The FDA’s official document of over-the-counter drugs has only two skin bleaching ingredients on its list – Hydroquinone and Ammoniated Mercury. For this reason, many bleaching creams that promise lighter complexion contain one of these active ingredients.
What makes this ingredient one of the most popular treatment for skin lightening and how do you use it?
Hydroquinone Cream Over The Counter: The Facts
Over the counter (otc) hydroquinone cream in the USA has a 2% hydroquinone concentration and usually promises results in 8 – 12 weeks. By law, any product that has a much higher concentration than this needs a doctor’s prescription.
Some of these 2% creams that you can buy in your local pharmacy are:
- Clinicians Complex Skin Bleaching Cream
- Neostrata Bionic Skin Lightening Cream
- Porcelana Skin Lightening Cream
- Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Gel Complexion Calming Gel
- Ambi Skin Discoloration Fade Cream
Note: You’ve probably heard of some people who say that they have bought creams with more than 2% concentration. Be wary of this as it could be contraband and shipped over from Asian or African countries which may have added other ingredients. And you never know if these ingredients are good for you or not.
Also, remember that hydroquinone is a controversial ingredient. As much as it’s FDA-approved, there continue to be groups of people who campaign for this to be banned. What I’m saying is that it’s best to stick to what the medical community tells us about this particular ingredient.
Why Get It By Prescription?
Prescription hydroquinone cream, has 4 percent concentration and you can expect to see results in a shorter time, about 4-8 weeks.
I recommend that you try the 2% concentration first before you go to the dermatologist for a higher concentration. There are some people who do not react very well to it so it’s best to test before starting to use a more expensive product.
Does This Lightening Cream Work?
Based on many scientific studies and user reviews, it works very well.
This doesn’t happen overnight, however. It can take 4-12 weeks to see any significant changes. Obviously, the darker your skin is or the darker your spots are, the longer the lightening will take.
You also need to know that this isn’t a permanent solution. If you stay out in the sun a lot, there’s no stopping your skin from getting darker or for brown spots to form.
The most important thing you need to remember with using hydroquinone cream is that you can’t use it for more than 4 weeks to 3 months.
This is why I always recommend using whitening creams with natural ingredients such as kojic acid, papaya extract, or Bearberry Extract . Whitening creams such as Meladerm cream work very well too and you can use them for a much longer time as well.
The Controversy: Exercise Caution
This is a very active and effective skin lightening ingredient. It’s also very potent.
So potent that you shouldn’t use it for more than the number of weeks that your dermatologist prescribes. In fact, a study that injected hydroquinone in rats showed some evidence that it has cancer causing properties [although this is yet to be proven with humans].
Most people who use this cream never have problems with it, but some have reported that their spots have become darker after using it for a very long time.
Also, never ever use it when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Studies have shown that it can cause low birth weight. WebMD suggests that if you really must use a whitening cream during pregnancy, then use ingredients with a good safety record such as topical vitamin c.
If this is your first time, then do a test patch. Apply a thin layer on a small part of your face or behind your ears (I usually do one at the chin). Wait for 24 hours. If you don’t see any allergic reaction, you can start using the cream.
- For best results, use the cream twice a day. Preferably apply it first before any other face cream that you use. Wait for about 10 minutes before you layer the other cream.
- It is even more important to use sunscreen. Your skin gets very sensitive to the sun at this time. If you can find one that has a 50 SPF or higher, then use that one.
- Refrain from using this cream for more than 3 months at a time.
- A slight tingling sensation is normal . However, if you start feeling a burning sensation, immediately stop using the cream and go see your dermatologis. You may also experience some peeling.
- Stop using when you see results, but as always, don’t forget to use sunscreen. You can use it again when you start seeing spots.
Can I Use This For The Eye Area?
Yes, there are creams with much lesser hydroquinone concentration that you can use around the eyes. These are said to help with dark circles. The most notable of these is the Murad Lighten and Brighten Eye treatment. I recommend using this all natural Civant Skincare Eye-Complex.
Here's what I recommend. >
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