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Hydroquinone: Is the Cure Worse Than the Problem?

By: Diana Howard, PhD
Posted: March 27, 2009, from the April 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

page 4 of 5

Dealing with issues of pigmentation will undoubtedly continue to be a focus in the skin care arena, and there is certainly no shortage of products designed to address these issues. But the most important question is: Which are effective and safe to use? Although hydroquinone continues to be the only authorized OTC whitening agent in the United States, there are numerous studies that question its safety, which accounts for its being banned in most countries throughout the world. Fortunately, the pressure remains on pharmaceutical houses, cosmetic companies and even raw material suppliers to find safe and legal alternatives to hydroquinone. This past decade has seen a myriad of new brightening agents, all promising to reduce hyperpigmentation while enhancing skin luminosity and, although most have fallen short of hydroquinone’s ability to whiten skin, new cocktails of brighteners are now available that are close in performance and a lot safer to use.


1. L Baumann, “Depigmenting Agents.” In Cosmetic Dermatology. McGraw Hill Co., New York (2002) pp 99

2. AM Hutt and GF Kalf, Environmental Health Perspectives. 104(6): 1265–1269 (1996)

3. DCI 54 (Feb 1997)

4. R Goldemberg, “The Compounders Corner.” DCI 10 (Jan 1996)

The Skin Care Ingredient Handbook is so much more than an ingredient dictionary. You will learn about cellular functions and skin aging; skin care trends for ethnic skin, scalp and hair products, BB creams, suncreens; active versus functional ingredients, natural, organic, and synthetic ingredients; OTC drugs; INCI names, antioxidants and DNA and how to read labels. Did we mention the newest ingredients are listed?

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