DermNurse Medical Aesthetics

Hydroquinone as a skin-lightening agent : What you should know

Hydroquinone has been used for over 40 years to treat hyperpigmentation and is the most studied agent for lightening pigmentation. It works by preventing new melanin production with the goal of making the hyper-pigmented areas achieve the same skin tone as the surrounding skin. 

Although it is effective for superficial (epidermal) skin pigmentation, it is not useful for deep dermal pigmentation. 

For clients 13 years or older. 

Application: Apply a thin layer of hydroquinone 2-4% to freshly washed skin twice daily for 3-6 months.  The application of Alumier Bright and Clear solution (or any solution containing Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid) just before applying your hydroquinone will help the Hydroquinone penetrate better and speed brightening. Retin-A at night also helps!

Results: You should start to see results in 4 weeks of use as directed. 

If no results are seen by 2 months hydroquinone should be discontinued. Hydroquinone cream is usually well tolerated. However, some users may experience minor and temporary skin irritations including mild itching or stinging and reddening of the skin  If these do not subside within 1-2 weeks, stop using the cream and visit the clinic.

Discontinue the product and seek immediate medical advice if you experience severe burning, itching, crusting, or swelling of treated areas and any unusual skin discolouration.

Bleaching effects are reversible, therefore, hyper-pigmentation usually returns after discontinued use in 1-2 months. 


Allergies: Hydroquinone creams may contain sodium metabisulphite that may cause serious allergic reactions (including anaphylaxis) if you are allergic to it.

Pregnancy or breast feeding: Hydroquinone should not be used in pregnancy or when breastfeeding.

Sunscreen: Those who use hydroquinone must apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more daily. Hydroquinone makes the skin more susceptible to sun damage and photosensitivity.

Skin care ingredients to avoid: Here’s the list of ingredients you should avoid while using hydroquinone products: hydrogen peroxide, benzoyl peroxide, any other peroxides, and resorcinol. Leads to skin discolouration. Resorcinol is found in quite a few popular skin lightening products such as Clarins Vital Light SerumClinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, and Philosophy Miracle Worker Dark Spot Corrector so if you’re using any of those, put them aside until you’re finished with your hydroquinone.

Length of use: It’s recommended that you only use hydroquinone for a maximum of 3 months and then stop using hydroquinone for at least 3 months. There are some clients that can use Hydroquinone for up to 6 months before they need a break. Ask your clinician what they recommend for you.