Pros: Lightens unsightly dark spots on the face, I started seeing results in two weeks
Cons: Smells really bad, safety of hydroquinone is coming under fire by the FDA
A few weeks ago I visited my dermatologist because I had two small dark spots on my left cheek, and a friend of mine who is an RN became concerned, saying they looked suspicious and that I needed to get them checked out.
At the Dr.'s office, he was not a bit concerned, and said that I have a condition called Melasma (the so called "Mask Of Pregnancy"). I just assumed that the dark spots were age spots from too much sun, but he said they are not caused by the sun, but rather by female hormones.
I wanted him to freeze them off, like he successfully did a large age spot to the right of my eye a year ago, but he didn't want to do that this time. Instead he said he wanted to put me on a treatment of Retin A and a bleaching cream. He gave me two large samples of a product called Lustra-AF, and a prescription for a generic bleaching cream made by Glades Pharmaceuticals.
I've been using the samples of Lustra-AF ever since, and am already starting to see results, not only with the Melasma spots, but with a small age spot under my chin.
Lustra-AF comes in a gold and white colored foil or metal lined tube, and squeezes out like a lotion. It's colored white and is not really thick, but not thin either. I guess it's a medium consistency, but it holds it's shape when a small portion is squeezed out onto my finger tip.
Lustra-AF is manufactured by Taro Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in Ontario Canada. It's distributed by TaroPharma, a division of Tara Pharmaceuticals USA in Hawthorne, New York.
The active ingredient in this cream is hydroquinone USP 4%.
HOW THIS PRODUCT WORKS
Hydroquinone is a cream that bleaches the skin to remove freckles, age spots, scars from acne, and the condition I have called Melasma. It is used for treating pigmentation disorders.
I asked my Dr. for a handout explaining how this works, and according to the literature I have, Hydroquinone actually decreases the production of melanin in the skin's pigment cells. It actually helps block an enzyme called tyrosinase which is needed to make melanin.
Boy does this Lustra-AF stink! It's even hard to describe the odor, but it honestly reminds me of dirty diapers! Ugh. I use this very sparingly, although my Dr. said I could apply it to my entire face and I didn't need to worry about it changing my normal skin, it would only affect the dark spots.
Still, because of the scent, and an uneasy feeling I have about using hydroquinone in general, I am applying it just to the few spots I have.
My Dr. directed me to use this, along with the Retin A every evening before bed, and the first night I did the smell made me nauseous all night long until I fell asleep. I admit I used it on my entire face that evening, but that didn't happen again. Now I squeeze out a very small amount on my fingertip, and apply it to the two spots on my cheek, the one age spot under my chin and an age spot on my right hand. The cream glides onto the skin fairly easily and absorbs quite well, but I do notice that after it is absorbed, that area of my face feels very dry.
In just a couple weeks I am already starting to see results, the Melasma spots are starting to fade away. I am anxious to see what my skin looks like after I have been using this for several months!
Hydroquinone is an ingredient found in over the counter spot lightening treatments, but it's not ever in the 4% strength, only 2% and less. I used Avon's Banishing Cream, which used to contain hydroquinone (I think they changed the formula), but it never worked well for me, and it had the same nasty scent.
I remember hearing a story in the news about the FDA proposing a ban on hydroquinone, and I am still uncertain about the health risks involved with it's usage. Some articles I read state that other countries use products containing hydroquinone AND mercury, which would no doubt be toxic. However, no such products are sold in the United States.
This product is available as a perscription only, and luckily for me it was covered under my insurance (my Retin A was not).
After looking on-line for information about the FDA ban on over the counter products containing hydroquinone, I found a good balanced article about this subject, and I am posting the link if you would like to read it. I would also welcome others comments on how this worked or didn't work for you, as well as any problems associated with it.