All about Hyperpigmentation and Hydroquinone 

September 12, 2021


Hyperpigmentation can come in many different forms.  Hyper-pigmented conditions include melasma, freckles, “sun spots”, age spots & post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation which can be caused by psoriasis and eczema. 

A common cause of hyperpigmentation is an excess production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives skin its color and is produced by skin cells called melanocytes.  Melanocytes are mature melanin- producing cells located in the bottom layer of the skin’s epidermis and also other areas in the body including the uvea in the eye, inner ear, vaginal epithelium, bones, meninges and the heart. 

When ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin and damage the DNA, fragments from damaged DNA will trigger melanogenesis which will cause the melanocyte to produce melanosome which are responsible for synthesizing and depositing melanin pigmentation.

The greater your exposure to the sun, the greater your risk of increased skin pigmentation. Sunscreen is the single most important factor in improving most causes of hyperpigmentation. Think of sunscreen as the protector in this case, as it will help protect you from not only UVA and UVB rays but if it contains the right ingredients it will also protect you from the heat and the damage it can cause. 

Things to look for in your sunscreen: 

·    Make sure it’s physical blocking sunscreen preferably with zinc oxide as the main active ingredient. This blocks the heat from penetrating and causing damage as it works as a deflector against the sun. 

·    Use sunscreen with SPF 30 to 50 to give you proper coverage and protection.

·    Make sure it is broad spectrum coverage as this helps protect your skin from hyperpigmentation forming. Broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin causing wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin.

Reminder…don’t forget to use sunscreen daily and reapply often. 

To help with hyperpigmentation there is a skin care product called Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is a skin lightening agent that will not lighten your skin past your lightest skin tone. 

Hydroquinone lightens your skin by decreasing the number of melanocytes present. Melanocytes make melanin, which is what produces your skin tone.

skinBe carries two products that contain 4% hydroquinone, which is prescription strength. These products are called Clear and Blender by Obagi Medical. 

Hydroquinone 4% is a strong inhibitor of melanin production and has long been established as the most effective ingredient for reducing and potentially eliminating melasma. 

Clear works more on superficial hyperpigmentation and Blender works on the dermis layers helping with deep hyperpigmentation.  Mixing your Tretinoin with Blender will help the hydroquinone penetrate into the skin better. In a perfect world you would use hydroquinone two times daily— using Clear in the morning and Blender in the evening. You will apply 4% hydroquinone all over your face and it should not be used as a spot treatment to avoid a blotchy complexion. Bring all of your skin care products to your neck, chest and decollate.

Stay consistent with your regime, hydroquinone takes approximately four weeks for the ingredient to take effect. Use for six months and then give at least three months before next use, hence the smaller container they come in.