Hydroquinone is the most prescribed bleaching agent worldwide and the gold standard for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. Used in skin care products for more than 50 years, hydroquinone has been extensively studied and clinically proven. While it has been the subject of controversy, hydroquinone maintains a safe and effective rating from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and continues to be regarded as the most effective ingredient for lightening skin.
What is Hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone (HQ) is an organic phenolic compound that occurs in foods, including vegetables, fruits, grains, coffee, tea, beer and wine. It’s also a by-product of certain chemical processes.
It works by inhibiting the synthesis of tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for catalyzing melanin production. Additionally, it can break down melanocytes, the specialized skin cells where melanin is produced. This action of both blocking melanin formation and reducing existing pigment is what makes it such an effective agent in the treatment of hyperpigmentation, including melasma, freckles, lentigines, age spots and acne scars.
Hydroquinone is the only ingredient recognized as a lightening agent by the FDA. All others must use the term “brightener.”