Hydroquinone is a chemical agent that is used to bleach or lighten the skin. Many over-the-counter bleaching creams contain 2 percent hydroquinone. For stronger bleaching action, you can obtain 4 percent hydroquinone creams via a doctor's prescription. Hydroquinone inhibits melanin production and simultaneously breaks down existing melanin in the skin. As a result, your skin gradually lightens with regular application. Hydroquinone is commonly used to treat sun spots, age spots, freckles, hyperpigmentation, melasma and other skin discolorations.

Be aware that hydroquinone carries possible side effects. You may experience itching, stinging or redness at the area where you apply the treatment. Generally, these side effects lessen as you continue to use hydroquinone. If you experience a burning sensation or skin swelling, you should stop using hydroquinone immediately.

Test your skin's sensitivity to hydroquinone by applying it to a small test area. Wait 24 hours. If you do not experience any side effects, you can use it as you regularly would.

Cleanse your skin prior to applying hydroquinone. If you don't cleanse your skin beforehand, hydroquinone won't be able to effectively absorb into the skin. Makeup, dirt, excess oil and sweat can all inhibit absorption.

Apply hydroquinone to the areas you wish to lighten. If you apply it to the surrounding skin, it will lighten that as well.

Wash your hands thoroughly after applying hydroquinone. If you don't, it will lighten your palms.

Wear sunscreen daily. The sun's damaging rays can quickly render hydroquinone ineffective. In addition to a broad-spectrum sunscreen, wear protective clothing as well.