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.

You Might Also Be Interested: 10 Best Face Cleansers for Acne

9. PCA Skin Pigment Gel

PCA SKIN Pigment Gel, Discoloration & Hyperpigmentation Treatment Serum, 1 fl. 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

Last Call! - Murad Environmental Shield Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum - Clinically Proven Dark Spot Corrector and Resurfacing Serum - 2% Hydroquinone Face Serum, 1.0 Fl Oz
  • DARK SPOT TREATMENT: This dark spot remover for face and neck is clinically proven to fade dark spots, age spots and sun spots*, leaving skin looking more even, bright and radiant.
  • 2.0% HYDROQUINONE SERUM: The dark spot face serum contains 2.0% Hydroquinone - the highest level available without prescription - combined with Glycolic Acid for a lightening and resurfacing serum.
  • DAILY SKIN LIGHTENING: Our age spot serum is suitable for use on Normal, Dry, Oily, and Combination skin types, and the dark spot corrector for face and neck can be used daily for best results.
  • ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS: The Hydroquinone and Glycolic Acid face serum evens and exfoliates, and Hexapeptide-2 skin brightening Peptide improves overall tone. Formulated without Parabens, Phthalates or Gluten.
  • HOW TO USE: After cleansing, apply a thin layer of pigment lightening serum to the entire face, both morning and night. Follow with SPF Moisturizer during the day, and Detox Moisturizer at night.

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

Dark Spot Corrector Remover for Face - Dark Spot Fade Cream Melasma Treatment Age Spot Remover For Women with Synovea, Kojic Acid, Vitamin C, Salicylic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Lactic Acid Serum Peel (1oz)
  • ✅ THIS DARK SPOT REMOVER is proven to brighten and fade dark spots, hyperpigmentation & melasma: The acids gently fade and peel dark spots to reveal brighter skin. Due to the natural ingredients of this serum’s formula, the color can range from light amber to dark brown. Please know that the product color has no relation to the product’s efficacy. This product has a 2 year shelf life. To confirm the product’s expiration date, please view the bottom of the pump.
  • ✅ OUR PROMISE TO YOU - We promise this dark spot corrector remover for face will provide effective results within 4 weeks when used as directed
  • ✅ THIS DARK SPOT CORRECTOR is considered to be more effective than other dark spot correctors and melasma treatment creams
  • ✅ CONTAINS MORE EFFECTIVE ingredients than other dark spot removers for face This formula contains Salicylic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Lactic Acid & Vitamin C
  • ✅ CONTAINS THE HIGHEST concentration of ingredients 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

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!

Last update on 2021-12-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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