Keratosis & Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is a very popular chemical used for de-pigmentation. It has been used both for cosmetic purposes and in battling a variety of skin conditions, including keratosis. In order to fully appreciate the efficacy of hydroquinone as a treatment, it is necessary to understand why hydroquinone is so popular and thus why it is recommended for use in the treatment of keratosis and its various forms. Hydroquinone is used when the ultraviolet rays of the sun force the overproduction of melanin, a pigment which gives skin and hair their color. Ordinarily, the skin is protected from prolonged exposure to the sun with the help of melanin. When there is more melanin than usual produced, the skin is forced to produce more melanoma cells which results in pigmentation often leading to uneven or darker than desired colouring.
Keratosis occurs as a result of a build-up of keratin in the skin. Keratin is a key protein in the structural make-up of the outer layer of the skin. It is this material that chiefly makes up hair and nails. Keratosis often presents as either a thick scaly crust (actinic keratosis), tiny red bumps also known as ‘chicken skin’ (keratosis pilaris, a follicular condition), or wart-like lesions (actinic keratosis or hydrocarbon keratosis). The causes of this condition are varied, ranging from prolonged exposure to the sun, to genetic causes, to exposure to dangerous chemicals such as ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’. These symptoms, though for the most part harmless, are cause for much concern as they are ugly to look at and can be uncomfortable.
Hydroquinone is used in combination with mild treatment creams and lotions to essentially block off the overproduction of melanin, often lightening the skin in the process of removing the bumps and lesions. Exfoliants and peels often contain doses of hydroquinone which are helpful in de-clogging the skin pores helping in prevention. Unlike many other treatments hydroquinone also helps to treat the root causes of the skin condition.
On a cautionary note, as effective as it is, hydroquinone is highly concentrated and as a result there have been less positive effects when using it. It has a tendency to cause irritation on persons with dry, chapped skin and thus it is recommended that moisturizers be applied along with hydroquinone treatments. Other effects include burning sensations, swelling of the skin and some persons have experienced hives. Also, persons with darker pigmentation, i.e. persons of African descent are often not advised to use hydroquinone based medications because of the high content of melanin. Persons with dark pigmentation already have high levels of melanin.
As with all recommended treatments never start use without thorough consultation with a medical professional. It is never advised to self medicate when the problem proves to be serious.