10 Best Hydroquinone Creams Over the Counter

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Unnatural pigmentation causes a majority of the skin problems that prevent many people from having a smooth and even tone. Whether its diffuse discoloration, melasma, hyperpigmentation, acne scars, freckles or sunspots, irregular melanin production is the source of these problems. Hydroquinone is a compound that blocks this excess production of melanin and helps to fade discoloration. The best hydroquinone cream over the counter typically contains 2% hydroquinone, which is the maximum amount allowed by the FDA off-prescription in the US. However, not all hydroquinone creams are safe for use due to the presence of harmful ingredients, such as bleach. Here is a list of the best hydroquinone creams over the counter according to customer reviews online, which also contain safe ingredients.

10. Paula’s Choice Resist Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser


Paula's Choice CLINICAL Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser 2% BHA Gel, Salicylic Acid & Hydroquinone, Hyperpigmentation & Skin Lightening, 1 Ounce
  • RESTORE EVEN SKIN TONE--Fades and lessens dark spots. The silky-smooth gel glides on and absorbs without feeling greasy. BHA (salicylic acid) helps to improve the appearance of enlarged pores while plant-derived ingredients help quiet redness and calm skin
  • Paula's Choice--CLINICAL Triple-Action Eraser is an anti-aging serum that works in three ways to improve the look of skin: hydroquinone fades dark spots; salicylic acid exfoliates and smooths; & antioxidants nurture skin for younger-looking radiant skin.
  • Use Paula's Choice Triple Action Dark Spot Eraser twice daily as part of your morning and evening skin care routines along with your favorite Paula's Choice cleanser, toner, serums, exfoliator, and moisturizer with SPF for daytime wear.
  • Paula's Choice products are made with YOUR SKIN in mind. Whatever your skincare concern, whether dryness, acne, fine lines, or sensitive skin; we've got a treatment line for you. The search for amazing skin care ends here. Finally, you found it.
  • Paula's Choice Skincare makes products that work. No fragrance, no parabens, no fluff. Just effective, science-backed formulas that target any concern from wrinkles to breakouts.

This gel contains BHA, which is derived from salicylic acid and known to prevent blemishes and minimize the appearance of large pores. In addition to this exfoliator, the product features hydroquinone to fade dark spots along with anti-oxidants to restore dull skin with a radiant glow. This formulation works well for all skin types and users have found success using the gel as a spot treatment for their problem areas. Considering the inclusion of salicylic acid into the formulation, this product is the best hydroquinone cream over the counter featured on this list for acne-prone skin.

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9. PCA Skin Pigment Gel


PCA SKIN Pigment Gel - Treatment Serum for Discoloration, Dark Spots & Hyperpigmentation (1 oz)
  • Lightens hyper-pigmentation and age spots
  • Exfoliates the skin
  • Contains hydroquinone to lighten skin

Although the product is labeled as a gel, the formulation works more like a serum with 2% hydroquinone. For best results, the product should be applied twice daily, once in the morning and once at night, as spot treatment. The nice part about this serum is that it can be used prophylactically over areas of acne or injury to prevent hyperpigmentation forming over the area in the future. In addition to hydroquinone, the product also contains phenyethyl resorcinol, an antioxidant that brightens skin, and two separate acids, kojic acid and azelaic acid, which work to even the skin tone.

8. Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum



Another product with 2% hydroquinone as an active ingredient, this serum promises results in just one week. The ingredients also include Hexapeptide-2 and glycolic acid, which help speed up the lightening process and allows for the formation of new, even-toned and healthy skin. Most users have experienced results within a few weeks, so this might be the best hydroquinone cream over the counter to try out if you want something that works fast!

7. Porcelana Dark Spot Corrector Plus Moisturizer



A professionally formulated dark spot corrector containing avocado oil and hydroquinone, this product aims to target all the most common causes of hyperpigmentation. The skin lightening cream also isn’t limited to spot treatment and can be used over the entire face to produce a smooth and even complexion. The synergistic activity from the formulations works to moisturize the skin during the night, going beyond just the pigmentation issues.

6. Porcelana Skin Lightening Day Cream



Unlike most other products that direct users to wear them as a spot treatment overnight or twice daily, this product was specifically formulated for daytime use. The formulation contains pure 2% hydroquinone and sunscreen, making this the best hydroquinone cream over the counter for those who prefer a low maintenance skincare routine that can be completed in one go. As with the rest, this cream fades a large range of discolorations, from freckles to acne scars.

5. Crusader Skin Lightening Cream



This cream contains similar ingredients as the one listed above, but at a more affordable price point. The 2% hydroquinone and sunscreen work to reduce present hyperpigmentation and to prevent the formation of future discoloration. Many users claim to have experienced effective results with continued use of this inexpensive cream, making this option the best hydroquinone cream over the counter for those on a budget.

4. Meladerm for Hyperpigmentation



Containing ten ingredients, this product targets a variety of issues stemming from hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. Unlike the other products, this one incorporates natural ingredients into its formulation, including mulberry, licorice, and bearberry extracts. This product is the best hydroquinone cream over the counter for sensitive skin.

3. Divine Derriere Skin Lightening 2% Hydroquinone



This classic cream has reigned in popularity on drugstore shelves for years due to its simple hydroquinone concentration and moisturizing properties. Even with its ointment consistency, the product does not leave a greasy residue and can be applied to any areas of hyperpigmentation beyond the face.

2. Emma Cardinelli Skin Lightening Cream



This product goes beyond the usual hydroquinone concentration and incorporates 6% glycolic acid, vitamin E, ferulic acid and licorice extract for effective results. The most convenient part about this cream is that its sensitive formulation allows for use beyond the face and neck. Whether you’re trying to lighten armpits, inner thighs or even the most sensitive parts down there, this cream will do the job without risk of irritation!

1. Admire My Skin Ultra-Potent Brightening Serum


2% HQ Dark Spot Corrector Remover For Face & Melasma Treatment Fade Cream - Contains Vitamin C, Salicylic Acid, Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Lactic Acid Peel (1oz)
  • ✅ 2% HQ HELPS BRIGHTEN and fade dark spots, hyperpigmentation & melasma: The acids gently peel dark spots to reveal brighter skin: This product can be used either once OR twice per day
  • ✅ OUR PROMISE TO YOU - We promise this OTC product will provide effective results within 4 weeks when used as directed: The directions on the product label says "use once or twice daily"
  • ✅ CONSIDERED TO BE MORE effective than other hydroquinone products and melasma treatment creams: the directions on the outer box says "use twice daily or as directed by doctor"
  • ✅ CONTAINS MORE EFFECTIVE ingredients than other brands - This formula contains 2% Hydroquinone, Salicylic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Lactic Acid & Vitamin C: the directions on the insert says "start out by using every other day and working up to daily use"
  • ✅ CONTAINS THE HIGHEST concentration of hydroquinone allowed without a prescription - Use this for 4 weeks and you'll notice you dark spots have faded and your complexion will be much smoother and even toned: Consult images to view these directions for use.

Packed with effective ingredients, this serum promises results in four weeks. Besides the obvious concentration of 2% hydroquinone, the serum also features salicylic acid, kojic acid, azelaic acid, lactic acid and vitamin C. The product should be used at night over problematic areas to target hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and melasma. The abundant amount of ingredients and promising reviews tied with quality customer service makes this product the best hydroquinone cream over the counter.

Final Word

Although hydroquinone creams have shown to be effective in improving hyperpigmentation and miscellaneous dark spots, you must be careful when selecting the right one. Not all creams are created equal, so it is important to read the labels and understand what the formulas contain. With this list, you can easily find the best hydroquinone cream over the counter that matches best with your needs. Have you tried any creams that are not on this list but should be? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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