FYI: Skin Lightening Creams and Hydroquinone

In the light of my ranting on fair and lovely, I thought I’d start my come-back to blogging about hydroquinone. This chemical is often found in fairness creams or any cream that can actually lighten skintone. I’m not trying to make you hyperventilate in panic and hysterical paranoia, but just to inform you on the effects hydroquinone can have.

What is Hydoquinone?
Hydroquinone is a type of phenol (if that means anything to you at all) that is found in many topical creams that bleaches skin discolouration gradually.

Where can it be found?
This is found at a strength of 2% in over the counter cream and at 3-4% in prescription creams that claim to lighten skin tone and discoloration.

What are the side effects?
Since you probably feel I’m being all preachy, let me get right to it. Hydroquinone has been known to cause blood cancers such as leukemia and kidney damage in animal studies. What happens when hydroquinone is applied to the skin is that it gets absorbed into the blood stream and excreted via the kidneys but at a slower rate. Essentially, this means that that hydroquinone accumulates in the body and is broken down in the bone marrow to p-benzoquinone. This is where long term damage may originate. Several countries, such as France, have banned the use of hydroquinone for fear of cancer risks.

What precautions should be taken?
If you are using a skin lightening cream containing hydroquinone, it is best to avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays. Also, always use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF15.

If you feel strongly about this nformation, please let me know. I'm not trying to say that skin lightning creams are made of innocent puppies and kittens, but I just want to highlight the potential danger in using them.



Neha said...

i am thrilled to read all your advices.i have one question i am 24 in age and i am fair complexion girl but due to herediatry i am some frackles in my checks which make me tense sometimes suggest me what to apply.

2:32 AM
Anonymous said...

for freckles im sure you'd fine with a good liquid foundation base... probably not significant enough to risk the dangers of using any hydroquinone product.

9:21 AM
Anu said...

Hey Neha
Sorry I didn't see your post earlier.

Well, to be honest I would suggest a very good broad spectrum ppd sunscreen for daily use. Apply it about 1/2 an hour before you leave the house (i know it's a pain but this way you really reap the benefits). You could try a very gentle chemical exfoliant that will help lift your freckles. I had a few spots that I lifted successfully this way (kojic acid and lactic acid helped a lot for me). What helped for me was the BOdy Shop's vitamin C range. I used their itensive night treatment. Itched a bit but singficantly lightened any spots i had. Just be careful you dont break out or are too sensitive to them.

If you REALLY want to use hydroquinone, you could use the Black opal fade cream, which is a very good fade cream. Be sure to apply sunscreen with this at all times. I would advise against using this for an extended period of time and try the abovementioned possibilities before trying out the fade cream.

And as anonymous said, you could also cover up with a good foundation while combating the freckles.

12:43 AM

MsJamie said...

whats a really good sunscreen thats atleast spf20+ and doesn't leave a white cast on your face (especially if you are south-asian) and doesn't clog your pores???

Thanks for your help!

2:47 PM
Anu said...

hey msjamie:
i'd recommend la roche posay anthelios xl with spf 15. it doesn't clog pores, it as mexoryl so it provides excellent uva and uvb protection, and doesn't leave a whitish cast. i know it's spf 15 but it's *very* broad spectrum and provides really good uva protection and it's photostable. otherwise try the aveeno continuous protection with spf 30. it's photostable, doesn't clog pores, well priced and doesn't have much of a whitish cast. it is a bit thick but it does a great job of protecting the face.

i also like the neutrogena dry touch sunscreen with helioplex but i find that it does give a whitish cast.

of all of them i REALLY like the lrp sunscreen the most.

3:02 PM

MsJamie said...

Well, I will have to try the lrp or the aveeno one for sure then!! .. i think the lrp has a version thats above spf 15 as well.

Anu, my foundation my mac has spf 15 in it... do I still have to wear a sunscreen underneath??

You know the itensive night treatment by The body shop that you used... Did you use it all over? or just on your spots? Do know of any other serums/gels/moisturizers that would help with an even skin tone??

GOD, I ask a lot of questions! lol..

I must really hate my skin :|

9:30 AM
MsJamie said...

P.S: :P Do you use a moisturizer under your lrp sunscreen?? What type of skin do you have again...?? I have normal/combination.

P.P.S: I think visiting your blog is becoming my new addiction

9:34 AM
Ishreth said...

HI Anu...I've noticed over the past 8 months, my skin has become extremely dull in colour, and my colour has gotten darker as well. Itried all these natural rememdies. yes, the condition of my skin has improved but I havent gotten my original colour and glow back. In my desperation, I've resorted to a fading cream called "Ban A Tan", which my cousin was prescribed by her dermotologist in India. I thought I would give it a try.

What do u think I should do????
thanks so much. Im a huge fan of ur blog!!!!

8:18 PM
Anu said...

omg: msjamie so sorry for not replying to your comment:
yes! sunscreen in your foundation is not enough. apply a sunscreen before foundation (make sure it's photostable) and wait 10 mins. after that apply foundation.

look for products which have a stable concentration of vitamin c in them i find that this really helps brighten the skin and evens out my skin tone. i applied the body shop cream all over my face. i really liked the results but make sure you can tolerate it.

also, the aha souffle from alpha hydrox is amazing. just ease it in slowly because it is very potent.

12:31 AM

Anu said...

hey ishreth:

i'd really recommend the 3 pillars of skincare (in my opinion) sunscreen, a good aha or retinoid and some vitamin c products. make sure your sunscreen is photostable and has broad spectrum protection (meaning it wont degrade to nothing in sunlight and it has uva and uvb potection). the ease in an aha product to exfoliate. i LOVE the aha souffle. it's cheap and so effective. be sure to use it only at night. and then i'd alternate days where you use ahas at night and days where you use vitamin c product under your sunscreen and maybe a vitamin c product at night. i find that this combination does wonders for my skin. try to stay away from products with harmful ingredients such as hydroquinone.

12:35 AM

ZenDenizen said...

Just found your blog today and am loving it! I know you've confessed to your preachy tone towards lightening creams but as a light(er) skinned Indian girl who is prone to scarring very easily, I'd have to say Hydroquinone is a lifesaver!

As for the cosmetic use of Fair & Lovely, I know the ugly connotations in our society but honestly, I don't see it as any different than whites risking skin cancer by sitting in tanning booths all day.

Once again, great blog, I've added it to my google reader.

1:34 PM
Anonymous said...

i once read on the news paper about fair and lovely and the bad effects of hydroquinone and that it should be banned. can u tell me where i can get more info on hydroquinone.

12:30 AM
EssentialPotions said...

Skin lightening creams contain both natural and synthetic products. While most products today contain hydroquinone, this ingredient is known to cause redness. To prevent this side effects as well as other undesirable effects of skin lightening products, opt for creams with natural ingredients such as Vitamin C, A, E and the popular Glutathione. For more information on the benefits of these natural products, check out this link

1:19 AM
bhav said...

Hey Anu,

Having worked in the skincare industry myself, I am very wary of Hydroquinone and used to stay away from it however, 2 weeks back, my skincare specialist gave me a 6% Hq. and insisted I use it for the dark spots that his laser treatment left under my chin.

All my research and hear-say tells me it's not safe however the RN and the doc insisted that a short-term spot usage won't be harmful.
Even though I bought (more like had to) the $60 tube...I just cant get myself to use it. What should I do? I am in a fix, please help!


3:32 PM
Anonymous said...

I got a chemical peel done and it has become darker....i suffered for 8 months now it is better but still it is dark...can u suggest what should i do

8:47 PM
Anonymous said...

hi anu,
I am a big fan of your blog. I ve a nc44.5 skin tone and lately, I saw this product from chanel sun was very nice when i tried on ........but my skin has become very dry and the product sits on my skin and its looks bad.

I live in europe and the weather is cold compared to east america.
Could you pls suggest a concealer for me pls pls .............

thank you,


12:15 PM
Anonymous said...

m fair but have dark circles and dark chin area.they really look very bad and spoils my whole personality.plz help me, m about to get married.

8:23 AM
Pooja said...

Hi Anu,
I'm a 25yr old south indian girl from NJ and i just happened to stumble on your blog, which is PHENOMENAL! Thanks for catering to brown girls like us! I have a question for you : Ive started developing a dark upper lip-- my beautician told me its because i started plucking. So, i went back to waxing & threading but the dark marks wont go away! It looks like i have a mustache, when its hair-free! Please, any suggestions? I'm thinking of the hydroquinone 2%, Ive read up on licorice creams, turmeric.. its too much!
Any suggestions will be so highly appreciated, its quite ugly to have dark spots on upper lip, when there's no hair!!
PS: I think you're super pretty!! Thank u! XOXO


8:15 AM
Anu said...

hey pooja,

i personally dont recommend hydroquinone, but go and talk to your derm, who might be able to help more. however, i do like make-up artists chocie because they have a gel which lightens hyperpigmentation without hydroquinone. it really did wonders for any scars i had. also, make sure you use a good sunscreen. from what my derm has told me, a lot has to do with hormones and geentics and as we age this can occur. so talk to your derm, or try ordering the gel from make-up artists choice.

10:18 AM

MUSAFIR said...
This comment has been removed by the author. 10:24 PM
hari said...

me hari,25yrs old.I am suffering from suntan caused due to severe sun exposure.I have don peel at dermatologist two times but no further improvement in my skin i am using Ban A Tan along with a good sun screen for 1 month but unfortunately no change..Please suggest me a remedy for this..

10:26 PM
Anonymous said...

I am using melaliteXL cream for the last one year on the suggestion of one doctor,I am applying it alternate days in night time,I had become fair and till now i didnt face any problem,but after reading the reviews that melaliteXL is not at all a gud cream and also if we stop the cream usage skin becomes the worst i am afraid even to stop and also causes skin cancer,please suggest me how to avoid this cream,also the same doctor had suggested me to use BAN A TAN cream in morning times,is it a good cream??

8:51 AM
madhavan said...
This comment has been removed by the author. 10:50 AM
Anonymous said...

i went to dermatologist i my face is becoming dark derm prescribed three creams
1. Depiwhite
2. Hydroquonine creams 3% cream base
3. supatret gel

i am using all 3 creams from last 45 days and the results are fine.....i am using Hydroquonine cream 3% cream base as read the blog came to know some side effects let me know whether to use hq-3 cream or not>>>>? please gve the response ASAP>>>> or let me know how many days shud i use it >>>>

10:59 AM
Anonymous said...

First the side effect is only when it is consumen in the body for a long time.....but who eats a i dont think der is any harm....facts above are based on research

11:21 AM
Anonymous said...

Hi ! i am new to the blog but already a fan of yours.
I have a dry to normal skin type. I sweat alot(way too much) . my skin complexion is weird. I get tanned very quickly. The areas exposed to sunlight even after applying sunscreen is noticeably darker than the covered parts. I currently use oriflame sun care photostable sun lotion-10 which was suggested by a beautician. it did lower down the tanning but the difference is easily visible in my face and neck area. the complexion of my face is brown and below my neck and other covered parts it is wheatish. I feel helpless and very pissed off. i dont know what to do ! ?
Kindly suggest some sunscreens and day creams to remove the tanning on my face and stop it from further tanning.
Please do help.

10:38 PM
Anonymous said...

What are this answers & questions asked in this really not radhashree

5:09 AM
Anonymous said...

use any creams only for 3 months after that plz consult ur doctor..........

5:11 AM
Anonymous said...

hi... I know the danger of hydroquinine very I still want to use can u tell me products along with compostion of hydroquinine which are availiable in Indian market....also can I buy these products from any pharmacist???without medical slip??

6:15 AM
Anonymous said...

Can you use it for the lips? For lip darkness treating? Please suggest.

9:08 AM
Anonymous said...

Please tell the names of the creams containing hydraquinone so that I can buy them directly!

9:08 AM
Anonymous said...

ive used oxy bleech coupla times,well much more dan coupla times.DO ALL BLEACHES COMPULSORILY HAVE HYDROQUINONE?.

11:40 AM
diva said...

hi m divvya....
i had wheat colour
complexion but now my skin has tanned a lot esp my forehead and i ve noticeable dark circles too...m 19 and will be turnin 20 soon plz help me find somethin useful....asap
p.s thanks for the awareness bout side effects of hydrquinone it is quite helpful!!

3:21 AM
Anonymous said...

i have used hydroquinone for last 1 n half month result r so good... but now i m trying to quit but my face having tan n acne marks can i resolve it.... any healthy alternative for my face fairness.....plz reply....

7:04 PM
Anonymous said...

I think the owner of the post is not replying and there are lots of questions unanswered.
First, HQ is not at all dangerous if you dont missuse it.Yeah you can also use a HQ of 10% or 20% but it depends on how your skin reacts.As a universal rule evrything that you choose to use allways do a patch test on your skin.
HQ causes blood cancer only if taken internally.And long term (i mean really long like) can lead to hyperpigmentation.
Second,its been said 1000 and millions of times PEOPLE WHILE YOU ARE IN HQ AND RETINOID-A, USE SUNBLOCK WITH HIGH SPF. I recommend spf 30 to 50. In layman's words, HQ and retinoid peels away your upperlayer of the skin so it is more vulnerable to sun.If you stay unprotected it will lead to pigmentation, permatan...then more darkening of your skin.Gives an ugly burnt look.

For users I will recomend, using Retinoid -A or also known as treitonin before going for HQ.I mean really use it.Dont just use it 1 day and straight away go for HQ.
Use RA for 1-2 months, let the peeling set.Let your skin get adjusted, than slowly introduce HQ.
Dont just jump into a strong % of both of the products.Use lower percentage for both and slowly increase.

For more info, just ask.
hope I was helpful and not rude ;)


5:21 PM
Anonymous said...

Have you ever read that study that was conducted? Maybe you'd know what you were talking about....

11:41 AM
Anonymous said...

you can use kojic acid cream instead of hydroquinone cream

9:49 AM
Mona said...

Hi Anu,
I read your posts and found them really gr8.. Thanks for such generous effort.
I am 25 Yr old indian girl and I have got dark patchy lips .. request you to suggest something to restore my natural lip color and texture


8:59 PM
Anonymous said...

my skin is very senstive..n devlpd dark patches on my dermo advised me ban a tan cream n a sunscreen ansolar lotion spf60 PA+++..its a relly gud 1...n my dark patches r lightnin day by m totally avoidin hoping for good result:)

2:27 AM
Anonymous said...

Try turmeric and neem leaf paste, it works wonders,use it and see for yourself.

11:44 AM
Ak266 said...

Hello anu,
Your help is needed. My age is 20 M. And I've suffering from huge color loss. Everyone tells me that I'm getting tanned day by day. Can u please help me retain my fairness back. Please.

10:45 PM
Anonymous said...

can i use an solar lotion spf60 PA+++ all the time

5:37 AM
Anonymous said...

i have a transversal line on my nose. my doctor did chemical peel and advised me to apply depiwhite before sleep. 2 weeks line was not there but after the 3rd week it started to appear. my doctor asked me to continue depiwhite for another 1month. i just want to know whether this line will disappear after this treatment?
if not what i have to do to disappear this line. kindly help?

8:44 PM
Anonymous said...

hey, can you please suggest a good product for reducing pigmentation in underarms? it started recently and i know there r products out there, just let me know a good one please. something that works quick and available in indian market. thank you.

11:24 PM
Divya Jain said...

i;m 30yr old. got blemishes on cheeks after pregnancy but my child is 1.5 yr old nw and they are still there.. plz help to remove them i'm loosing my confidence bcoz of that..even they appeared 1yr after pregnancy...

9:51 PM
Divya Jain said...

i;m 30yr old. got blemishes on cheeks after pregnancy but my child is 1.5 yr old nw and they are still there.. plz help to remove them i'm loosing my confidence bcoz of that..even they appeared 1yr after pregnancy...

9:51 PM
Anonymous said...


Could you please tell me how to get rid of pigmentation on my cheeks?

3:48 AM
Risabh said...

Hello Mam,I extremely feel happiness in hearing about this blog...I want to know some tips for my skin...Actually I am 20
Years old boy..In my childhood days....I was fairest person in my
family but as far as years passed...I lost my skin colour.At this time
My whole body colour is fair,except my face and neck which is quite dull....Mam,, i want to know some tips which can help me in getting back my fair skin back.....Please help me.....

Thanking you...
Yours Sincerely,

10:00 AM
Anonymous said...

hi rishab the prob u r havin can be but before that want to know ur sunexposre and r u a swimmer these r corrected with bleaching agents but it had side effects an but some low dose hydroquinone or steroids r good but my advise.
.....use good sunscream thrice a day (good spf atleast 30). and lime juice twice aday. for 2 months.

9:07 AM
Anonymous said...

Hi mam
I have dark patch of skin under armpit and at the joints of thigh, I am aged 30 plz suggest me some cream, I shall be greatful.


10:44 PM
Anonymous said...

Lancun planus is what I am suffering from. Whats the cure?

9:16 AM
Anonymous said...

Hi thank for ur want to have a fair complexion

12:30 AM
Anonymous said...

HI thank Advise,my problem is that I hve brown skin and I wish to hve fair complexion

12:37 AM
Anonymous said...

ihave a serious problem

9:35 AM
Anonymous said...

my buttocks is dark and my knee is dark also but i'm light brown skin and it shows really bad i'm fed up covering my skin which lightening cream would you recommend for fast results

9:38 AM
Anonymous said...

i em using sunscreen now suggest me some hydroquinon based cream or bleeching product to get rid of them

11:31 AM
Anonymous said...

i mean to get rid of my brown spots that i have on my nose please help

11:35 AM
shiny said...


9:27 AM
shiny said...

hi anu dis is shiny i suffered frm acne vulgaris
by the advice of a dermatologist i used some creams for acne
however acne got cleared frm my face but acne left so many red and brown spots on my face.dermatologist suggested me to use kojimed cream containing kojic acid. i am using it frm 15days but no result plz suggest me any other creams for regaining my skin colour without acne spots plzzz

9:35 AM
aaradhya said...

hello mam i'm aaradhya and 18yrs old i'm having dark spots left by pimples
plzz suggest any cream

9:39 AM
aaradhya said...

any suggestions..??????

9:44 AM
aaradhya said...

hi shiny no reply for u too

9:45 AM
shiny said...

yeah aaradhya

9:46 AM
shiny said...

it seems dis blog z not responding

10:05 AM
Anonymous said...

Best cream for age spots on the face?

10:05 PM
Babita Sangwan said...

Hi dr,Mere upper lips bahut jyada dark hain, mene skin specialist se treatment bhi liya, doctor ne kuch crem like ban tan, kojic crem in night medician di or bola ki pill off k 6 sitting lene honge, mene 4 sitting pill off procedure liya but no effect then I stopped that treatment. Muche upper lips k dark marks se bahut jyada embracement feel hoti h, plz plz plz suggest me how I can get rid from this. Plz rpl asap.

6:08 AM
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