If you have ever been in the market for a skin lightening product, odds are you have at least heard about Hydroquinone. But how much do you really know about it? This controversial ingredient has long been a topic of discussion for it’s fabulous ability to correct hyperpigmentation, and its not-so-fabulous potential health risks. This ingredient has been linked to carcinogenic properties, toxicity, allergic reaction, and more, and has been banned in Europe. Which begs the question: should you be using an alternative? Read on to find out some of my personal favorite alternatives to this controversial ingredient.
Get Gorgeous with These Hydroquinone Alternatives
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) – I love me some AHAs. What many people don’t realize is that there are a variety of alpha hydroxy acids, and odds are you are already familiar with many of them: glyolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and citric acid are a few that I personally love and use. All of these are fantastic at lightening up hyperpigmentation and evening out skin tone, but they are all different, so I’d like to break it down more specifically for you.
- Glycolic Acid – Typically derived from sugars, this popular Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) is a fabulous option for those with hyperpigmentation. It is an exfoliator, meaning it will help to slough away dead skin cells, and furthermore promote cellular turnover. It also helps to lighten and brighten the skin, making it perfect for those looking to vanish sun spots and age spots. An added bonus: Glycolic Acid has proven beneficial for those struggling with acne and blackheads. Skin Scripts Glycolic and Retinol Pads are fabulous for giving your skin a quick and easy dose of glycolic acid.
- Lactic Acid – Yet another popular Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Lactic Acid is yet another fabulous option for those looking to combat acne and hyperpigmentation in one go. Much like Glycolic Acid, it works to exfoliate the skin, and can be found in many different skin care products (from cleansers, to creams, to serums, and more). An added benefit of lactic acid is that it helps to boost skin hydration levels. If you are in the market for a fantastic cleanser with lactic acid, I highly recommend Rhonda Allison’s Pumpkin Cleanser, which smells amazing and delivers beautiful results.
- Mandelic Acid – For those who want to benefits of Glycolic Acid without the redness, dryness, and irritation, Mandelic Acid is a fabulous alternative. This delivers the similar benefits of exfoliation, lightening, and acne assistance, with fewer incidences of reactivity. That being said, any Alpha Hydroxy Acid, including this one, can cause irritation, so be sure to do a patch test! If you’d like to experience the benefits (and then some) of mandelic acid, you should check out Vivant Skin Care’s Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Wash. This can be used on your face, as well as your scalp to reduce dandruff and soothe irritation.
- Citric Acid – Just because this acid is derived from citrus fruits does not mean you should start rubbing orange or lemon slices on your face. I repeat, do not do this. You would be surprised how concentrated nature can really be. In any case, this extremely popular skincare ingredient (also an AHA) can assist in the diminishing of age spots, fine lines, acne scars, and general hyperpigmentation. It is also great for those looking to smooth out the texture of their skin!
Azelaic Acid – Not designed for the gluten allergic, this particular acid is derived from wheat, barley, and rye. It is best known for it’s anti-acne capabilities but has also shown great promise in improving hyperpigmentation. Azelaic acid is known for being effective without [typically] being irritating. But as with any new product/ingredient, it is important to test your new azleaic acid-infused product as a patch test before applying it to your entire face. HydroPeptide’s Clarifying Toner Pads are a fantastic option for those wanting to try out azelaic acid.
Kojic Acid – Slightly lesser-known (though highly used), this fungi-derived acid is most commonly used for pigmentation reduction (skin lightening), reducing the appearance of freckles, and treatment of melasma. If you are experience pregnancy-related melasma, please consult your dermatologist and/or OBGYN before using a product with kojic acid.
The Bottom Line
There are many fabulous hyperpigmentation options out there, it is only a matter of finding one that is right for you! As always, consult your medical esthetician or dermatologist before trying a new skin care treatment. What is your favorite hydroquinone alternative?