Excessive amounts of melanin (pigment) production result from exposure to UV radiation, heat and other sources of injury to the skin, such as healing from acne. Excessive melanin production may appear as freckles, age spots, post-acne dark marks or general dull appearance.
Hydroquinone works by inhibiting tyrosinase, a key enzyme in the physiological pathway that produces excessive pigmentation and is the only ingredient recognized for skin lightening by the FDA.
Currently, the FDA limits over-the-counter concentrations to 2% and prescription concentrations to 5%. In Europe and Asia, all levels of hydroquinone require a prescription, but it is not banned, as some misinformation purports.
Due to the controversy over the safety of hydroquinone, a lot of buzz about naturally-derived alternatives has surfaced. However, while many women see results from “natural” other ingredients, it’s important to note that they have not been proven to work, nor are they FDA-approved for skin-lightening.
Additionally, most dermatologists feel that hydroquinone side effects are very rare and that consumers can use it to treat freckles, sun spots, liver spots, melasma and post-acne spots without fear.
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