What the Hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone lightens skin pigmentation (melasma) by inhibiting the production of melanin.  Melanin is what gives our skin color.  In lower percentages (less than 4%) hydroquinone is safe to break up the melanocytes and spread them around thus giving a less "patchy" appearance.  Depending on how deep the pigment is or how long it's been on the skin, typically the harder it is to break up those melanocytes.  The controversy is really over the higher percentages(10% and above)having the ability to stop melanin production all together thus making the skin more vulnerable to sun burn and skin damage.  Melanin protects our skin from burning so we do need it in our skin.  Genetics determines how much melanin we have in our skin.
After being a low percentage hydroquinone user (2%) for the last 15 years, I've come to enjoy the lightening effect it has on my skin and I recommend it for anyone with serious melasma patches.  Some common names for melasma are: hyper-pigmentation, pregnancy mask and age spots.  I don't recommend using it day and night or even every single day.  I recommend using it every 3rd night and spreading it over the entire patch and beyond the borders by a couple millimeters.  If you spot treat with a hydroquinone product, your patch can become hypo-pigmented and cause a "halo" looking ring in the middle of the patch.  Not so desirable.  Just remember not to spot treat with your product and your skin will be fine.  Always use a full spectrum sun protection moisturizer daily, especially when using a hydroquinone product.  Interestingly,  new research does show that hydroquinone has antioxidant properties which makes sense because it inhibits free radical damage due to environmental factors.  It's important to be routine with application until the 1 ounce bottle is finished.  Email questions to: shelley@shelleyskin.com
Good luck!