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Hydroquinone: Dark Spots

The longer the summer days get, the longer we tend to spend in the mirror, examining our freckles, dark spots, acne scars and eye circles… wondering, how did our skin age so quickly?

Today’s blog post talks about dark spots, hydroquinone (the most common ingredient to address dark spots) and the products we most recommend to reverse the clock!

What are dark spots/hyperpigmentation?

Dark spots, or hyperpigmentation, results from irregular synthesis of melanin in the skin.  It can also happen (or worsen) because of inflammation caused by environmental or internal factors, such as emotional or physical stress.


We find patients frequently turning products with hydroquinone as a “quick fix” for their dark spots and hyperpigmentation.  According to Quartz magazine, “In the US, dermatologists can prescribe creams or lotions containing about 4% hydroquinone for patients with skin conditions, and some products approved for over-the-counter use contain 1.5% to 2% hydroquinone. These creams are topical, and partially block a chemical reaction in our skin that produces melanin. Melanin gives our skin (and eyes and hair) pigment; less melanin means lighter skin.”

While products containing hydroquinone have been shown to be temporarily effective in reducing dark spots in some cases, it has done so at a cost – and with side effects. 

First, hydroquinone is not for sensitive skin types.  It will cause “irritation on the skin that will manifest with redness, scaling, and itchiness.”

More concerningly, there are questions about the longer-term health risks posed by hydroquinone.  The chemical has been banned by Japan, EU and Australia.  It’s regarded safe and effective by the FDA in the US, but the FDA also acknowledges it contains a known carcinogen.

Effective Alternative

The Sound Medical Weight Loss aesthetics team worked to find the right products for our patients’ hyperpigmentation needs.  It had to be safe, effective, and of course couldn’t contain hydroquinone.

We chose the Epionce MelanoLyte Skin Brightening System.

The Brightening System is a two-product hydroquinone-free system that addresses irregular pigmentation. It’s clinically proven to provide results similar to 4% hydroquinone regimens, but without rebound, irritation, or a need to cycle off. It is an effective long-term therapy.

Continue with a Barrier-Booster and UV Protection

It’s critical to nourish and protect your skin, especially when you’re treating it with products that can be drying and/or stripping like peels, acids, etc. 

For a moisturizer, we recommend choosing something more intense.  We like Epionce’s Intensive Nourishing Cream, which provides synergistic anti-inflammatory benefits to the MelanoLyte products, while repairing the damaged skin barrier. It also includes azelaic acid, which has additional brightening and pigmentation reduction properties. A little goes a long way with this cream, so even patients who don’t think they have dry skin will experience benefit from using this ultra-hydrating cream.

SPF is also critical – every single day (rain or shine!)  We’ve talked about Epionce’s Daily Shield Tinted SPF 50 before because we LOVE it.  It helps even out skin tone and provides protection against UV rays and pollution. Daily Shield also does not include the ingredients typically found in sunscreens that can trigger inflammation, such as avobenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate or oxybenzones.

Give us a call or swing by to get your hands on these Epionce products today!

Mariel Ilardi  Mariel became a weight loss coach with SMWL after being a patient herself -- having lost 65 pounds through the program! In addition to coaching SMWL patients, Mariel is the founder and CEO of Haven Coaching, an executive and career coaching company.

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