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10 Best Hydroquinone Creams: Melasma, Skin Lightening

10 Best Hydroquinone Creams

Got some stubborn dark spots, fine lines, freckles, and blemishes? Do you have them on your face, elbows, knees, and underarms? Chill! That’s completely normal.

Good thing achieving flawless and even skin tone is just a dollop away with some hydroquinone cream.

Check out our review on the best hydroquinone creams you can get your hands on today.

Find out how to choose the skin lightening creams that best suit your skin type, as well as get the answers to some of the frequently asked questions on hydroquinones!

Cruelty-Free Pick
Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
Our Pick
Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Fade Cream
Anti-Aging Pick
Paula’s Choice RESIST Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser
Table of Contents

10 Best Hydroquinone Creams for Melasma, Dark Spots, and Hyperpigmentation

Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Fade Cream

Our Pick

Our top choice for the best hydroquinone creams is the Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Fade Cream.

In just one week of application, you can immediately see brown spots of dead skin peeling. After the peeling heals, a bright new layer of beautiful skin then appears, enhancing your skin tone.

Apart from active hydroquinone, helpful acids like salicylic acid, azelaic acid, lactic acid, kojic acid, plus Vitamin C all work hand in hand in making sure those stubborn dark spots vanish and never return!

A lot of consumers use Admire My Skin to treat melasma too. It is suggested to use once or twice daily for better effectiveness. If you wanna make sure, contact your doctor, even if the cream can be bought over the counter.

This potent over-the-counter cream is a wonder for both the facial skin and body. There’s been a lot of reviews on the Admire My Skin skin lightening creams online, no doubt, since this serum is one of its best sellers.

Some users suggest using a combination of three Admire My Skin products for the best and quickest results.

  • This dark spot corrector remover for face and melasma treatment fade cream contains hydroquinone
  • The clinically tested retinol cream
  • The citrus glow drops with rich Vitamins C and E

IMPORTANT: Alternate hydroquinone use with retinol and Vitamin C as using both at the same time may be too harsh.

  1. Remember to use hydroquinone and retinol alternating at night ONLY as they are contraindicated for use over day time.
  2. Use Vit C for AM use and surfaced pigments.


This winning combo is sure to deliver a healthy and youthful skin glow. That’s a promise!


  • Skin feels rejuvenated
  • Gentle on all skin types
  • Quick visible results with diligent use
  • Effective treatment to melasma and hyper-pigmentation
  • Can be layered with makeup


  • Stinging sensation

Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum

Cruelty-Free Pick

Dr. Murad has been in the industry for more than 30 years. He believes that healthier skin leads to a happier life. With this, it has become his promise to deliver proven, and cruelty-free products that meet the standards of cosmetic safety.

The Murad Environmental Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum is a clinically proven dark spot corrector, safe on every skin type.

The Murad lightening serum contains ingredients of glycolic acid to best exfoliate skin cells, and Vitamin C (from Camu Camu) to boost skin into fine radiance.

It also contains hexapeptide-2, a skinbrightening peptide for an overall evening out of skin tone.

It is notable to know that this over-the-counter dark spot corrector is formulated free of parabens, phthalates, gluten, mineral oil, formaldehyde, oxybenzone, and petroleum. Otherwise, these could pose risks of irritation.

This Murad Rapid Age Spot Lightening Serum is another one of those fast-acting options in the market, with age spots, sun spots, and dark spots gone in just a few weeks.

For the best result though, a combination of four Murad over-the-counter products is highly encouraged.

  1. Start by washing your skin clean with the Murad Essential-C Cleanser.
  2. It should be followed by the Environmental Shield Essential-C Toner, before applying the Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum.
  3. If you plan on heading out, add the Essential-C Day Moisture SPF 30 PA+++ to your morning routine.


  • Cruelty-free
  • Made free of harmful additives
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Contains glycolic acid for exfoliation


  • Take a while to see results
  • Pricey

Paula’s Choice RESIST Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser

Anti-Aging Pick

Paula Begoun, the founder of the brand, envisioned her company to come up with smart, safe, and effective products backed by scientific research and actual results.

So what’s there to look forward to with this triple-action, over-the-counter dark spot corrector? Firstly, hydroquinone fades the dark spots away.

Secondly, ingredients of salicylic acid and glycolic acid exfoliate and smoothen skin for a brighter skin tone.

And thirdly, a mixture of helpful antioxidants nurtures skin for a healthy and youthful glow.

This skin pigment gel is silky and smooth to the touch. It is easily absorbed by the pores on the skin.

Many of its plant-derived ingredients including licorice extract and allantoin are culprits to the reduction of enlarged pores and the soothing of redness.

Paula’s Choice products are made free of added fragrances and parabens too. If you’re looking for amazing skin care, your search could end with this over-the-counter dark spot corrector!


  • Does not feel greasy
  • Anti-aging
  • Nourishing and moisturizing
  • Fragrance and cruelty-free
  • Contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid for exfoliation


  • Not as effective on freckles
  • Hard to combine with layers of makeup

AMBI Fade Cream

The AMBI fade cream is a great product for keeping an even and natural skin tone. It best suits those with normal or oily skin types.

AMBI’s formulation contains 2% hydroquinone for skin bleaching purposes and 2% octinoxate as a sunscreen. This way, you get ample protection while correcting your skin’s pigment, at the same time, preventing its recurrence.

This skin lightener cream contains alpha hydroxy acid that enhances and speeds up the results of your treatment. Vitamin E also allows for a softer and smoother skin tone.

With the proper use, you can expect improvements from your skin discoloration in just about 2 to 3 weeks. And yes, that even includes dark tans.


  • Suitable on normal and oily skin
  • 2 packs of 2-ounce creams per purchase
  • Affordable price
  • Fast visible results


  • Requires persistent application (twice daily)

Esoterica Fade Cream Nighttime

The Esoterica Fade Cream is another one of our favorites. This skin fading cream is best applied during the night. However, you can alternately use them during the day too. It has a light and non-greasy texture, suitable to wear under make-up.

This skin lightener cream contains 2% hydroquinone. Among its notable inactive ingredients is purified water. This ingredient provides all skin types with pleasant results as it is clinically proven to be gentle enough to soothe all forms of skin issues.

The contents of light mineral oil and dimethicone in its formula is another plus factor to this cream. These ingredients serve a great purpose as a moisturizer, to balance out the drying skin texture effect of hydroquinone.

This dark spot remover is safe to use on your face, neck, chest, arms, hands, shoulders, and legs. Just make sure to wash your hands after application to avoid touching sensitive areas like the eyes and mouth.

For best results, wear sunscreen during the day, and cover the dark spot area with protective clothing.

Replenish your skin’s moisture while diminishing dark spots, blemishes, acne scars, and other skin concerns caused by pregnancy and use of oral contraceptives. There’s a lot this skin lightener cream can do! What more can you ask for?


  • Light and non-greasy texture
  • A little goes a long way
  • Effectively lightens dark spots


  • Not suitable for oily skin types
  • Slightly pricey
  • Hard to wash off

MD Complete Dark Spot Corrector

The MD Complete Dark Spot Corrector is clinically proven to be 67% more effective than most brands with regular use of up to 3 months.

This over-the-counter dark spot corrector is ideal to even out skin tone and restores the natural’s skin’s luminosity. Its potent concentration of hydroquinone allows this to happen. Make sure to keep the product safe and away from high temperatures and light though, as this could affect its effectiveness.

The skin lightener cream also has Borage extract in its formulation. It is used to combat the chemical reactions to hydroquinone by calming the skin down.

Borage, known as “bee bread”, is rich in gamma-linoleic acid, an anti-inflammatory ingredient.

With contents of Vitamin C, alpha arbutin, niacinamide, Vitamin E, and phytonutrients, radiant, and healthy skin is close at hand. No wonder this dark spot remover is one of the best hydroquinone creams recommended by dermatologists.


  • Softens skin
  • Effectively evens out skin tone
  • Can address fine lines and signs of aging
  • Great formulation


  • Requires diligent application for quick results, especially on old dark spots

Melina Organics Intimate Whitening Gel

Do dark spots on your intimate areas ever bother you? The Melina Organics Intimate Whitening Gel just might be your hero!

Melina Organics contains natural, organic, and safe ingredients to restore natural skin tone. This skin pigment gel is the gentlest and delicate product we’ve reviewed, backed by claims of real people.

It contains alpha-arbutin. It is glycosylated hydroquinone rather than a more potent concentration.

This skin pigment gel is formulated with aloe vera, mulberry extracts, green tea extracts, citric acid, lemon essential oil, and other helpful, naturally-sourced ingredients for effective skin bleaching.

However, Melina Organics Whitening Gel is not only made for intimate areas. You can use them as a dark spot corrector for your face, and even out other patches of pigmented skin all over your body too.

Skincare is taken with the utmost regard. With Melina Organics, skin wellness is on an all-time high with its brightening, moisturizing, and soothing abilities, backed by science and research.


  • Gentle gel formula
  • Skin-hydrating and nourishing components
  • Reduces dark spots, brown spots, age spots, and sun spots
  • Evens out skin tone
  • Can be applied to any part of the body


  • May leave a scent

Alpha Skin Care Dual Action Skin Lightener

Want to inhibit dark spots while achieving healthy and nourished skin? The Alpha Skin Care Skin Lightener allows you to have both.

This over-the-counter skin lightener cream contains 2% hydroquinone for the diminishing of dark spots and evening out of skin tone.

Hyaluronic acid in the formula as well locks in enough moisture on the skin, making you look plump and luminous! Hyaluronic acid is also what many look into when it comes to anti-aging.

This is a perfect combination as hydroquinone tends to dry up and crack the skin in its process of breaking down melanin.

This over-the-counter dark spot lightener also contains glycolic AHA. Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane. It works as a great exfoliator. It helps stimulate collagen and cell growth for younger-looking skin too.

With years of research, the brand has come up with a complex yet effective mix of vitamins and nutrients to enhance the benefits this skin care product can provide.


  • Has loads of natural ingredients
  • Suitable on dry skin
  • Anti-aging
  • Hydrating and nourishing
  • Contains glycolic acid for exfoliation


  • May cause breakouts on oily and sensitive skin

Porcelana Skin Lightening Cream

As you might have already guessed, the Porcelana lightening cream is designed to make your skin bright as porcelain.

The Porcelana brand carries two products that effectively inhibit the production of melanin to prevent darkening and to fade away the spots that have already appeared.

The first product is the Porcelana Day Skin Lightening Cream, a dark spot corrector. This is a cream you ought to put on in the morning. This cream is used as a preventive measure.

The Porcelana Night Skin Lightening Fade Cream, however, is something you apply before bed. It is used to diminish the dark spots already visibly present on your skin.

The active ingredients in this skin lightening cream are hydroquinone for whitening, and octyl methoxycinnamate to protect your skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure.

We also like the inclusion of avocado oil in the cream’s formulation. Avocado oil enhances the moisture retention in your skin, making you look young and radiant. It can also soothe skin and aid in faster healing.


  • Non-greasy
  • Great price point
  • Can be easily absorbed


  • The texture is a bit tacky
  • Mixed reviews on smell
  • Takes time to see visible results

Divine Derriere Skin Lightening 2% Hydroquinone

The Divine Derriere skin bleaching cream helps visibly fade hyperpigmentation, dark spots, dry skin, melasma, and freckles. Overall, it makes sure you get an even and nourished skin tone.

This over-the-counter cream is one of the user favorites because of its formulation.

It has contents of Vitamin E derived from plant oils. One of Vitamin E’s benefits is its antioxidant and protective capacities. It keeps skin safe from free radicals. It also helps skin recover fast from dehydration, sun damage, and aging.

Lactic acid and Vitamin C help nourish the skin and restore it to its best condition. Checking for these ingredients is one of the habits you must consider every time you make skin care purchases.

Lecithin in this cream restores your dull and stressed skin. Not only do you get ample skin whitening, but you also get enough hydration and moisturization too.

Glycolic acid is also a great component of skin care. It peels off dead skin safely and can even clear up clogged pores.

Another one of the helpful ingredients in this over-the-counter cream is B-White peptide. This helps brighten and whiten skin faster. It is also used to fight skin from aging along with ingredients like lactic acid, licorice extract, and niacinamide.


  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Effectively lightens stubborn dark spots
  • Exfoliates and polishes skin with glycolic acid
  • Attractive packaging
  • No lingering smell


  • May sting especially on sensitive skin

What is Hydroquinone Cream?

What is

Hydroquinone cream is a spot and pigment lightening beauty product. They can also come as hydroquinone serums. They are the go-to products for anyone who wishes to improve their complexion.

The production of melanin gives skin its color. The greater the melanin production, the darker the skin color. Hydroquinone SLOWS DOWN the production of melanin on the affected areas you apply the product on. That’s what makes it a great dark spots corrector!

Some of the best hydroquinone creams like the ones we reviewed above, can be bought over the counter in drugstores. These have 2% or less hydroquinone content.

But for hydroquinone creams with over 4% hydroquinone concentration, a prescription from your doctors or dermatologists is necessary.


A hydroquinone cream should not be used too liberally. In the right amounts and duration, these skin lightening creams can work wonders! Here are some of its benefits:

1. Evens Out Skin Tone

Have you ever exposed yourself too long under the lovely beach heat and got yourself a sunburn? This skin discoloration and mismatch could take forever to fix on its own. Sometimes, even the best at-home chemical peels for hyperpigmentation won’t be enough.

Topically applying hydroquinone skin brightening creams can speed up this process, evening out skin tone and dealing with age spots and dark spot areas. It works by lightening up the darkening skin pigment naturally produced by the skin when exposed to certain elements.

2. Clears Dark Spots, Age Spots, Freckles, and Melasma

The appearance of dark spots on natural skin is caused by many factors. For women, it’s often due to some hormonal body changes, especially during pregnancy.

Age spots and freckles appear from plenty of exposure to UV rays.

The presence of melasma is a cause to visit the doctor especially if you have sensitive skin. Melasma is a common pigment disorder that usually appears on the face. It is best to get advice from a professional for a proper diagnosis.

Hydroquinone creams can effectively fix these stubborn brown and gray spots over time.


If it’s your first time using these dark spot correctors, it is highly encouraged to do a spot test on a small portion of your skin. Apply a small amount and wait it out for at least a day.

If you start to experience an irritating skin feeling, you are probably having an allergic reaction to this skincare product. Fret not, you don’t have to abort the mission!

Perhaps the product contains one or two ingredients your skin reacts negatively to. Even if a product discloses the contents of safe ingredients, you should still be wary of adverse reactions.

But it doesn’t always mean you can’t use a hydroquinone cream at all.

Hydroquinone use typically has a downtime of 1-2 weeks of peeling, redness and dryness. This is normal as the use of it induces peeling to lighten pigments.

If there is no reaction, then you’re good to use the product. Always follow the directions stated on the boxes or seek the advice of a professional.

It is best to prepare the portion of the skin damage you require spot treatment on, by washing and drying it clean of impurities. Apply a reasonable amount of product and massage it well for maximum absorption.

Always wash your hands after applying skin lightening creams. You sure don’t want to experience the painful stinging to your eyes, mouth, or nose caused by the cream’s strong formulation.

It’s not recommended to be applied on thin areas like the eye area, neck, mouth.


The beauty industry is growing by the day!

There’s a lot of skin brightening products to choose from. You will find one too many combinations of exfoliants, natural ingredients, and other additives to lighten skin.

So if you’re not too keen on hydroquinone, here are other options you can consider:

Kojic Acid

Nature always has its way of treating skin cells. Kojic acid comes from a type of fungi that can be found in Japan. Kojic acid restrains melanin synthesis of the skin as a whole, rather than just a patch. This results in an overall lighter skin tone.


Arbutin can be extracted from natural ingredients of mulberry and bearberry. It’s subtle and gentle enough on the skin to be used long term. It works at lightening acne scars and dark spots through regular usage. There are even claims of arbutin being a skin cancer protection agent.

Azelaic Acid

This form of natural acid is found in grains like barley, wheat, and rye. This ingredient has recently grown in popularity especially among Korean skincare. Its main purpose is to treat people suffering from rosacea. But azelaic acid has also shown a lot of improvement on acne scars and dark spots because of its exfoliating qualities.


Melanozyme is a brightening enzyme, called lignin peroxidase, derived from mushrooms. Initially, this ingredient was used to whiten paper. With much research, scientists discovered it is great on human skin too. This enzyme has proven to break down melanin and reduce dark spots in just a month.

Hydroquinone Cream Buying Guide

Buying Guide

If you’ve done your reading, we’re sure you’ve crossed upon a lot of controversy with regards to hydroquinone.

Yes, some countries have banned the ingredient because of user experiences with persistent redness and allergic reactions. However, we cannot disregard the fact that it can still be an effective skin treatment.

Here are things to consider when buying the best hydroquinone creams:

Ingredient List

Apart from hydroquinone concentration, be wary of what else is in the formulation. If the brightening serum contains parabens, alcohol, chemicals, and synthetic extracts, this gives you enough reason to be extra cautious.

If you see ingredients like niacinamide, retinoids, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C, this would make a good purchase. Other natural ingredients are great indicators of a good product too. Apart from skin brightening, they can function as moisturizers too.

Side Effects

As previously mentioned, it’s best to do a spot test before making any commitments.

Hydroquinone creams can contain sulfites that cause allergic reactions. Side effects can be mild like skin dryness and cracking. 

Some experience redness and burning. In the worst cases, they could cause internal damage, especially to asthmatics (due to sulfite sensitivity) and pregnant women.

If you experience any of these, get medical attention immediately.

Hydroquinone FAQs


#1 What is the highest percentage of hydroquinone cream?

Skin lightening creams containing hydroquinone can have 2-10% concentrations. However, only those concentrations ranging from 2-4% are safe to use.

Currently, a hydroquinone cream can be purchased without a prescription in the US for as long as it is within the safe range.

#2 What is the controversy on hydroquinone cream?

The idea of breaking down the natural production of melanin in skin sounds kind of unnatural. Even though there are options like kojic acid, there are still a few who prefer a quicker yet chemical approach.

This is where the controversy lies. Because of the effects of hydroquinone cream on natural skin, some countries had to put regulations in place. Here are the reasons why these products have been banned:

Skin Irritation

The chemical reaction of the cream on the skin can cause redness, itching, and burning. Oftentimes, they fade away after a few applications. But if it persists, it is best to stay away from these products.

Increased Skin Sensitivity

Hydroquinone can cause the skin to be hypersensitive to sunlight, leading to sun damage on your skin. Make sure to combine high SPF sunscreen when you have hydroquinone cream on your skin.

Causes Cancer

There is not enough evidence yet if a hydroquinone cream can cause cancer. The FDA is still in constant research to assure the safety and protection of all consumers with regard to these products.

If you want to be extra cautious, you can opt for products containing more natural contents like kojic acid, or products containing Vitamin C and minerals.


Ochronosis is the presence of bluish-black patches on the skin due to the overuse of high concentrations of hydroquinone. This resulted in the FDA regulating the percentage concentration allowed to be purchased over the counter.

#3 Is hydroquinone still effective if it turns brown?

Hydroquinone is an unstable ingredient. It can turn brown when exposed to too much heat and oxygen. It is best to purchase the cream packaged in an airtight, non-transparent, and non-metal container.

If it turns brown, it probably won’t cause any danger, but it won’t be as effective in dealing with dark spots either. But before throwing it into the bin, try scraping off the first few squeezes.

Oftentimes the top part gets oxygenated but the rest of the product is still perfectly fine. You wouldn’t want to waste it.

#4 How long does it take to see results from hydroquinone?

You’ll see visible results in most lightening cream products after 4 weeks. Sometimes, it might take longer.

However, with hydroquinone cream, you should NOT apply it consistently beyond 3 months as the chemical reactions to your body could be dangerous to your health. You can take 1 to 3 months off before resuming your treatment.

If your concern is severe and requires a higher potency, seek medical attention from a dermatologist. You should get the proper instruction of use, dosage, and duration to ensure safety.

Results may also be sped up with complimenting ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and Vitamin C.

Also, keep in mind when treating dark spots, you might observe your skin to darken more. That’s because hydroquinone products break down the melanin which results in dead skin cells. Once the skin goes through exfoliation, dead skin disappears and the lighter skin tone is revealed.



No one solution fits all concerns or customer skin types. There are a lot of hydroquinone products you can purchase in the market today. But for our top pick, we go for Admire My Skin 2% Hydroquinone Fade Cream.

Regardless of our ratings on these products, make sure to be cautious of its possible negative effect too.

Besides, if hydroquinone feels “too chemical”, you are always welcome to make a switch to brightening products with more natural ingredients that are safer for your skin health. It may take longer, but it is the safer and more conservative option to eliminate those dark spots!

We hope our hydroquinone cream product reviews have been helpful for you to take the next step to address your skin pigmentation concerns.

If you’re looking for other skin-lightening options for specific parts of your body and face, you can check our reviews of the top freckle removal creams and top mole removal creams.


August 12, 2021 – Updated product descriptions, improved article formatting, reviewed and updated overall content

August 6, 2021 – Made minor edits to article links

July 19, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.