Hydroquinone Chemical formula
Synonyms: Hidrokinon; Hidroquinona; Hydrochinon; Hydrochinonum; Quinol. 1,4-Benzenediol.
Cyrillic synonym: Гидрохинон.

💊 Chemical information

Chemical formula: C6H6O2 = 110.1.
CAS — 123-31-9.
ATC — D11AX11.
ATC Vet — QD11AX11.


In US.

USP 31

(Hydroquinone). Fine white needles which darken on exposure to light and air. Soluble 1 in 17 of water, 1 in 4 of alcohol, 1 in 51 of chloroform, and 1 in 16.5 of ether. Store in airtight containers. Protect from light.

💊 Adverse Effects, Treatment, and Precautions

Topical hydroquinone may cause transient erythema and a mild burning sensation. Occasionally hypersensitivity has occurred and US licensed product information recommends skin testing before use. Hydroquinone should not be applied to abraded or sunburnt skin. It should not be used to bleach eyelashes or eyebrows and contact with the eyes should be avoided as it may produce staining and corneal opacities. High concentrations or prolonged use may produce a blue-black hyperpigmentation (ochronosis) or pigmented colloid milium. The systemic effects of hydroquinone and their treatment are similar to those of phenol but tremors and convulsions may also occur.


There is some evidence from animal studies that hydroquinone might be carcinogenic (see Effects on the Skin, below).

Effects on the liver.

Toxic hepatitis in a radiographer was attributed to occupational exposure to hydroquinone fumes from the developing medium used in the darkroom.1 However, it has been pointed out2 that hydroquinone is not volatile under normal conditions of use and that surveillance of 879 people engaged in the manufacture and use of hydroquinone from 1942 to 1990 found no association between toxic hepatitis and hydroquinone exposure.
1. Nowak AK, et al. Darkroom hepatitis after exposure to hydroquinone. Lancet 1995; 345: 1187
2. O’Donaghue JL, et al. Hydroquinone and hepatitis. Lancet 1995; 346: 1427–8.

Effects on the skin.

The incidence of exogenous ochronosis (blue-black hyperpigmentation) in a survey of black South African patients was found to be 15% in males and 42% in females with 69% of affected individuals admitting to using hydroquinone-containing preparations.1 This was considered to be more consistent with a toxic effect of a drug with a low therapeutic index, rather than an idiosyncratic reaction. The data revealed that even preparations with hydroquinone 2% or less with a sunscreen produced ochronosis. Ochronosis usually became apparent after about 6 months of use and, once established, was probably irreversible. Patients may initially use skin lighteners for cosmetic purposes but once ochronosis develops they may fall into the ‘skin lightener trap’ as they use other hydroquinone preparations to remove the disfigurement.1 Treatment of exogenous ochronosis is based on stopping the use of hydroquinone, but it may take years for any improvement to be apparent. There are a few reports of benefit from topical tretinoin, dermabrasion, and laser therapy, but these are far from established therapies.2Reversible brown discoloration of the nails has also been reported after the use of skin lighteners containing hydroquinone.3-5 In addition to the risk of ochronosis it has been suggested that, based on animal studies, long-term use of hydroquinone might be carcinogenic.6 In the USA, preparations containing up to 2% hydroquinone may be sold without prescription, but in 2006, based on data regarding potential carcinogenicity and reports of ochronosis, the FDA proposed to reclassify these products as drugs and make them available by prescription only.7 In Europe the use of hydroquinone in cosmetic preparations for skin lightening is already banned, but it is still available for prescription as a medicine.6
1. Hardwick N, et al. Exogenous ochronosis: an epidemiological study. Br J Dermatol 1989; 120: 229–38
2. Levin CY, Maibach H. Exogenous ochronosis: an update on clinical features, causative agents and treatment options. Am J Clin Dermatol 2001; 2: 213–17
3. Mann RJ, Harman RRM. Nail staining due to hydroquinone skin-lightening creams. Br J Dermatol 1983; 108: 363–5
4. Ozluer SM, Muir J. Nail staining from hydroquinone cream. Australas J Dermatol 2000; 41: 255–6
5. Parlak AH, et al. Discolouration of the fingernails from using hydroquinone skin-lightening cream. J Cosmet Dermatol 2003; 2: 199–201
6. Kooyers TJ, Westerhof W. Toxicology and health risks of hydroquinone in skin lightening formulations. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2006; 20: 777–80
7. FDA. Skin bleaching drug products for over-the-counter human use: proposed rule. Fed Regist 2006; 71: 51146–55. Available at: http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20061800/ edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/pdf/E6-14263.pdf (accessed 27/09/07)

💊 Uses and Administration

Hydroquinone increases melanin excretion from melanocytes and may also prevent its production. Hydroquinone is used topically as a depigmenting agent for the skin in hyperpigmentation conditions such as chloasma (melasma), freckles, and lentigines (liver spots). Concentrations of 2 to 4% are commonly used; higher concentrations may be very irritant and increase the risk of ochronosis. It may be several weeks before any effect is apparent but depigmentation may last for 2 to 6 months after stopping. Application of hydroquinone should stop if there is no improvement after 2 months. Hydroquinone should be applied twice daily only to intact skin which should be protected from sunlight to reduce repigmentation. A preparation containing hydroquinone 4%, tretinoin 0.05%, and fluocinolone acetonide 0.01% may be applied once daily at night in the treatment of chloasma (melasma). Hydroquinone preparations often include a sunscreen or a sunblocking basis. Hydroquinone is also used as an antoxidant in topical preparations and in photographic developers.

💊 Preparations

USP 31: Hydroquinone Cream; Hydroquinone Topical Solution.

Proprietary Preparations

Arg.: Claripel; Braz.: Claripel; Solaquin; Canad.: African Gold†; Banishing Cream; Eldopaque; Eldoquin; Esoterica Regular; Esoterica Unscented; Lustra; Nadinola†; NeoStrata Canada HQ Plus; Porcelana Nighttime Formula†; Ultraquin Plain; Chile: Etnoderm; Unitone 4; Hong Kong: Derma-Rx Lightener; Eldopaque; Eldoquin; Solaquin; Indon.: Bioquin; Mediquin; Melanox; Melaskin; Pigmet; Pylaquin; Qutifar; Vitaquin; Israel: Esomed; Malaysia: Eldopaque; Eldoquin; Mex.: Crema Blanca; Eldopaque; Eldoquin; Hidroquin; Melanex; Quinoret Forte; NZ: Eldoquin; Singapore: Eldopaque; Eldoquin; Polyquin; Solaquin; Spain: Hidroquilaude; Licostrata; Melanasa; Nadona; Pigmentasa; Thai.: Clariderm; Turk.: Expigment; UK: Eldopaque; Eldoquin; Solaquin; USA: Aclaro; Claripel; Eldopaque; Eldoquin; EpiQuin; Esoterica Regular; Lustra; Solaquin; Venez.: Pharquinon†. Multi-ingredient: Arg.: Melacler†; Melasmax; Neoceuticals Crema Despigmentante de Dia†; Neoquin; Neoquin Forte; Neostrata Gel Despigmentante; Solaquin Forte; Tri-Luma; Austral.: Superfade; Braz.: Glyquin; Tri-Luma; Vitacid Plus; Canad.: Esoterica; Glyquin XM; Lustra-AF; NeoStrata Canada HQ Plus; NeoStrata HQ; Porcelana Daytime Formula†; Solaquin Forte†; Ultraquin; Viquin Forte†; Chile: Alastik†; Clasifel; D 4†; Neostrata; Tri-Luma; Trio-D†; Ger.: Pigmanorm; Hong Kong: Glyquin; Superfade; TriLuma; India: Melalite 15; Indon.: Hidrogel; Interquin; Interquin Plus; NuDerm Sunblock; Malaysia: Solaquin Forte; Tri-Luma; Mex.: Clasifel; Nova Derm; Quinoret; Solaquin; Tri-Luma; Philipp.: Tri-Luma; Singapore: Glyquin; Glyquin XM; Tri-Luma; Switz.: Pigmanorm; Thai.: Tri-Luma; Tu rk.: Metamorfoz; USA: Esoterica Facial and Sunscreen; Glyquin XM; Solaquin Forte; Tri-Luma; Venez.: Tr i-Lu ma .
Published December 13, 2018.