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Ingredient Spotlight: Hydroquinone

If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, aka those annoying dark spots on your face, you may not be comfortable walking out of the house without makeup — even if you don’t have active breakouts. If you need a skincare ingredient that can help tackle those spots, a hydroquinone product may be what you’re looking for.

What Is Hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone is an organic compound, derived from benzene, that’s a type of phenol. It’s frequently found in brightening and lightening skin care that targets dark spots and hyperpigmentation, which are simply a buildup of extra melanin in the skin. Sun damage, birth control, hormonal medications, aging, acne, pregnancy, melasma, and other skin conditions can all cause hyperpigmentation. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, is the result of additional melanin in the skin as a result of trauma. For many people, this occurs after pimples, scars or scabs have healed and a dark mark is left in their place.

How Does Hydroquinone Work?

Hydroquinone works on hyperpigmentation because it decreases the production of melanin and increases the breakdown of melanosomes in our skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes). This happens because hydroquinione prevents the activity of tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to make melanin.

Where Can I Find Hydroquinone?

You’ll find this powerful active ingredient in over the counter skincare products marketed as brighteners or lighteners. Whichever product you choose, read the ingredients and instructions to ensure proper usage. Generally speaking, products with hydroquinone are most effective when applied regularly and consistently. This is because they work over time to inhibit an enzyme reaction in skin cells that prevents them from appearing dark on the skin surface. It’s important to know that hydroquinone increases your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so it’s crucial (regardless of what time of year it is!) to make sure you apply an SPF as well if you’re using hydroquinone during the day.

The most common hydroquinone products are serums, which are meant to be used directly after cleansing. This way your skin absorbs all their benefits once your pores are clean and open, but before you’ve used a moisturizer that locks in hydration. If, even after consistently using a lightening or brightening product, you’re still suffering from pesky spots, you may want to visit a dermatologist to talk about getting a prescription topical cream or serum.

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