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HydroquinoneWritten on labels as: Hydroquinol and benzoquinol

Found in the following products: Skin lighteners, skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, hair conditioners, fingernail coating products and hair dye

Chemical purpose: It acts as a skin bleaching agent, antioxidant, and fragrance ingredient.

Potential harmful risks:
Cancer: Melanin pigments in the skin work to protect the skin against UVA and UVB rays. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production of melanin which could increase the risk of skin cancer.

Organ System Toxicity: Ochronosis, a skin condition linked to Hydroquinone, causes the skin to thicken and turn bluish-grey. Exposure of the eyes to Hydroquinone can cause pigmentation and permanent corneal damage.

Toxicity: There is strong evidence it’s a neurotoxin, an eye irritant, a respiratory irritant and a nervous system toxin.  

Respiratory Tract Irritation: Hydroquinone can cause irritation of the nose, throat, and upper respiratory tract if inhaled.

It’s a common component of weed killer and is restricted in the EU. 

Jimbow, K., Obata, H., Pathak, M. A. and Fitzpatrick, T. B., 1974. Mechanisms of depigmentation by hydroquinone. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 62, pp. 436–449.
Findlay, G. H., Morrison, J. G. L., & Simson, I. W. (1975). Exogenous ochronosis and pigmented colloid milium from hydroquinone bleaching creams.British Journal of Dermatology93(6), 613-622.

NAUMANN, G. (1966). Corneal damage in hydroquinone workers: a clinicopathologic study. Archives of ophthalmology76(2), 189-194.

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