Monday, June 16, 2008

Hydroquinone - The Big Unknown

Hydroquinone is used in skin care to temporarily lighten pigmentations such as freckles, pregnancy mask and age spots by inhibiting the process that leads to discoloration. In the United States, the FDA estimates there are 65 companies selling more than 200 products containing hydroquinone in an array of over-the-counter products (up to 2% strength) and prescriptions (up to 4%). The most common preparation is a 3% topical solution that is generally applied twice a day on non irritated skin (eye and mouth areas must be avoided).

Hydroquinone has been shrouded in controversy since 2001 when it was banned in Europe following clinical tests showing it was the cause of leukemia in mice when used in large doses for a long period of time. Japan, Australia and Canada followed suit. The U.S. has proposed a ban, or at the very least, the FDA is pushing for stronger regulations and physician's prescriptions. Currently, there is a four month grace period while the new proposed regulations are being discussed. For now, if you live in the U.S., you have a choice as to whether to use it, or not. It is a time to do your homework and make a wise personal decision.

Cautionary Info:
Exposure to ultra violet rays will trigger repigmentation of the bleached areas. It is always recommended to avoid UV exposure and wear sun protection. It is not recommended if you have allergies to sulfites. There can be side effects, or allergic reactions, such as a rash, erythema (redness), swelling, blistering, drying of the skin, cracking or peeling of the skin, even shortness of breath. In rare cases Onchronosis can develop, which is a blue black darkening and thickening of the skin. There has also been some evidence of abnormal adrenal functioning and high mercury levels in individuals using topical hydroquinone as well as some research has shown it to be a carcinogen.

The good news? There are so many other options to lightening pigmentation that are effective without the side effects or aggression of this compound. Some may take a little longer to show results, but there is no question they are much safer.

Stay tuned . . .