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Hydroquinone for Acne Scars?

Hydroquinone is a known skin-lightening solution. While it helps bleach your skin and treat some forms of hyperpigmentation, will it work with acne scars?

hydroquinone for acne and hyperpigmentation
credit image: Rhodium Beauty

If you have acne, one of the fearful results that you want to avoid are scars that they leave behind. Fighting your way against pimples is one thing but getting rid of scars is different. Most of Americans who have this worry seek help to get rid of their zit scars, age spots, and the like. And one of the recommendations is hydroquinone.

While it may help some people with their several skin problems, it causes further skin damage to others. Let us find out why and why not.

What is hydroquinone?

There have been questions about the safety of hydroquinone since 1982 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) recognized it as a safe and effective solution for skin problems. There were times when retailers had to pull out hydroquinone products from the market. Later, the FDA discovered that most of the products with hydroquinone have contaminants such as mercury, which causes adverse effects. But FDA confirmed that over-the-counter hydroquinone products with 2% concentrations are safe.

Hydroquinone helps whitens your skin by reducing the number of melanocytes present. Melanocytes produce melanin which makes your skin tone. With hyperpigmentation, more melanin is present because of the increase in the production of melanocytes. By controlling the melanocytes, the skin becomes evenly tones in due time.

Generally, it takes about 4 weeks for the ingredients to take effect, but it may take many months of consistent application before you see full results. However, if you do not see any improvement in 3 months using the over-the-counter products, go and consult a dermatologist. She/He will be able to recommend a prescription-concentration formula that will fit your needs.

Hydroquinone is applied to treat skin conditions associated with hyperpigmentation, including acne scars, freckles, age spots, melasma, post-inflammatory spots due to psoriasis and eczema.

The hydroquinone may help in vanishing brown or red spots but it will not help with inflammation. This means that the formula may help reduce acne scarring, but it will not have any effect on redness from existing breakouts.

Hydroquinone and Skin Types

If you have sensitive or dry skin types, hydroquinone may cause further dryness or irritation on your skin.  It mostly tapers off as the skin adjusts to the ingredient.

Individuals with normal or oily skin types are less likely to have side effects while using the ingredient, but it works best on those with fair skin tones. This means that if you have medium to dark skin tones, consult first your dermatologist before using it. Hydroquinone may tend to worsen hyperpigmentation in darker skin tones.

How to use skin care products with hydroquinone

Just like any other skin care regime, consistency is important in treating hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinone can help you with this skin issue, following the following instructions carefully.

Before using the product, try to do a patch test before using the first full application. This will determine how your skin reacts to the ingredient.

  1. Rub a small amount of the product with hydroquinone inside your forearm.
  2. Cover the spot with a bandage.
  3. Rinse off your hands to avoid the product from staining your clothes or other materials.
  4. Wait for about 24 hours.
  5. Stop using if you experience severe itching or other skin irritations during the patch test. If you did not experience any side effect, it means it is safe to use and add it to your skincare routine. Apply the product after cleansing and toning but before your moisturizer.

When it becomes one of your skincare routines, use a small amount of the product and apply it evenly on your skin. Gently massage your skin until the product is fully absorbed.

Also, make sure that you wash your hands after applying or using the product with hydroquinone to prevent affecting the other areas of your skin. This will also avoid staining your clothes and other materials like a towel.

Wear sunscreen while you are using the product with this ingredient. Exposure with the sun can make your hyperpigmentation worse and reverse the effects of the hydroquinone medication. Take note that sunscreen should be the last step of your skincare routine.  Apply sunscreen again throughout the day.

Consistency is important for best results, but you should not use it for a longer period of time. If you observe that there is no improvement after 3 months, then stop using it. Avoid using it for more than 5 months at a time. But if you want to use the product again, wait for 2 to 3 months before using it again.

Potential Effects and Risks in Using Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is still safe, although there are some possible side effects. There may be initial and temporary redness or dryness, especially if you have sensitive skin. These effects should disappear as your skin becomes used to the product with hydroquinone.

In some cases, hydroquinone caused some skin condition known as ochronosis. It is characterized by papules and bluish-black pigmentation. It happens after prolonged regular use of the product. This is why you should not use the product with hydroquinone for more than 5 months at a time.

Over-the-products with this ingredient are combined with other skin lightening ingredients for best results, such as

Admire My Skin Ultra-Potent Brightening Serum contains 2% hydroquinone, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, lactic acid, and vitamin C. It aims at lightening dark spots and correct uneven skin tone.

Ambi Fade Cream is formulated for normal skin with 2% hydroquinone. It also has vitamin E and alpha hydroxy acids for smoother and more toned skin.

Murad Rapid Acne Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum contain 2% hydroquinone, glycolic acid, and hexapeptide-2. This formula helps correct unwanted discoloration and protection from future damage.

Consult your dermatologist if you think you need higher concentration and pure forms of hydroquinone. They are available only in prescription.

Alternative for Hydroquinone

If you prefer natural skin-lightening products, you may choose alternative products with the following formula:

  • Antioxidants, vitamins A and C are usually used in anti-aging products to lighten the skin and improve overall skin tone. When these ingredients are used over time, antioxidants may help lighten hyperpigmentation spots.
  • Vitamin B3, usually known as “niacinamide.” It has the potential to prevent darker areas of pigmentation from rising to the surface of your skin.
  • Plant-based acids. Most skin care products contain acids that are naturally derived from herbs and plants. For hyperpigmentation, try kojic or ellagic acids as they work by slowing down the production of melanin in your skin.

Final Notes,

Hyperpigmentation is a difficult condition to cure. While hydroquinone may help in lightening the skin, it is not appropriate for everybody. Consult with your dermatologist before using skin care products with hydroquinone, especially if you have sensitive skin or a medium-to-dark skin tone. They may recommend you on how you should use products with this ingredient. Your dermatologist may also recommend other alternative skin lightening treatments like natural products and chemical peels.

What do you think?

Written by Maria

My passion is helping other people overcome the pain and embarrassment of acne. I have dealt with acne since my teenage years and know first-hand how hard it is to suffer from this condition.

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