If you’ve ever developed darker patches of skin, you know how frustrating getting rid of them can be. Unsightly and uneven, they throw off the rest of your skin tone and are incredibly difficult to control—especially if you have sensitive skin. Fortunately, certain skin care ingredients can lighten the appearance of these spots and bring your skin tone back to what it was before. If you’re a sufferer of hyperpigmentation, this is what you should know about hydroquinone and how to use it.

What Hydroquinone Does for the Skin

The initial signs of hyperpigmentation begin when the skin sustains damage and begins producing melanin—the pigment that gives it color—at an increased rate. These darker cells cluster together and create dark spots across your skin. Hydroquinone works to treat these blemishes by slowing melanin production where applied and breaking up these colored cells. Over time and with routine use, this can gradually lighten the spots and bring them back to the same tone as your original complexion.

Main Uses of Hydroquinone

Since there’s a variety of ways to develop hyperpigmentation on your skin, hydroquinone is used to treat a plethora of different skin conditions. Whether you have melasma, acne scars, or general sun damage, this substance is very effective at targeting the problem areas and breaking up the overproduction of melanin. For this reason, low amounts of hydroquinone are common in many skin-whitening creams, lotions, and serums.

Tips for Using Hydroquinone Products

Another part of what you should know about hydroquinone is how to use it properly in your daily routine. Because of the strength of this chemical, using it incorrectly can cause additional damage to the skin, which will be more difficult to reverse. First and foremost, speak to your dermatologist before you begin using concentrated hydroquinone products. Your doctor should prescribe any product that contains more than two percent of this substance before you use it.

When using this product, you’ll want to follow either the directions on the package or the instructions your doctor gives you. Typically, you won’t use these products more than once or twice a day. Keep in mind that it could take several weeks for you to notice their effects. This is because the product takes time to penetrate your skin and slow down the melanin production.

It’s also important to be aware that hydroquinone products often dry out a person’s skin as a side effect. Because of this, you should use a strong moisturizer and sunscreen to protect your overall skin health. This will prevent your skin from becoming too dry and protect it from future damage. The healthier your skin is during this process, the better effects the product will have.