The hydroquinone, also called (1,4-dihydroxybenzene) is a substance that has a very similar to a grain of sand texture, white appearance and odor, activated easily with the oxygen and sunlight . It is frequently used as a weak depigmentation agent for the skin, added to preparations or topical products used in the world of aesthetics.

Hydroquinone is a very versatile substance, as it intervenes in various chemical processes, such as, for example, it is one of the main components used for the development process of black and white photographs, it is also used as an antioxidant agent in the industry of polymers especially in rubber and is used in some solutions of products used in the field of radiology.

Next, know the benefits, risks, uses, side effects, contraindications and some precautions that you should take into account before using this product.

What is hydroquinone and what is it used for?

Hydroquinone is a natural organic compound, capable of reacting as an antioxidant and slow-reacting agent in various reductive processes, which interacts in different ways depending on the factors and conditions to which it is subjected.

It is frequently used in the world of aesthetics and is among the main ingredients of most topical whitening creams used on the skin, it serves to lighten the spots produced by exposure to sunlight.

Hydroquinone Uses and Applications

  • Aesthetics: its most common use is in this branch, used in whitening creams with concentrations lower than 2% or depigmenting with weak action for the skin. It is worth mentioning that studies have revealed that the use of hydroquinone should preferably be carried out under the indications of a dermatologist or specialist.
  • Photography: it is used among the main ingredients used for the development of black and white photographs.
  • Polymer: used as an antioxidant agent in the manufacture of rubber.
  • It is also used in the manufacture of colorants and self-tanners.

Hydroquinone in cream, lotion, or skin products

Its pharmacological use is normally given in these types of presentations and they are used to remove or lighten spots on the skin, it can be said that it is very popular among cosmetic manufacturers and dermatologists.

Indications of hydroquinone in pharmacology

The use of hydroquinone must be carried out under strict medical indications or under the supervision of a specialist, since in high concentrations it can cause serious damage to the skin, however, products with concentrations lower than 2% such as some bleaches or depigmentors can be used without the same supervision.

  • It is indicated to treat spots on the skin at a general level, however, it is commonly used to remove stains from the face area.
  • To gradually diminish the color or tone of the skin.
  • To treat disorders such as solar lentigo, ephelides, melasma and other skin conditions.
  • Hydroquinone reduces the excessive pigmentation that causes dark circles.

Common uses of hydroquinone for the skin

Studies have shown the effectiveness of hydroquinone in concentrations of 4% to reduce the spots on the skin caused by the appearance of melasma (skin disease caused during pregnancy or by exposure to the sun) also known as “pregnancy mask” .

Later we will talk about the risks that have been determined by the use of hydroquinone in concentrations greater than 2%. Among the most common uses are:

Hydroquinone attacks blemishes on the face

A large number of products containing 2 and 4% hydroquinone are available on the market, some are only indicated for use on the face and others for the body in general.

Some of the spots produced during the pregnancy stage are commonly reflected on the cheekbones and forehead of women, in this sense hydroquinone is effective in eliminating them. It is also recommended for treating acne scars.

Hydroquinone reduces underarm spots

Hydroquinone effectively treats that discomfort spot in the armpits, it works as a skin bleach so it manages to gradually even out the difference in skin tone in the armpit part.

Other uses of hydroquinone

As we mentioned before, it is effective to eliminate dark circles in people with very light skin tone, it is also ideal to reduce spots caused by the sun and by hyperpigmentation of the skin in general.

It is recommended when using hydroquinone not to expose yourself to the sun’s rays since they can cause a greater mechanism of action and cause severe damage.

How should hydroquinone be used?

It is recommended to previously wash or clean the area where the product is to be applied, if applied to the face, make sure to completely remove makeup or any other type of element that may intervene with the treatment.

Once the area is free of impurities, small amounts should be applied to the area to be treated and normally the affected area should be massaged or rubbed, do not exceed its use and follow the instructions of your specialist.

Hydroquinone 4% is often used to treat only hyperpigmentation problems in severe cases such as melasmas and very dark spots, always under the supervision of a specialist.

Make sure to wash your hands very well with soap and water after applying this treatment, remember that exposing the product to sunlight can increase your reaction.

Recommended dose of hydroquinone

Depending on the presentation of the product (2 to 4)%, it will be indicated by the specialist, and the doses may be increased or decreased depending on the body’s response to the effectiveness of the treatment.

Follow the directions on the product label if you are using the drug on your own, note that this drug should never be applied for long periods or longer than 4 months.

Risks of hydroquinone in concentrations greater than 2%

The possible risks of using hydroquinone concentrations in concentrations greater than 2% increase notably due to improper use or in excess of it, which can have consequences such as:

  • Individual skin pigmentation more common in people with dark skin tone.
  • White spots in the applied area, even lighter than the lighter skin tone.
  • Inflammation and residual pigmentation.
  • Severe skin burns leaving irreversible scars.
  • Some hazards associated with concentrations greater than 4% have been linked to ochronosis and kidney disease.
  • Studies have shown that cancer has occurred in laboratory rodents through its consumption, however, it is not proven in humans.

Is it safe to use hydroquinone?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that hydroquinone is safe to use in concentrations less than 2% and under these concentration levels it can be dispensed without the need for a prescription.

Based on the criteria of experts we can say that the use of hydroquinone is safe if used correctly, it is important to recognize that these products have a gradual effect and should be applied in the amounts established by the specialist or, failing that, as indicated on the label. of the product.

Hydroquinone Side Effects

Among the most common effects is an allergic reaction to the main component of the drug causing slight irritation to the skin and itching, this effect usually also depends on the degree of concentration of the product supplied.

It can also cause hyperpigmentation of the skin after using the product and even more so if it is exposed to sunlight.

Long-term use of hydroquinone can lead to atopic dermatitis or other skin-related lesions.

Hydroquinone Precautions

The use of hydroquinone is not recommended for those with dark skin tone as it can cause skin discoloration in many cases irreversible.

Its use is not recommended during pregnancy, in some cases hydroquinone can pass into the blood. Nor is its use recommended during lactation.

It is not recommended to use any product that contains hydroquinone in children under 12 years of age or in people over 70 years of age unless indicated by a specialist.

If you are using a product that contains hydroquinone, do not expose yourself to the sun’s rays or, on the contrary, apply a sunscreen and moisturizing creams.


Hydroquinone is a great ally when it comes to treating unwanted spots on the skin, however, it should not be used as a whitening for all skin or used for very long periods of time.

In this sense, it is advisable to consult a specialist when using any product that contains hydroquinone. If you do not see any improvement in the affected area after applying it for 4 consecutive months, you should immediately stop using it.

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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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