Hydroquinone Hydroquinone is a topical lightening ingredient that dermatologists prescribe for the treatment of dark spots. And most derms love it. "I do prescribe hydroquinone and believe it to be quite safe," says Graf. "There is no other fading ingredient with its effectiveness." Graf points out that it's banned in some countries due to cases of ochronosis (a disease that can lead to chronic health problems), but that there have been less than 40 cases reported in the US. "There are also no studies in humans demonstrating that it is dangerous or carcinogenic when applied topically as a fading agent," she says.
If you choose to use hydroquinone, follow your doctor's instructions carefully, and don't overdo it. If you'd rather use a brightening product that's hydroquinone-free, look for one with kojic acid like Murad Age Spot & Pigment Lightening Gel, $60.
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