Many would say that hydroquinone is the holy grail ingredient of skin lightening creams. Proven to be one of the most effective compounds available for lightening dark spots, acne scars, and other forms of hyperpigmentation, hydroquinone is an ingredient that more and more brands are now embracing.
The problem is, with so many skin lightening creams listing hydroquinone as their main active ingredient, how do you know which formula to pick?
That’s where we come in. No matter your skin type, your skin tone, or the skin concerns you’re dealing with, we’ve narrowed down the options to put together a list of the best hydroquinone creams available. Not only will the following 10 products fade dark spots and brighten an uneven skin tone, but each one offers up some distinct additional benefits too.
- What is hydroquinone?
- Meladerm Skin Lightening Cream: Most Effective Over the Counter Cream for Bleaching Pigmentation, Melasma, & Blemishes
- Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Dark Spot Corrector: Contains Ingredients That Also Target Fine Lines & Wrinkles
- Paula’s Choice Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser: A Lightening Treatment That Also Offers Anti-Aging Skin Care Benefits
- Melloderm Anti-Melasma Hydroquinone 2% Cream: Loved By Both Men and Women of Every Skin Tone
- Ebanel Hydroquinone 2% Dark Spot Corrector Remover Cream for Face: Good for Age Spots, Acne Scars, and Freckles
- Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum: Top Lightening Cream for Black Skin
- Murad Dark Spot Correcting Serum: Has a 5* Rating and Positive Customer Reviews & Results Online
- Alpha Skin Care Dual Action Skin Lightener: One of the Best Overall Lightening Creams That Contain Hyaluronic Acid
- MD Complete Professional Dermatologist Dark Spot Corrector and Melasma Cream for Face, Hands, and Body: Contains Several Active Ingredients for Dark Spots & Wrinkle Reduction
- Divine Derriere Skin Lightening 2% Hydroquinone Bleaching Cream: Safe to Use for Skin Discoloration on the Face & Body for All Skin Types
- How to use hydroquinone
- Conclusion: Which is the Best Hydroquinone Cream for You?
What is hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent that is used to treat hyperpigmentation by bleaching the skin. Hydroquinone works by drastically reducing the number of melanocytes in your skin. Melanocytes are responsible for the production of melanin which is what gives skin its pigment.
Once melanocytes decrease, the skin begins to lose its pigment making it lighter. When used on areas that suffer from hyperpigmentation, hydroquinone can help even your skin tone. When using hydroquinone to achieve your desired look, you can expect to see results within a month of continuous use with peak results coming in after a few months of use.
|Editor's Choice||#2nd Best Choice||#3rd Best Choice|
Meladerm by Civant Skin Care
Admire My Skin
Dark Spot Corrector
3rd Best Choice
Dark Spot Eraser
Meladerm Skin Lightening Cream: Most Effective Over the Counter Cream for Bleaching Pigmentation, Melasma, & Blemishes
Ok, so we may have cheated a little by adding the Meladerm Skin Lightening Cream to this list because it doesn’t actually contain hydroquinone. However, hear us out – hydroquinone became quite a controversial ingredient after a study suggested that it could potentially be carcinogenic . While nothing has been confirmed, we always recommend trying safer options first, and this is where Meladerm comes in.
This cream is jam-packed with natural ingredients that have proven skin lightening properties.
First up is licorice root extract, which contains two compounds (glabridin and liquiritin) that are even more effective at treating hyperpigmentation than hydroquinone.
This skin lightening formula is also infused with kojic acid, bearberry extract, mulberry extract, lemon extract, vitamin C, and several other skin brightening extracts.
- Made with natural ingredients
- Combines more than 12 proven skin lightening ingredients
- Comes with an airless dispenser that prolongs the product’s lifespan
- None that we can see, which is why this is one of the best skin lightening creams out there!
Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Dark Spot Corrector: Contains Ingredients That Also Target Fine Lines & Wrinkles
Age spots are frustrating enough to deal with, but if your face has also been developing fine lines and wrinkles, then chances are that younger-looking skin overall is what you’re seeking. That’s why we love the Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Dark Spot Corrector – not only will it give you a beautifully even skin tone, but it will also gently resurface your skin texture to leave your face wrinkle-free.
This spot treatment combines hydroquinone with a few other potent skin lightening compounds, including vitamin C, azelaic acid, and kojic acid.
It also incorporates an alpha-hydroxy acid (lactic acid) and a beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid). Both of these have gentle exfoliating effects – the AHA works on the skin surface while the BHA takes effect deeper within the pores.
The result of this means that not only will there be fewer dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, but discolored cells will be removed too. Exfoliation also has a resurfacing effect, enabling it to give you smoother-looking skin.
- Combines multiple skin lightening ingredients
- Tackles a variety of different skin concerns, including dark spots, the buildup of dead skin cells, and skin aging
- Promises results in just 4 weeks
- Contains denatured alcohol (alcohol denat.), which is likely to cause skin irritation
Paula’s Choice Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser: A Lightening Treatment That Also Offers Anti-Aging Skin Care Benefits
Paula’s Choice is known for producing targeted skincare – formulas that zero in on very specific skin concerns. In the case of the Paula’s Choice Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser, dark spots are the focus. Specifically, providing a cocktail of ingredients that will effectively inhibit melanin production, which will then fade skin discoloration to allow your skin tone to take on a more even appearance once again.
In addition to 2% hydroquinone, which is the highest hydroquinone concentration you’ll find in over-the-counter skin creams, this formula also provides 7% glycolic acid. We mentioned the skin brightening benefits of exfoliation above in relation to lactic acid, but this high concentration of glycolic acid kicks things up a notch, making it a great way to treat hyperpigmentation.
You’ll also find a blend of antioxidants in this lightweight cream, from rosehip oil to licorice extract to vitamin E, all of which can also help to brighten skin.
- Contains powerful concentrations of skin whitening actives
- Lightweight and non-greasy – ideal for oily skin types
- Safe for use on sensitive skin
- Since this cream contains a high concentration of glycolic acid, you’ll need to be careful to avoid your treated areas when exfoliating the rest of your face, to save those areas from becoming over-exfoliated
Melloderm Anti-Melasma Hydroquinone 2% Cream: Loved By Both Men and Women of Every Skin Tone
Although you may have spotted the term “melasma” in its name, the Melloderm Anti-Melasma Hydroquinone 2% Cream has actually been designed to target just about every type of hyperpigmentation. From sun spots to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation to freckles, this formula is effective at lightening them all.
While many of the products on this list contain multiple active ingredients, Melloderm’s offering keeps things simple. Hydroquinone is the star of the show, which actually makes it so much easier to incorporate this cream into your routine – you won’t have to worry about different ingredients interacting negatively since hydroquinone can be safely used with all other ingredients.
- Promises results in just 1-4 weeks
- Has a lightweight texture that absorbs quickly
- Side effects include redness, peeling, and dryness
- Sun exposure should be avoided while treating your skin with this product
Ebanel Hydroquinone 2% Dark Spot Corrector Remover Cream for Face: Good for Age Spots, Acne Scars, and Freckles
The Ebanel Hydroquinone 2% Dark Spot Corrector Remover Cream made it onto our list of the best hydroquinone creams because of how it effectively evens out skin discoloration. Whether you have oily, dry, sensitive, or normal skin, this formula is designed to be versatile enough to suit everyone.
A 2% concentration of hydroquinone is the main skin bleaching agent in this product. However, it also brings together a few other skin lighteners, including kojic acid, alpha arbutin, and niacinamide.
We also love how this formula offers up an array of antioxidants and skin-soothing compounds. Many hydroquinone creams can irritate the skin, but the inclusion of glycerin and tea tree oil should keep your skin feeling balanced.
- Combines multiple lightening ingredients with hydroquinone
- Includes soothing ingredients to counter the irritating effects that hydroquinone can sometimes have
- Contains added fragrance, which could irritate hyper-sensitive skin
Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum: Top Lightening Cream for Black Skin
The use of hydroquinone on dark or black skin is often discouraged. Get things wrong and it could end up making those dark spots even more noticeable. However, the Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum provides a dose of hydroquinone in a formula that would be deemed suitable for all skin colors.
Just like the other hydroquinone creams on this list, this product contains 2% of the ingredient. However, it’s worth noting that this formula is a serum, rather than a cream – its lighter and thinner consistency will allow it to penetrate deeper into your skin than a cream would have been able to.
Along with hydroquinone, there are a few other skin whitening ingredients in this formula that caught our eye. Glycolic acid, kojic acid, licorice root extract, and mulberry extract all make an appearance. You’ll also come across Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate – this is a highly stable form of vitamin C that allows your skin to fully maximize the antioxidant’s brightening properties.
- Contains a number of proven skin lightening ingredients, in addition to 2% hydroquinone
- Can be used on all skin tones
- Contains vitamins and antioxidants to counter other forms of sun damage in the skin too
- Being a cream rather than a serum, those of you with dry skin won’t find this product very hydrating
Murad Dark Spot Correcting Serum: Has a 5* Rating and Positive Customer Reviews & Results Online
Although created by a doctor, Murad products don’t require a prescription yet contain potent concentrations of innovative ingredients that allow them to effectively target specific skin concerns. This is exactly why Murad products have gained cult status, and the Murad Dark Spot Correcting Serum is no exception.
Although the Murad Rapid Age Spot Corrector doesn’t actually contain hydroquinone, it works just as well as the other hydroquinone creams on this list, which is why we had to include it. Instead of hydroquinone, the skin whitening abilities of this formula hinge on patented resorcinol technology that’s exclusive to Murad. This dials down the intensity of dark spots.
The other actives in this formula are tranexamic acid and glycolic acid. Both of these ingredients also have skin whitening effects, making it hardly surprising that 84% of participants noticed that their dark spots and acne scars appeared lighter after just two weeks of using this serum.
- Contains a unique formula that you won’t find in other hydroquinone creams
- Promises results in just two weeks
- Can be used on all skin types and tones
- Could potentially cause skin irritations because it contains alcohol denat. and fragrance
Alpha Skin Care Dual Action Skin Lightener: One of the Best Overall Lightening Creams That Contain Hyaluronic Acid
If you have dry skin, then trying to treat dark spots and an uneven skin tone becomes even more challenging – so many of the skin bleaching ingredients out there can have a drying effect. This is what the Alpha Skin Care Dual Action Skin Lightener aims to counter – not only will it fade dark spots and brighten your even skin tone, but it’s also pH-balanced so as not to irritate dry or sensitive skin.
This product is a popular skin brightener for a reason. Not only does it contain 2% hydroquinone to inhibit melanin production and fade dark spots from within, but it’s also packed with 10% glycolic acid to resurface and renew your uneven skin tone.
Even better, this formula, unlike many of the other best hydroquinone creams on this list, has been infused with hyaluronic acid. This humectant is a favorite among those with dry skin because of its powerful moisture-binding properties. Hyaluronic acid increases the moisture content in skin cells, leaving the complexion looking plump, with a radiant glow.
- Lightens the skin and hydrates it too
- Doesn’t contain parabens or any harmful ingredients
- People rave about how plump and bright their skin looks immediately after each application
- Those with oily, acne-prone skin may find this product to be too heavy
MD Complete Professional Dermatologist Dark Spot Corrector and Melasma Cream for Face, Hands, and Body: Contains Several Active Ingredients for Dark Spots & Wrinkle Reduction
If you prefer your skincare products to be on the natural side, then you’ll love the MD Complete Professional Dermatologist Dark Spot Corrector. A few of the best hydroquinone creams that we’ve featured have contained plant extracts, but none have provided a variety as large as what you’ll find in this cream.
This formula is jam-packed with active ingredients that will decrease melanin production to even out skin discoloration. At the top of the list is tranexamic acid, along with the brand’s exclusive Bright Light Complex, which consists of vitamin C and vitamin E. You’ll also find encapsulated pure retinol in this formula, plus resorcinol. All of these will drastically reduce the visibility of brown spots.
When it comes to the natural ingredients that we mentioned, the list is long. Licorice, citrus, bitter root, cranberry, tomato, raspberry, ginger, thyme, grape, black cumin – and that’s not even half of them! Each botanical has been chosen for its ability to lighten dark spots and heal sun damage, although they all also contain antioxidants that would help in the fight against skin aging too.
- Combines a long list of botanicals with effective lab-produced ingredients, with all of them having skin whitening properties
- Can be applied twice a day – try using this instead of your usual day cream and night cream
- May cause the skin to temporarily flush for a while after each application
Divine Derriere Skin Lightening 2% Hydroquinone Bleaching Cream: Safe to Use for Skin Discoloration on the Face & Body for All Skin Types
If you’ve been searching for an intimate whitening gel that can be safely used on the more sensitive parts of your body, then you’ll love the Divine Derriere Skin Lightening 2% Hydroquinone Bleaching Cream. 20% of this formula consists of active ingredients, so you know that the results are going to be pro-level.
There are two ingredients in this product that you may not have heard about before; Tyrostat™ & Melanostatine™. These serve as a hydroquinone alternative but don’t let this put you off – according to the brand, testing feedback shows that these compounds are four times as effective as hydroquinone when it comes to lightening dark spots.
Kojic acid, alpha arbutin, and lactic acid also make an appearance in this formula, giving it the ability to brighten age spots and sun damage while removing dead skin cells. These are joined by several plant extracts, including bearberry, mulberry, grapefruit, lime, orange, and daisy. Together, they’re able to treat hyperpigmentation while leaving the skin looking clear and bright.
- Contains lightening compounds that can’t be found in other products
- Can be used on intimate areas
- Makes your skin more photosensitive – it’s important to wear sunscreen when using this product, or else your sun spots could end up even darker
How to use hydroquinone
Once you have identified a product that aligns with the results you wish to achieve, the next is to safely use the product. Here’s how;
Step one- Cleanse skin
Anything that goes on your skin should always have a clean and fresh base. Use a gentle cleanser to clean your face and dry off completely before applying the cream.
Step 2- Apply the product
Take a small amount of the product and apply it on the affected areas making sure to apply the product evenly to avoid patchiness in your results. Follow this up by gently massaging your skin in circular motions to help the product penetrate your skin.
As hydroquinone is a relatively controversial ingredient, here are a few pointers to help you on your journey with this product.
Always speak to a dermatologist
While most skincare is over the counter, it is important to speak to a professional before using such harsh treatments. A professional can help you figure out whether this product works in line with your skincare goals and provide you with alternatives.
Always wear sunscreen
Hydroquinone alters your melanin production making you more susceptible to sun damage. When using this product, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen and reapply as needed.
Avoid prolonged use
Hydroquinone is often a last resort treatment and should be used just until desired results are achieved. Never use this product for more than six months.
Do not use with benzoyl peroxide
When addressing multiple skincare concerns, we are often tempted to throw in as many actives as possible in hopes of seeing instant results. While you can get away with this using less harsh products, hydroquinone should not be used with benzoyl peroxide, other peroxides, and AHAs as it can cause severe irritation, and dryness and even weaken the skin barrier.
Combine with retinol for better results
Hydroquinone can be used with retinol to yield better results as retinol helps remove dead skin cells which allows the product to penetrate your skin and give a brighter complexion.
Avoid when pregnant and breastfeeding
The absorption rate of hydroquinone into the bloodstream is about 35% which exposes a fetus or breastfeeding child to harsh chemicals
Keep your concentration low
Your skin is less likely to react adversely to a low concentration than it is to a higher concentration of hydroquinone. Start low to build tolerance and only increase the concentration if you are not seeing results after using it for a significant amount of time.
Q: What is the highest percent hydroquinone cream that I can buy over the counter?
The best OTC creams containing hydroquinone will have a 2% concentration.
Q: What percentage of hydroquinone is effective?
2% of hydroquinone is usually effective enough for most types of dark spots.
Q: What products have the most hydroquinone?
Dark spot creams tend to have the most hydroquinone.
Q: Is there anything better than hydroquinone?
There are several effective hydroquinone alternatives out there, from kojic acid to licorice root extract to tranexamic acid.
Q: How does hydroquinone lighten skin?
Hydroquinone works by inhibiting the production of melanin, which is the pigment that gives your skin its color. Doing so lightens the skin tone and fades dark spots.
Q: How long does hydroquinone take to lighten skin?
It usually takes 3-4 weeks to start seeing a difference in your skin tone after using hydroquinone creams. These changes will continue to improve for a few more months.
Q: How to use hydroquinone to lighten skin?
The best way is to apply a hydroquinone serum or cream to the discolored parts of your skin twice a day.
Q: What is the best hydroquinone cream to mix with retin a?
All hydroquinone creams will work well with retin a.
Q: What is the best skin lightening cream?
The best skin lightening cream for hyperpigmentation will be one that combines multiple skin whitening compounds.
Q: What is the best moisturizer to use with hydroquinone?
This depends on your skin type. If you have oily skin, choose something lightweight. If you have dry skin, go for something rich and nourishing, since hydroquinone could make your dryness worse.
Q: Is the Ebanel Dr. Brightening Hydroquinone Spot Correcting Serum good?
Yes, this is a great pigment lightening serum since it contains a mix of AHAs and BHAs.
Q: What is the strongest percentage of hydroquinone that I can get with a dermatologist prescription?
The strongest percentage of hydroquinone that a dermatologist can prescribe is 4%.
Q: Meladerm vs Murad – which brand has the best skin lightening cream for hyperpigmentation?
Both brands have fantastic products for hyperpigmentation – try them both and see which works for you!
Q: Do hydroquinone products permanently lighten the complexion?
No, unfortunately, the skin lightening effects of hydroquinone creams and serums aren’t permanent.
Q: What are the side effects of hydroquinone creams? Do they cause irritation?
Yes, hydroquinone creams are known to cause irritation, redness, and dryness. However, these symptoms usually subside once your skin grows accustomed to the ingredient.
Q: How much do hydroquinone creams cost?
Prices vary hugely depending on the other actives that have also been included in the formula.
Q: Where can I find a list of creams that show the best hydroquinone products?
Right here! We’ve put together a list of the very best hydroquinone creams to make your search easier.
Conclusion: Which is the Best Hydroquinone Cream for You?
As you can see, while there may be plenty of hydroquinone products out there, each of them offers something a little different. Whether you’re looking to lighten dark spots while also hydrating dry skin, or you’d prefer a product that brightens your skin tone while calming breakouts, you’ll find your perfect match above.