Dark spots, freckles, and other skin discolorations can show up on our faces after too much time in the sun, hormonal shifts associated with pregnancy or birth control, acne, trauma to the skin, or even just because we're getting older. And while they can appear for a variety of reasons, they all have one thing in common: they’re difficult to get rid of. “You can work really hard at lightening dark spots, and then an hour in the sun unprotected can bring them back,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City.
That's where hydroquinone–a prescription topical cream that slows down the pigment-making processes in the skin–comes in, Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at George Washington University says. "Hydroquinone is one of the strongest and most effective brightening agents we have," she says.
Hydroquinone as a skin lightening treatment works by blocking the production and speeding up the breakdown of melanin in the cells. It also helps to inhibit the cell’s ability to store up the pigment, which helps to prevent further discoloration from occurring.
Note that nothing about hydroquinone is a bleaching agent. Instead, it works on a cellular level, and as melanin is released from the skin, it becomes lighter and you begin to see the visible results.
When will hydroquinone work for you depends on a few factors that need to be considered. The severity and cause of the discoloration can affect treatment time, as well as the strength of hydroquinone in the product. For very severe or resistant cases of hyperpigmentation, you may want to consider working with a dermatologist who can prescribe a treatment with a potency of at least 4%. Most people begin to see results within 2-4 weeks of using hydroquinone, but more stubborn cases of hyperpigmentation may take a little longer.
Where you can find it
Normally it's only available over the counter in very low-grade formulas but you can get a prescription for it straight from Musely and get it delivered to your front door!