Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is a popular product that is used to bleach and lightening the skin. Despite its effectiveness, there is a call to have the product banned. Currently in Europe it has been removed from shelves, but in the United States it can be found in a host of over-the-counter medications.

Hydroquinone has been used to bleach the skin and this often lightens the color of the skin. This practice is common across the globe and according the psychologists the reason why people do this is that white or lighter skinned individuals are more desirable. The use of these products is very common in African, Asian and African-Caribbean communities.

Over the past couple of years, there has been an increase in the amount of skin creams that contain hydroquinone on the marketplace. This increase is believed to be the media focusing on the celebrities who have lighter skin. This is translated into the lighter skinned individuals coming across as being more pretty and successful. Many women in countries in Africa are using skin lightening creams as they usually associate fairer skin to be more beautiful. This thinking has infiltrated the thinking of many soci-economic groups. With the increase in people using these creams, governments has taken steps to ban the sale of these products.

Dermatologists who are for the use of hydroquinone often state that the product is very safe to use, especially when it comes to the treatment of skin blemishes. They say if it is followed within specific guidelines that it is safe to use. Proponents against hydroquinone state that the abuse of the product, especially when people try to bleach the entire body can be very dangerous. They often state that there is no safe way to bleach the skin. They state that the toxicity of the creams can lead to a wide array of medical issues and even death.

When a person uses these skin bleaching creams, their skin will begin to appear lighter. However oxidation with the chemicals and the sun will cause the skin to get darker. In an attempt to keep the lighter color, people will increase the use of the creams. It is here that more damage can take place as the chemicals will be able to get into the bloodstream and eventually reach and damage the major organs of the body.

In countries where skin bleaching is common, it can be compared to people who tan in western countries. People often tan their skin because they think the dark golden color looks better. Just like skin bleaching, there are many different risks that are associated with tanning. Skin cancer is prevalent in people who tan a lot. In the end people perceive what beauty is and try to attain that by bleaching the skin.

Hydroquinone and Pregnancy

Many people often want to know if hydroquinone is safe to use while pregnant. Evidence suggests that hydroquinone maybe harmful to a fetus. Great care needs to be taken if you plan on using it. If you are pregnant and are considering using hydroquinone it is best to consult with a doctor. The doctor will be able to tell you all you need to know about this product and your pregnancy.

Warnings for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women should be aware that the FDA has placed hydroquinone in the pregnancy category C. This means that there have been no animal studies conducted and no evidence exists on the results of human pregnancy. It is only recommended to use hydroquinone when pregnant once it is more beneficial than the risk.

Warnings for Women Who Breastfeed

There are no studies that exist that indicate that hydroquinone may be excreted into a mothers breast milk. Extreme caution should be taken by women who are breast feeding.


New mothers want to get back to the body that they know after they have had their children. However it is not recommended that they use hydroquinone while pregnant or breast feeding. There is no real evidence that exists that shows the effects it could have on the unborn child or children who breastfeed. Great care should be taken and it should only be used under the care of the doctor.

Hydroquinone and Cancer

Many people have concerns that hydroquinone is a carcinogen. It has been banned in Europe and the FDA in the United States is looking at putting a ban on it also. The reasons behind this are that some evidence exists that it could possibly cause cancer.

Hydroquinone is a chemical agent that is used to lighten the skin. This particular chemical works by stopping the creation of melanin, a pigment found in the skin that gives it color. Most people apply it to get rid or melasma, cholasma, age spots, acne scars, freckles and other skin discoloration.

Over the past couple of years there has been on an ongoing debate as to whether hydroquinone does cause cancer. There is no evidence available that this product directly causes cancer in human beings. However studies have been done on animals and the results showed the growth of cancer in tested animals. It should be noted that some chemicals that cause cancer in lab animals, sometimes does not affect human beings in the same manner.

Hydroquinone is known to metabolize in the liver and this generally causes mutations and DNA damage. It is for that specific reason why it is suggested that hydroquinone is responsible for a wide variety of cancers in humans. Hydroquinone has been linked to certain cancers of the blood such as leukemia and also damage of the kidney. Studies have shown that when used, hydroquinone is absorbed and the released out of the kidneys very slowly. This information highlights that the chemical is stored in the body. The bone marrow breaks the substance down to p-benzoquinone and it is believed that here is the starting place for long term damage.

How Dangerous is Hydroquinone?

There is controversy surrounding the skin lightening agent hydroquinone. Like mercury in the past, hydroquinone is being targeted because of the health concerns. The FDA seems to be flexing their muscles in attempting to ban the substance. Despite this claim, there are many dermatologists who feel that the hydroquinone skin bleaching agent should be available to patients, but on a prescription basis.

Hydroquinone helps to stop the production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment of the skin that allows it to have color. For many years people have been using this product to treat age spots, melasma, scarring from acne, blemishes and skin discolorations.

In recent times, there have been various studies conducted that there is a dangerous side to the use of hydroquinone. There is evidence that points to the product causing cancer and damage to the body’s DNA. Not everyone is convinced by those reports and many medical professionals still view hydroquinone as effective and safe.

Opponents to these studies have made a claim that animal trials were the basis for the results. They state that animal data is totally different from human tests. Many doctors disagree with the study based on the results.

Despite the claim of cancer, other side effects have come about due to the use of hydroquinone. Ochronosis is another side effect that can be attributed to the use of the product. Ochronosis is common in regions where hydroquinone is used on a very high level. This would include countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Researchers have linked the development of ochronosis with combination products that use hydroquinone, phenols, mercury and other acids.

With results like that, researchers have put pressure on the FDA to have the product banned from American shelves. The FDA will have to hear both side as you have some people for the ban, while others are against it.

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