Does The Skin Lightening Ingredient Hydroquinone Cause Cancer?
Posted Feb 13 2011 1:02am
Kristin’s concerned about hydroquinone…Is hydroquinone a carcinogen? I’ve read so many conflicting reports; and I know it’s been banned in several European countries, but it’s still being recommended by dermatologists here in the US. Just the presence of benzene in there, and its use in photographic development materials, are enough to freak me out just a little.
The Left Brain calms her qualms (sort of):
Hydroquinone, for those of you who might not know, is a chemical used in skin lightening creams. It works by decreasing the formation of melanin, the pigment in your skin that gives it color. It’s applied topically to lighten areas of darkened skin such as freckles, age spots, cholasma, and melasma.
Does it cause cancer? Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus in the scientific community. In the US, according to the EPA there is no information is available on the carcinogenic effects of hydroquinone in humans. This substance/agent has not undergone a complete evaluation and determination under US EPA’s IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential. They do site studies that have shown an increased skin tumor incidence in mice treated dermally. But many chemical that cause cancer in lab mice that don’t affect humans the same way.
In Europe, where regulations tend to be a bit more liberal, hydroquinone has been banned. Unfortunately The Beauty Brains are cosmetic chemists, not toxicologists, so we’re not sure of the details. But this reminds us of how different countries treat chemicals differently. For example, the US has banned the artificial sweetener cyclamates because of studies linking it to cancer yet it is allowed in 55 other countries. Who’s right, who’s wrong? Unfortunately, even science isn’t always black and white. And speaking of white, if you want whiter skin but you’re worried about possible dangers of hydroquinone you might want to avoid using products that contain it. That’s the beauty of ingredient lists: you can read the package and decide if the product is for you or not.
Do you have a favorite skin lightening product? Leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.