Several skin lightening products are available over the counter but the FDA may soon change that.The FDA is planning to ban over the counter skin lighteners that contain hydroquinone because studies in rats show the possibility that hydroquinone may be cancer causing.
Dermatologist, Dr. Mathew Avram, of Massachusetts General Hospital said, "I think the FDA is being a little protective here. I think they haven't seen the data to show this is not a concern and therefore rather than take the risk that there is a problem with cancer, they are going to withdraw it from the over-the-counter market."
In addition hydroquinone is also linked to a skin disease called ochronosis.
Dr. Avram said, "This medication is associated with a blue-black discoloration of the skin if it is used for prolonged periods of time."
Skin problems such as blemishes, freckles, sun or age spots are usually remedied with these skin lighteners.
In some countries, skin lighteners have been over used with disastrous results.In fact, hydroquinone has been banned in some European countries, including Australia and Japan.
Dr. Avram does use skin lighteners on some of his patients. He says it's a good idea to see a doctor before using this product to make sure it agrees with you and that it's being used properly.
He added, "If you use the medication to improve pigmentation, but it causes irritation to your skin. It might worsen the pigmentation."
Dr Avram said that in this country, skin lighteners sold over the counter can contain two percent hydroquinone.
Prescription products can have four percent. He said that if you're thinking about using a skin lightening product, it's a good idea to see a dermatologist first.