Here's what happens when you bleach your skin

It’s no secret that skin bleaching is a major issue in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East. When you look at the products used to bleach, some of them have hydroquinone.

Hydroquinone is a skin lightening ingredient. At concentrations of 2 - 4%, it’s used in the treatment of freckles, brown patching, melasma, dark spots etc.

It’s fantastic at its job and is considered ‘the gold standard of skin lightening.’

How does hydroquinone work?

Our skin contains melanin, the pigment that gives it color. Melanin is produced by the enzyme tyrosinase in melanocytes – melanin producing cells.

Hydroquinone stops tyrosinase from producing melanin and damages the melanocytes. The result is lighter skin.


Colorism is real.

I’m a proud dark beauty but there are a lot of people who aren’t fans of their natural tone. They usually bleach their skin by misusing hydroquinone or hydroquinone-esque products. 

Even though it's banned in some countries, you can still find dangerous hydroquinone skincare on the black market. Dangerous because:

  • The level of hydroquinone is likely above the dermatologist recommended 4%. There is no safety and regulation in the black market.
  • Other toxins, like mercury, could have been added to the formula.

How should hydroquinone be used?

3 basic guidelines:

  1. Only when your dermatologist prescribes it for you.
  2. With sun protection. Hydroquinone thins the skin, which makes it sensitive to the sun. You MUST slather on the sunscreen.
  3. For short periods of time. Hydroquinone is used for 3 month cycles alternating with other brighteners like alpha arbutin, kojic acid. If used without a break, one could develop ochronosis.

What's that?

Ochronosis is a permanent darkening of the skin.

Bleached skin looks blotchy. Some parts are light, others are dark, others are red...a lot is going on.

That's ochronosis. And it's more common in darker skin tones.

That means unless your dermatologist tells you to, steer clear of hydroquinone to avoid accidental (or not) bleaching.


Many of us decide to bleach skin before understanding its effects.

It’s not worth it sis. Your dark skin is beautiful.

If you want to get rid of dark spots or even your skin tone, try these brightening options instead.

Skin Care TipsClare Oparo