There are not many common side effects for hydroquinone. Like many topical medication designed to treat skin pigmentation problems, it can cause some slight skin irritation. For most individuals, this is merely a minor issue that fades away on its own through continued use.
There are some other potential side effects worth noting. Keep in mind that any drug, no matter how safe, has the potential to cause serious side effects or reactions, or special guidance may be needed to use properly, so scheduling an appointment with the doctor to discuss your needs is recommended.
Increased Sun Sensitivity
The skin pigmentation issues that hydroquinone addresses tends to affect only one’s face, where discoloration is most noticeable and a high priority for sufferers to eliminate. Individuals who wish to reduce dark spots, like in the case of melasma or chloasma, may need to check with their doctors to see if hydroquinone is right for them.
A common side effect for nearly all users of hydroquinone is heightened sun sensitivity. As such, it is highly recommended to wear sunscreen and to avoid unnecessary sun exposure since it can easily damage skin. Overall, the most frequent side effects of hydroquinone is persistent skin sensitivity and users are warned against using harsh soaps on areas where hydroquinone was applied.
Another common side effect is dry skin, redness of skin, or tingling of skin. Though most users report that these feelings are slight and tend to resolve itself quickly, others may find that skin irritation continues to worsen due to hydroquinone. If this is happening, discontinue use and go to your doctor immediately to determine the issue.
Chronic Skin Irritation
An additional hydroquinone side effect that can arise at this point is chronic skin irritation. A user may experience itchiness, crusty skin, and burning sensations on their skin. This is a clear sign of poor tolerance for hydroquinone. Thus, affected users should discontinue use and get a check-up with their doctor immediately to stop the symptoms and find an alternative
Though this is not a common side effect, some users have strong allergies to hydroquinone, and using it may cause anaphylactic shock. If an individual uses this medication and experiences hives, difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, or facial swelling, they need to seek immediate medical treatment. Typically such a severe reaction does not occur upon first use, unless it was used before in the past, but cumulative use may trigger it.
The final important issue that may affect those who are darker skinned and using hydroquinone is the development of a condition known as ochronosis. This is a rare side effect that may be permament. It involves the appearance of dark or blue patches on the skin that may remain even when medication use has ceased.
Every medication has their benefits and risks. There are many benefits to hydroquinone that many people find helps them treat their skin condition, such as melasma or rosacea. Unfortunately, there are risks, though the most common side effects for hydroquinone tend to be minor. Regardless, be informed about the benefits and risks prior to use, and always visit your doctor if you are unsure at any point.