What Exactly is Bleaching Cream?

When you hear the term "bleaching cream" it is most often referring to hydroquinone, the most effective skin lightening agent on the market. Hydroquinone is best known for its ability to lighten and reduce the appearance of brown spots and improve overall skin tone. It is a naturally derived antioxidant found in a wide variety of plants and foods such as berries, wheat and grains, beans, tea, coffee, red wine, broccoli and onions. While these darker areas are not life threatening, they can definitely make us more self-conscious.

Melanocytes, the color- producing cells within the skin, can sometimes produce excess color called melanin. This causes the brown spots we see on our face. Hydroquinone works by inhibiting these color-producing cells, thus lightening the brown spots. So hydroquinone doesn't actually "bleach out" the brown spots, rather it works to keep the brown spots from forming in the first place.

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Hydroquinone is FDA approved and classified as a skin-lightening ingredient used to lighten areas of darkened or discolored skin.

Hydroquinone has been used as a treatment for skin discoloration in the US since the 1950's. Millions of patients have used products that contain it. A prescription from a physician for 4% hydroquinone is required or it may be purchased directly from the physician's office. At Sei Bella we carry several products that contain 4% hydroquinone.  Buying off the internet often results in receiving products that are expired or bottles containing something other than what you think you've bought, so be very wary of deals that look too good to be true. And remember 4% hydroquinone can only be dispensed or prescribed by a physician in the U.S.


Hydroquinone has long been regarded as the gold standard for treating skin discoloration. Numerous clinical studies have proven its safety and efficacy over the years. Uncommon side effects could include transient skin irritation, dryness, minor redness or a mild burning sensation. I've used Obagi c-Clarifying serum for at least 10 years and never had a reaction. I started using it after one of our babies was born to get rid of melasma and then I've kept using it for maintenance and to keep my skin more even-toned since then.

As with any prescription, you need to use it as directed.  Do not use it at the same time you are using other skin lightening products.  If you are pregnant or nursing it is not recommended you use hydroquinone products. Always use sunscreen after applying hydroquinone to the skin.  I personally like to use it twice a day, so I do not apply the sunscreen at night, but definitely do in the morning.

If you have dark spots due to pregnancy, hormone replacement, birth control pills or due to sun damage, then 4% hydroquinone is the best choice to get rid of them. Other things you can do to enhance the 4% hydroquinone treatment is microdermabrasion and a series of milder facial peels. Our expert esthetician, Kristi, can help you choose just the right one for your skin type.  We have 4% hydroquinone creams, lotions and serums to choose from and can advise you on the correct one. Call or come by today!


Anne R Trussell MD