Whether you have sun spots or melasma, it is common to want to correct areas of uneven pigmentation on your face. One option for treating hyperpigmentation is with the use of topical bleaching creams. Bleaching creams can often be found over the counter, but stronger versions may require a doctor’s prescription. While not all bleaching creams are created equal, most have one common ingredient called hydroquinone.
How Does Hydroquinone Work?
Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent that is found in most bleaching or lightening creams to some percentage or strength. This is also an agent that is found in coffee and dark berries naturally. However, when used in bleaching creams, it can work to block or prevent the skin’s ability to produce melanin, or pigment. Therefore, patients can regain a more even skin tone and avoid hyperpigmentation such as melasma or sun spots.
What are the Risks of Using Bleaching Creams?
While hydroquinone is considered the gold standard treatment for hyperpigmentation, it doesn’t come without some specific guidelines and risks. In fact, it is not uncommon for patients to question whether bleaching creams are safe. This is because hydroquinone is a strong ingredient that should not be used longer than six months. Extended use of this product can result in unwanted skin pigmentation, such as ochronosis, which is an extreme darkening (with bluish tint) of the skin that may only be reversible with laser treatments. In addition, hydroquinone can often trigger skin Irritations, especially during the initial stages of treatment. Some patients are able to manage these symptoms with a mild cortisone.
Beyond the six-month rule of using bleaching creams, you’ll also need to be diligent about wearing sunscreen or a protective hat during treatment. Too much UV sun exposure can result in re-pigmentation. Finally, some bleaching creams may contain botanicals, retinoids or other added ingredients that can certain drug interactions.
Be Safe and Consult with a Dermatologist
Since bleaching creams should be used very wisely, and not all bleaching creams contain the same additive ingredients, it is important that you discuss your desire for hyperpigmentation treatment with a board-certified dermatologist. At Olansky Dermatology, we have expertise in both medical and cosmetic dermatology, which means we understand how to reverse aesthetic concerns such as hyperpigmentation with the safest and most effective treatment modality for each skin type. Call our Atlanta dermatology team today!