Hydroquinone is a chemical that reduces the production of melanin in skin. Hydroquinone products such as hydroquinone gel are used to lighten the skin and may be recommended by some dermatologists to fade or lessen the appearance of scars and dark patches. Choosing the best hydroquinone gel starts with determining what problem needs to be addressed, such as acne marks on the face, dark elbows, or a large scar on someone’s arm. Skin tissues differ in thickness and sensitivity, so it’s important to choose a gel based on the affected area so the hydroquinone product used is one made explicitly for the specified area.
Researching available products to treat problem areas is the next step to determining what type of skin lightening product you need. By performing thorough research, whether on the Internet, in dermatology books by respected skin professionals, or by talking with a trusted dermatologist, one can define a number of potential hydroquinone gels and other skin lightening products that may assist in solving the problem. Reading consumer reviews of different products used by other customers can also give an idea of a product’s effectiveness in treating problematic acne scars or uneven skin tone.
One thing to consider in researching the topic is that controversy surrounding the possible carcinogenic properties of hydroquinone gel has led to it being banned in several countries worldwide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a ban on hydroquinone and products containing it in August 2006 but held off on the ban while awaiting further testing. That testing began the FDA's nominating process in December 2009 and was approved, though there were other steps to complete before actual testing could begin.
Another concern about the prolonged use of hydroquinone gel and related products is that it has been shown to reverse its effectiveness, leading to re-darkening of the skin as well as human cancer cell growth. These findings hold particularly true for African-Americans. Therefore, a dermatologist may opt to prescribe alternatives such as kojic acid or vitamin C, which are natural and seem to be as effective as hydroquinone without the dangerous side effects.
Speaking to a licensed dermatologist is a good first step in treating acne scars and hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinone gel may be the optimal solution, but it’s best to let a licensed skin care professional make that determination. Dermatologists in the U.S. are allowed to prescribe hydroquinone medications containing up to 4 percent hydroquinone. Anything stronger than this can be a skin irritant that may end up exacerbating the problem or creating new problems. People who want to buy hydroquinone gel without a doctor's approval can purchase it, containing up to 2 percent hydroquinone, as an over-the-counter medication in drugstores and beauty supply shops.