Have you tried to lighten your skin with over-the-counter lightening agents like hydroquinone but grew exasperated with waiting? Are you wondering what your options for removing age spots and acne scars will be if and when the Food and Drug Administration takes hydroquinone off the shelves? In that case, you may want to know about another skin whitener called mequinol (4-hydroxyanisole).
Even though the FDA approved the combination of mequinol and tretinoin to treat solar lentigines (“age spots” or “liver spots”) back in December of 1999, it has taken almost seven years for this drug to prove its effectiveness at treating ethnic skin types.
Research conducted by dermatologist Zoe Draelos has established mequinol and tretinoin as an effective treatment for lightening age spots or sun spots in Asian, Latin/Hispanic, and African American ethnic groups.
The study involved 259 subjects and according to report in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, the majority of subjects experienced clinical level improvements in their skin discolorations four weeks after starting the mequinol treatment.
In addition to treating age spots, Dr. Susan Taylor of Columbia University, New York has told Skin and Allergy News that doctors should consider combination mequinol and tretinoin therapy for treating post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Taylor explains that PIH occurs in areas of the skin that become inflamed from a skin injury, a cosmetic or surgical procedure or from acne lesions.
Mequinol safety testing
While mequinol may soon displace hydroquinone as a trusted skin lightener, the question remains, “How safe is mequinol for human use?” Mequinol is actually a hydroquinone derivative, which makes one wonder about its possible toxicity.
However, members of the American Chemistry Council have administered oral dosages of mequinol to lab rats and rabbits. The animals did not die after exposure. Such experiments make mequinol seem non-threatening. However, the FDA does not recommend combination mequinol and tretinoin for pregnant women. Plus, women who are able to become pregnant should take effective birth control measures when using this pigment correcting treatment.
Potential side effects mequinol include redness, stinging, burning, irritation, peeling and itching. Moreover, you will need to exercise caution when using mequinol if you do facial waxing or use astringents that dry the skin. And, you can’t forget to use a sunscreen when using any skin lightening agent.
In the United States, the 2.0% mequinol and 0.01% tretinoin skin whitening treatment is sold under the trademark name Solage. While mequinol may soon supplant hydroquinone as a skin lightener, you will still have to visit your doctor to get a prescription in order to benefit from this drug.
American Chemistry Council Hydroquinone Precursors and Derivatives Panel Hydroquinone Monomethyl Ether Task Force. High Productive Volume (HPV) Challenge Program Hydroquinone Monomethyl Ether Category Test Plan 4-Hydroxyanisole. December 20, 2002.
Food and Drug Administration. Solage Consumer Information. http: //www.fda.gov/cder/consumerinfo/druginfo/solage.htm, January 6, 2006.
Draelos, Zoe Diana. The combination of 2% 4-hydroxyanisole (mequinol) and 0.01% tretinoin effectively improves the appearance of solar lentigines in ethnic groups. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology; September 2006, vol 5, no 3, pp. 239-244.
Muirhead, Greg. Combo Therapy May Be Hydroquinone Alternative.
Skin & Allergy News; April 2007, vol 38, no 4, pp 1,34.