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Last Updated Feb 7, 2024

Is it safe to use hydroquinone?

Author
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Board-Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Muneeb Shah

Hydroquinone is one of the most effective ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma. It is considered safe to use when applied for short periods as directed and overseen by a qualified medical professional.

Hydroquinone is one of the most effective ingredients to fade discoloration. The safety of hydroquinone has been debated for some time, with various studies providing conflicting evidence regarding its usage. Generally, it is considered safe to use when applied as directed and overseen by a qualified medical professional. Increased cancer risk was seen in rodents that were given hydroquinone by mouth, not topically.

Mild side effects such as stinging or redness may occur, but generally subside over time. In rare cases, long-term hydroquinone use has been linked to ochronosis - another form of permanent discoloration. It is best to use hydroquinone for short periods of time, generally less than 3 months at a time and hydoquinone should be avoided during pregnancy.

The CARES Act (in the United States) has set regulations on hydroquinone usage in the US making it unavailable over the counter and only available through a physician. This is to ensure hydroquinone is used safely and under the guidance of a qualified medical professional.

Doctor's Note

Hydroquinone is one of the most effective ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma. 

It is considered safe to use when applied as directed and overseen by a qualified medical professional.

It is best to use hydroquinone for short periods of time, generally less than 3 months at a time.

Hydroquinone should be avoided in pregnancy.

The Research

McKesey J, Tovar-Garza A, Pandya AG. Melasma Treatment: An Evidence-Based Review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2020 Apr;21(2):173-225

Nordlund JJ, Grimes PE, Ortonne JP. The safety of hydroquinone. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2006

Dr. Muneeb Shah

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dr. Muneeb Shah headshot

Dr. Muneeb Shah

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dr. Muneeb Shah is a double Board-Certified Dermatologist and Micrographic Dermatologic Surgeon in Hudson Yards, New York. He is passionate about educating the public on common skin issues and has accrued a following of 21+ million across his social media platforms on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

Location: New York City, NY

Doctor's Note

Hydroquinone is one of the most effective ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma. 

It is considered safe to use when applied as directed and overseen by a qualified medical professional.

It is best to use hydroquinone for short periods of time, generally less than 3 months at a time.

Hydroquinone should be avoided in pregnancy.

The Research

McKesey J, Tovar-Garza A, Pandya AG. Melasma Treatment: An Evidence-Based Review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2020 Apr;21(2):173-225

Nordlund JJ, Grimes PE, Ortonne JP. The safety of hydroquinone. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2006

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