One of the first written accounts of hydroquinone’s skin lightening effects was published in 1940, reporting the accidental discoloration of skin in black, Mexican, and white workers in an Illinois tannery who used rubber gloves that contained hydroquinone.1,2 When it was realized that consumers were using a certain sunscreen that contained hydroquinone primarily as a skin bleaching agent,1 hydroquinone creams were developed and marketed for cosmetic purposes and to treat discoloration of the skin caused by overproduction of melanin (a brown pigment), including melasma and brown age spots.3

  1. Bleehan, S.S. J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem: Skin bleaching preparations. Society of Cosmetic Chemists of Great Britain. [Online] 1977.
  2. Oliver, Edward A., Schwartz, Louis and Warren, Leon H. Occupational Leukoderma. Archives of Dermatology. [Online] 1940.
  3. Ebanks, Jody P., Wickett, R. Randall and Boissy, Raymond E. Mechanisms Regulating Skin Pigmentation: The Rise and Fall of Complexion Coloration. MDPI Publishing: International Journal of Molecular Sciences. [Online] September 15, 2009. DOI 10.3390/ijms10094066.
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