(NaturalNews) Hydroquinone is still one of the most commonly used skin lightening agents on the market here in the U.S. It is also a chemical agent commonly used in the development of photography. The ingredient has been banned due to numerous safety issues and serious toxicity concerns in Europe, Japan and several other countries.
Here in the U.S.; however, the ingredient is still used in a wide variety of prescription and non-prescription skin bleaching products. Any product with a concentration of four percent or higher must be obtained via prescription only. However, it is easily prescribed by most dermatologists to women of color as well as women with lighter skin who are experiencing hyperpigmentation, brown or age spots, and melasma.
Hydroquinone is a carcinogen
The chemical has been identified as both a potential clastogen and mutagen. A clastogen is a toxin that has the capability of cause breaks in chromosomes, cause sections of them to be destroyed, and to rearrange the sections and thus cause mutations which can lead to various types of cancer.
A mutagen is a material that causes mutations and damage in DNA. When the DNA is altered, it can cause any number of chain reactions that can negatively impact the health, including cancerous growth of cells and cell division.
The FDA has approved hydroquinone for use in topical applications, but concedes that it "cannot rule out" that it has carcinogenic properties. A 2006 attempt to ban the chemical in over the counter topical skin bleaching products containing the material never took flight.
The rationale behind keeping it legal is that it is safe in the concentrations contained in marketed products. The problem with this is that most users may apply it several times a day and also may apply it in conjunction with UV exposure, which can just magnify the toxicity.
Hydroquinone toxic to several of our vital systems
In addition to its classification as a likely carcinogen, it also has been implicated as a disruptor or damaging presence to several other vital human functions and systems. One is the immune system. The chemical has shown immunity-weakening side effects in some of the animal testing that has been done.
Animal testing has also shown an impact on the endocrine system, suggesting the material would also have an impact on the human endocrine system. Concerns that it is also a neurotoxin, which affects the nervous system and lungs have also surfaced.
In addition to these toxicity concerns, there is a secondary skin cancer risk hydroquinone introduces. The chemical works to"bleach" the skin by inhibiting the production of melanin. This, in turn, prevents the skin from discoloring and helps to lighten already-darkened areas on the skin such as liver spots, discoloration and melasma.
The mechanism by which is inhibits melanin production also lets UV light penetrate the skin more deeply. This means it makes UV exposure more carcinogenic by increasing the depth at which the skin soaks up the DNA-damaging rays. This is why people who use hydroquinone products are always told to wear a sunscreen at all times, or preferably to use the product only before bed time when there is no risk of UV exposure.
Hydroquinone also can cause a side effect that is worse than the very condition it is supposed to treat. This side effect becomes more likely with longer use of products containing the ingredient. The condition is called exogenous ochronosis which causes the skin to produce blue and black pigments which causes blotches of dark spots on the skin.
About the author: Danna Norek founded AuraSensory.com. Product line includes an MSM & Vitamin C Ester Hydrating & Brightening Face Cream and all natural plumping Hyaluronic Acid Serum (greatly increases skin's moisture retention), Sulfate Free Natural Shine Enhancing Shampoo and Deep Hydration Conditioner, a very effective natural deodorant, and other body care. Visit to learn more about what chemicals & ingredients to avoid in your beauty and personal care products at AuraSensory.com .