Hydroquinone for Stretch Marks – Is Lightening Your Skin the Answer?

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I’ve heard a lot of great things about using hydroquinone for stretch marks. Many reputable stretch mark creams list hydroquinone as one of their main ingredients, which made me curious.

In this article, we’ll be talking a bit about what hydroquinone can and can’t do for your skin.

What is Hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone is a chemical compound used primarily as a skin-lightening agent. This makes it a big favorite for dealing with hyperpigmentation, freckles, pregnancy spots, and a whole lot of similar issues.

The way hydroquinone works is that it decreases the number of melanocytes in your body. As the name suggests, Melanocytes are responsible for making melanin, which is what colors your skin.

While there has been quite a bit of controversy over the safety of hydroquinone-derived products, the FDA found it safe for use, back in 1982, and reaffirmed this verdict more recently, by saying over-the-counter hydroquinone products are safe.

What Can Hydroquinone Do for Stretch Marks?

The logic behind using hydroquinone to treat existing stretch marks is that by blocking melanin production, the hydroquinone may lighten and ultimately fade the tiger stripe. This is particularly appealing in the case of fresh, red stretch marks that stand out more than old, white ones.

Essentially, hydroquinone “fades” those red marks, and it may also help tone down redness in the nearby skin, giving the damaged area a more level appearance.

What Does the Science Say?

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’m not a big fan of recommending a product or ingredient without first looking at the science. Scouring the net for studies on the efficacy of hydroquinone, I came up a little disappointed. I did find one comparative study that looked both at hydroquinone and at Kojic acid for treating face melasma (dark spots associated with pregnancy). And indeed, the study showed that the hydroquinone was more efficient at the job than the Kojic Acid.

But aside from that, evidence on either side of the argument seems to be a little thin. I found a study showing that the stuff is generally safe and that the carcinogen claims are unfounded, which gives one hope about hydroquinone. Since that was easily the greatest concern I had about this ingredient, it definitely put me at ease.

On the other hand, I did find another study about a 50-year old who used hydroquinone and ended up getting this rare condition, known as ochronosis, which involved a blueish pigmentation of the skin. Still, the study did say that this happened after prolonged use, so as long as you steer clear from that, you should be fine.

So while I didn’t find any evidence to suggest hydroquinone is beneficial for stretch marks per se, I didn’t find any evidence to the contrary, either. So I guess it’s worth a shot.

How Should You Use Hydroquinone?

Ideally, you should use your hydroquinone product once a day, either in the morning or in the evening. Some people use it at both times, but I say it’s a good idea to let your skin “breathe” for a bit and not overdo it.

Scoop up a little bit of the cream and rub into the affected area for a good few seconds, until the stuff is more or less completely absorbed.

Beware of sun exposure while doing this treatment. Sunlight can negatively interact with the hydroquinone and reverse the treatment’s effects, so make sure you wear adequate protection if going out.

What Are the Risks Of Using Hydroquinone On The Skin?

So we seem to have established that hydroquinone is great for the skin. In truth, it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, hydroquinone is not appropriate for everyone. People with darker skin tones or sensitives skin would be well-advised to steer clear from the stuff, as it can cause various adverse reactions.

Using hydroquinone for an extended period (more than 4-5 months) could also lead to lasting skin damage, thinning of the skin layers, and other similar issues.

Ironically, over-use of the stuff can lead to permanent darkening of the skin. So you might buy it to fade and level your skin tone and get the opposite effect.

So what you need to do before you start a hydroquinone treatment is consult a dermatologist. Also, make sure you buy a product that contains no more than 2% hydroquinone and that you do a patch test before you start using.

How do you conduct a patch test? Simply take a little bit of cream and rub it into the inside of your arm (where the skin is naturally more sensitive). Optionally, you can cover the area with a bandage to prevent it rubbing off. Wash your hands and wait 24 hours. If no adverse reactions appear, then feel free to use it on the rest of your body!

Bottom Line

A hydroquinone treatment seems like a great option if you’re looking to lighten the skin. However, I would encourage you to also look at alternatives, like vitamin A based stretch mark cream, chemical peels, and so on, before deciding which one to use.