People around the world have been using hydroquinone to cure a wide range of skin problems, to include dark patches of hyperpigmentation, freckles, liver spots, melisma, age spots, scars, and injuries to the skin, for generations. However, there are also plenty of other people around the world that believe that the topical use of this skin bleaching agent simply isn’t safe.
The Agreed Upon Danger to the Topical Use of Hydroquinone
Though not everyone agrees that the topical use of hydroquinone is very dangerous, there is wide consensus that it does increase the sun sensitivity of skin. Because of this side effect, dermatologists recommend that people using hydroquinone avoid direct sunlight and items such as sunlamps and tanning beds.
The Possible Danger Posed by the Topical Use of Hydroquinone
The dangers that people and various governmental agencies are worried about with the topical use of hydroquinone have nothing to do with sun sensitivity. They have to do with cancer.
The perceived threat is strong enough that the governments of some nations in Asia and in Europe have banned the use of hydroquinone as a skin-lightening agent. However, in the US, creams that are up to 2 percent hydroquinone can be sold over the counter and those that are up to 10 percent of the ingredient can be prescribed by a doctor.
But, even in the US, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that “hydroquinone is mutagenic and has cancer-causing potential,” while the Journal of the American College of Toxicology claims that the ingredient “is a potent cytotoxic agent that causes mutations and alterations to DNA, and that it should not be used in any leave-on type of product.”
It is wording such as this that has led the US Food and Drug Administration to decide to start reviewing any new product containing hydroquinone. Yes, although hydroquinone is still available in the US, it is, as Dean Vernon Wormer put it, “on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION.”
Now, what does this mean to you? I suppose that is a decision that you’ll have to make on your own. However, what I do know is that I do not put cream that “is a potent cytotoxic agent that causes mutations and alterations to DNA” on my face or the faces of my loved ones. To me, there really is no choice.