Is hydroquinone in the Obagi system harmful?

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What is hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent. Lightening the skin can be helpful when treating different forms of hyperpigmentation (such as melasma, freckles, liver spots and age spots) as well as sunspots caused by exposure to the sun.

What does it do?

Hydroquinone lightens your skin by decreasing the number of melanocytes present. Melanocytes are specialised cells that make melanin, the pigment which darkens your skin, so decreasing these means less melanin is produced. This means that dark spots will fade and your skin tone will become more even.

I’ve heard it can be harmful, is that true?

There has been some controversy about hydroquinone, and it has even been banned. But this was as a result of users causing damage to their skin by not using the product as they should, instead using too high a concentration. It’s also been incorrectly used by some people (particularly in countries such as Africa) who wanted to lighten all of their skin. In addition, products bought online may not meet safety standards – and in fact are often being sold illegally. In the UK, hydroquinone creams can only be prescribed legally by a trained Doctor or an independent Nurse prescriber.

When it’s used correctly in low concentrations, on smaller areas of skin and with the support of a trained clinician, hydroquinone is perfectly safe to use. This conclusion has been reached by experienced dermatologists, who have the expertise to know what is best for the skin. We at Brigstock Skin & Laser agree with this conclusion – and have only ever had satisfied clients using products containing hydroquinone.

Okay, that makes sense. So what’s the benefit?

For someone who wants to improve their skin tone without resorting to aesthetic procedures, carefully created prescription-only systems like Obagi offer a great alternative. You can’t get them over the counter, these skincare systems must be prescribed. You should receive advice prior to starting treatment as well as ongoing support from a clinician or dermatologist.

The fact is this won’t be an instant fix, and you will need to be patient to see the results you want. Obagi, for example, is usually a 16-week treatment and you may need to use the products for a while longer depending on the condition of your skin at the start.

How do I know if its suitable for me?

Your first step is to have a consultation – many clinics offer a free initial consultation so you can discuss what you want to achieve and your suitability for a particular treatment. At this visit, a patch test is also done with the products containing hydroquinone. If your skin isn’t suitable for treatment with products containing hydroquinone for any reason, this will be pointed out to you. If this is the case, the clinic should be able to advise on other treatment options.

Do I need to be careful when using the product?

You will receive all the information you need to know during your consultation, but basically you will need to use a high SPF sunscreen not just in full sunshine but on cloudy days, too.  We recommend covering up as much as possible – treat yourself to a stylish new sunhat! But on a serious note, you need to take extra care in the sun during treatment, to ensure that the dark spots you want to get rid of don’t come back.

You should also avoid getting this product in your eyes or on the inside of your nose or mouth. As with similar liquids, if you do then flush with plenty of cold water straight away.  Take care to only use the products as prescribed by the clinician.

Why should I use Obagi?

By using a system like Obagi which has been rigorously tested, with the support and advice of an experienced professional and by following the regime you are given to the letter, you can have confidence that the results you want will be achieved, without any unpleasant side effects.

How do I find out more?

We strongly recommend taking advantage of a free consultation to discuss your options. That’s the best starting point for your journey to improved skin and a more even tone.

Check the credentials of the clinic you are thinking of going to. These credentials can include quality certification (for example, with the Care Quality Commission); a results guarantee and highly trained and experienced clinicians.

Brigstock Skin & Laser provides a good starting point for the level of expertise you should be looking for. Browse our website to see our standards for yourself – and you can also read genuine reviews from our Obagi clients. You can also book a free consultation or call us on 020 868 36730.

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