For a long time now, hydroquinone is and continues to be the most popular choice for treating melasma, brown spots on face or other parts of your body, but also for various skin discolorations. Safe and efficient, hydroquinone still gives the most impressive results, especially when combined with some other special ingredients.
For instance, many studies have shown that Vitamin A (Tretinoin, Retin A) cream can diminish the signs of sun damaged skin. Skin irritations and some mild peeling are to be expected in return. When used according to the prescription, hydroquinone is both safe and efficient for minimizing the appearance of discoloration.
Is there a twist?
No matter how much you like hydroquinone, keep in mind it’s not a speeding bullet choice. Hydroquinone does give results, but not within a week and certainly not overnight.
Best case scenario, you may begin to start noticing some lightening of your skin after a month of regular use. This happens not because hydroquinone is weak, but because hydroquinone doesn’t break down existing pigment. It’s actually working by preventing new melanin from forming.
This is why you’re only going to see results after the existing darkened skin cells shed in a natural way and got replaced by the new, melanin-reduced skin cells. It’s going to take a couple of weeks so patience is essential when starting a hydroquinone treatment.
Can you speed up the process though?
Even though hydroquinone treatments aren’t the fastest out there, you can use some tricks for speeding up the things a bit.
The most popular way to do it is to use Retin-A along with the hydroquinone. Retin-A is a retinoid that helps hydroquinone get deeper and better into the skin, fastening the skin cell turnover. This retinoid has its very own fight against pigmentation and you do need a prescription for it.
However, you can also find over the counter serums and creams that are based on Retinol in smaller concentrations. It may not be as strong as Retin-A, but you’re still going to get the efficient combination of hydroquinone and retinoid. This combination comes with a nice twist, as it’s not as drying as the combination between Retin-A and hydroquinone.
Pay attention to the fact that most insurance companies don’t cover hydroquinone nor retin-an as they’re for cosmetic purposes. Additionally, they may be covered only if you’re under 40 –so here’s another reason for never getting old.
Using the trick, the right way
If you’re planning to use hydroquinone along with Retin-A it’s important to do it right so scroll down for some rules to follow in your routine:
- Never apply them in the same time with other skin products including benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid
- It’s better to apply it at bedtime, and not during the day
- You should never skip on applying the cream for more than 72 hours. You need to start it all from the beginning if otherwise
- It’s better to wait 150ro minutes until you apply your typical anti-aging cream.
- You should bring the retin-an into your skin gradually, from twice a week to every single night within a month or two. Pay attention to your skin’s reactions as it’s the best way to tell if you’re doing it too fast or too slow.
- You only need a pearl-sized portion to the face. Don’t overdo it for the neck or chest.
- Don’t get scared if you notice some irritation in the beginning, as it’s quite normal. However, if your skin becomes sore and sensitive, it’s better to stop and wait. Let it rest for a while and get back to the beginning of your treatment.
- Should you skin gets red or irritated, let your skin recover and stop using retin-a for a while. Once your skin gas recover, start using it again.
Why do they work together?
Hydroquinone stops the enzyme tyrosinase, which counts a lot for the skin melanin development. When you’re using hydroquinone, you’re actually inhibiting tyrosinase and therefore, the pigment production.
Blueberries, pears, cranberries, tea, coffee, red wine, broccoli, onions and beer do contain hydroquinone so we have it in us at some point, one way or another.
Vitamin A (Retin-A and Tretinoin) is able to reverse, minimize and even prevent wrinkles. The earlier in life you start using it, the more benefits you’re going to have for your skin. Vitamin A whitens and prevents age spots, abut also helps with collagen. It’s able to thicken and improve the strength of treated skin.
On top of everything else, Vitamin A makes your skin look younger and healthier, decreasing your risk for developing skin cancer at some point.
Some of you may know this, but continued hydroquinone use is linked to ochronosis, which is a darkening of the skin. This may happen because hydroquinone blocks the homogentisic enzyme, causing the dark-colored homogentisic acid to build up within the skin, after prolonged use. However, this happens only for darker-skinned patients. The cases were documented back in the days and noted the combination of resorcinol/hydroquinone.
What about AHA?
Glycolic acids, lactic acid and mandelic acid, aka AHA, are also known for helping hydroquinone absorb deeper into your skin, boosting the skin cell turnover.
One could use face or body cleanser that is based on AHAs, before applying the hydroquinone cream some dryness may occur when doing so, but it’s nothing to be scared about.
Is Kojic Acid another solution?
Kojic acid is made by bacteria during the rice fermentation of rice, while manufacturing sake (this is the Japanese rice wine). It’s strong enough to inhibit the activity of tyrosinase, the famous and infamous enzyme that we blame for producing melanin.
Skin does tend to take kojic acid far better than other products. Additionally, it’s not as irritating as hydroquinone, but it’s still able to lead to some unpleasant allergies or irritations.
When put side by side, the results on how efficient is hydroquinone, as opposed to kojic acid, took some by surprise:
- 51% of the patients responded the same to kojic acid and hydroquinone
- 21% of the patients experienced dramatic changes when using a hydroquinone cream
- 28% of the patients noted more impressive results when using kojic acid
The fair conclusion would be that one could have the same results when using each of the tow. Heck, most of us could perfectly use them together, for better and faster results.
The only one able to tell you how to do it and who to do it with is your skin. Genetics play a big part and each skin reacts differently, therefore, it’s totally up to you and your skin to note which works better.
What science is able to tell us at the moment though it’s the fact that hydroquinone and kojic acid do work best when used together.
A study from 1999 compared the efficiency of a cream with 10% glycolic acid and a 2% hydroquinone cream on its own, and one with an addition of 2% kojic acid.
The results were amazing. The glycolic acid cream did reduce melasma in 47.5% of the patients. However, when used with kojic acid, the cream gave results to no less than 60% of patients.
Even though hydroquinone and kojic acid may irritate when used together, they still give better results. Redness and stingy sensation are expected to go away by the third week, so it all comes back to how much you’re willing to take for whitening your pigmentation.
All in all, is it worth it?
One may wonder if the skin tone is going to lighten forever and ever when using hydroquinone (on its own or with the other miracle ingredients).
Sorry to bring it to you, but the moment you stop using hydroquinone, your skin’s natural supply of tyrosinase is going to be all free and unstoppable. Your natural skin tone is going to come back slowly so it’s only a matter of time until you come back to square one: the dark spots, age spots or other skin pigmentation.
You can use hydroquinone daily, but you should always do it in 4-months cycle. During that break, it’s better to use a milder tyrosinase inhibitor. Any cream including kojic acid, azelaic acid or arbutin is going to do the trick.
Choosing the right cream is the key during a whitening treatment. For instance, retinol is best in a tub, and not in a jar-type container. Retinol becomes pretty much useless with full air exposure if you’re using one in open-top jar container.
Keep hydroquinone away from your eyes as it’s pretty darn dangerous. Permanent corneal damage and pigmentation of the eye may happen if the eye is directly exposed to hydroquinone.
Don’t use hydroquinone while you’re also using products based on benzoyl peroxide nor resorcinol.