October 10 –
To believe or not to believe

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Hydroquinone, while the most powerful bleaching agent, actually does not bleach the skin. It inhibits a pigment-forming enzyme so that new cells don’t darken. But it has had its bad day in the spotlight, which is why it’s banned in Japan, European Union countries, and Australia. In 2006, the FDA proposed removing it from its safe ingredient list for over-the-counter formulas (if it does become banned, it will still be available as a prescription).

The reasons are potential carcinogenicity and a very rare side effect, called ochronosis, that can occur with long-term use, especially in people of color. Instead of a lightening effect in the treated area, some people experience the opposite – a darkening or bluish hue. The studies that gave hydroquinone bad press were on rodent data for ingested hydroquinone, and most doctors (including me) think it’s too big a leap to say humans who use this in a topical form are at serious risk, but it is certainly possible. Most of us consume hydroquinone daily in foods such as berries, coffee, wheat and tea.

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Dr Amy Wechsler, M.D.
The Mind-Beauty Connection
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