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Hydroquinone in cosmetic preparation


Hydroquninone in cosmetic product is only allowed to be used in the preparation of artificial nails systems and restricted to professional use only. Hydroquinone or mixture with p-hydroxyanisole is functioned as a stabiliser in the preparation of artificial nails systems at maximum concentration of 0.02% after mixing. The use of such products containing hydroquinone should be avoided on the exposed skin and the warning should be clearly stated on the label.

Therefore, the use of hydroquinone in other cosmetic products is not allowed and the product must be registered with the Drug Control Authority, Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) where it can only be used under the supervision of health professional.


The misuse of Hydroquinone in Cosmetic Products

The use of hydroquinone is often associated with cosmetic product for skin whitening or to treat pigmentation problems. The presence of hydroquinone in cosmetic product is not allowed and the product is categorised as adulterated product. Adulterated products are against the stipulated guidelines and regulations.

Prohibited substance is commonly added to a cosmetic product to prove that the product is effective. The user will experience faster results as promoted by the seller and this will make them to continue buying the products. This is an irresponsible marketing strategy employed by the seller. As an agency under the MOH that regulate cosmetic products in Malaysia, the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB) constantly monitor the cosmetic products in the local market and continuously sampling cosmetic products for testing to ensure its safety and quality. Cosmetic products that are tested and found to contain prohibited substances will be cancelled for its notification and the product will be recalled from market.

Unsupervised use of products containing hydroquinone by health professional can cause various adverse effects. Hydroquinone can cause redness on the skin, discomfort, discoloration of the skin or skin becomes hypersensitive. Hydroquinone can impede the process of pigmentation and this process can reduce skin protection from harmful UV rays which may increase the risk of skin cancer. Long term use of such products may cause the skin to turn into black patches when exposed to sunlight. This is also known as exogenous ochronosis and the effects are irreversible.


The Roles of Consumer

Consumers are advised to get sufficient information before purchasing a cosmetic product and should not buy or use cosmetic products from dubious sources such the night market, street seller or online purchase. In addition, the consumer is also advised not to be easily lured by advertisements and any form of promotions that promoted extreme claims and promising positive effects instantenously.

Consumers and public may refer to the official website of the NPCB at www.bpfk.gov.my to verify the notification status of a cosmetic product before purchasing a cosmetic product. An updated list of cosmetic products tested and found to contain prohibited substances such as hydroquinone is published on the NPCB’s website.

Consumers are encouraged to report to the NPCB if they experience any allergic reactions or adverse effects from the use of cosmetic products or encounter any suspicious cosmetic product at 03-78018496/78835532 or e-mail to kosmetik@bpfk.gov.my and to seek medical attention as soon as possible.


  1. Cosmetic Ingredient Review, Amended Safety Assessment of Hydroquinone as Used in Cosmetics http://www.cir-safety.org dilayari pada 23/6/2014
  2. Guidelines for Control of Cosmetics Products in Malaysia, Mei 2009 (rev06)
  3. Poison List accessed on 16/2/2015 at http://www.pharmacy.gov.my/
  4. Understanding Black Skin: Hyperpigmentation and Dark Marks. http://www.changemagazineonline.com/understanding-black-skin-hyperpigmentation-and-dark-marks/ dilayari pada 16/2/2015
  5. Cancellation of cosmetic products due to adulteration accessed on 16/2/2015 at www.bpfk.gov.my
Last Reviewed : 30 June 2016
Writer/Translator : Nurhirza bt. Shaiful Yamin
Accreditor : Noor Hidayah bt. Mohd Nor