What is it?

“Hydroquinone, also called benzene-1,4-diol or quinol, is an aromatic organic compound that is a type of phenol, a derivative of benzene, that has the chemical formula C6H4(OH)2.” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This substance belongs to the groups:

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) identifies hydroquinone as a substance that is “very toxic to aquatic life with long last effects, is harmful if swallowed, causes serious eye damage, is suspected of causing genetic defects, is suspected of causing cancer and may cause an allergic skin reaction.”

Hydroquinone is banned for use in consumer cosmetics is in the European Union. It is allowed in a 0.02% (after mixing for use) “Maximum concentration in ready for use preparation”  for professionals only. It is also restricted for use in cosmetics in Canada (max 0.3%). It is allowed to be used as an active ingredient in over the counter drugs in the US.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (previously the Breast Cancer Fund) link hydroquinone to cancer, organ-system toxicity and respiratory tract irritation. The substance is on their Red List.

Possible contamination

The following substances may contain impurities from hydroquinone:

How is it used?

In cosmetic products*, it is most common to find the substance in skin whitening creams and lotions. The substance reduces the color of the skin where it’s applied. It is also possible to find it in artificial nail products. In Canada, where it is restricted, it is only allowed to be use as an oxidizing colouring agent for hair dyes.

Hydroquinone is also used in photographic development.

We use the European Commissions definition of Cosmetics:
“Cosmetics range from everyday hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to luxury beauty items including perfumes and makeup”.

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Read about the other ingredients.