin production in the body. That helps to reduce how dark your skin is, giving it the appearance of being whiter or brighter.
However, once you stop using hydroquinone, the production of melanin will return. Hydroquinone doesn’t actually bleach the skin, so as soon as you stop using it, your skin will regain its original appearance.
Hydroquinone doesn’t work in the long-term, and that’s something most people that use it don’t realize.
That means that hydroquinone is not only unsafe, but it’s also not effective.
If you’re considering using skin whitening products, you need to consider products that don’t contain hydroquinone.
It’s a myth that all skin whitening products are dangerous. There are actually quite a few that are made with natural ingredients that are very safe for short-term or long-term use.
Look for skin whitening products with natural ingredients like kojic acid, mandelic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids and soothing ingredients like aloe vera.
These products will help to whiten your skin, and using them isn’t risky like using skin whitening products that contain hydroquinone.
A Note on Skin Whitening
Skin whitening can be safe, and it can help many people with skin problems. However, it should be noted that skin whitening products are best used for treating problem areas, not for whitening the skin all over.
You need to be comfortable in the skin you have. If you don’t have skin problems, celebrate the color of your skin and be proud of who you are and what you look like.
Skin whitening creams are ideal for minor imperfections, but they don’t need to be used to lighten the color of perfectly healthy skin.
Marcela De Vivo is the founder & CEO of Gryffin Media, an online marketing firm. She is also a freelance writer whose articles focus greatly on yoga, well being, and holistic health. She has personally used skin lightening creams but for melasma that appeared after her three pregnancies, and is thankful to for the results of the spot treatment.