Lustra Cream: 4% Hydroquinone Safety and Efficacy Reviewed

lustraLustra Cream, which contains 4% hydroquinone, is indicated for the treatment of hyperpigmentation or patches of dark skin (sun damage, age spots, uneven tone and post-inflammatory pigmentation). As far as medications go, hydroquinone is one of the most effective therapies for the management of hyperpigmentation.

Hydroquinone is thought to work in a few ways:

1. It inhibits the tyrosinase enzyme, which is necessary for the synthesis of melanin.

2. It might possibly inhibit a protein associated with melanin synthesis.

3. Some researchers claim that it denatures the melanin-protein complex, causing a decoloration of the skin.
Yes, Lustra Cream (and other hydroquinone formulations) are effective, but you may be concerned about their safety, which is widely discussed online. A number of issues have been raised:

  1. Ochrononis. A bluish/black discoloration of the skin that may occur with using hydroquinone. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a very rare side effect and has only been witnessed in a handful of cases amongst individuals using hydroquinone. Reported cases involved individuals using it long term with very high doses (8% or more). It is thought that the products may have been adulterated with dangerous ingredients such as mercury and steroids.
  2. Carcinogenicity. Rats injected with large doses of hydroquinone developed cancer. However, there have been no concerns raised with topical use either in animals or humans.
  3. Leukemia. The link is not for hydroquinone but rather for benzene, which can be metabolized into hydroquinone. And, in any case, the amount of hydroquinone used in studies that suggest an association with leukemia are somewhat larger than the amounts used in topical skin lightening products.
  4. Skin Sensitivity. As with any topical preparation, Lustra Cream carries the risk of skin irritation. For this reason, do a patch test first and discontinue use if excessive redness, itching or burning occur.

Practical experience shows that skin irritation is likely the largest safety risk associated with hydroquinone. And, while you will read a lot about other associated risks, there is little evidence to back it up.

Hydroquinone is often combined with other ingredients to enhance its effectiveness. Find it with glycolic acid and Vitamin C in Lustra Cream. Clinicians often recommend using it in conjunction with a retinoid (as in Apothekari A is for Anti-Aging Retinal Serum) as well which enhances its effectiveness. In order to reduce the potential for side effects, skin care professionals may recommend that you use hydroquinone in a cyclic fashion – on for four months and off for two – repeat cycle. If you are concerned at all, check in with your dermatologist.

The risk of side effects are small if hydroquinone products are used wisely – concentrations of 4% or less; in a cyclic fashion; careful attention.  However, if after reading this post you are still concerned about using hydroquinone or unable to tolerate its use topically consider alternative skin lightening agents such as:

Lustra Cream and Lustra AF Cream (includes sunscreen) may be found at PharmacyMix.


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Parine said,

August 7, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

How long do you use lustra for ? If you stop does the pigmentation come back? I use at night and have been using it for 2 months I stopped for a week when I went on holiday to a hot country . Then restarted the pig mention has gone down but is still there will it ever go away when do I stop using cream or do I use it for life ?

Sharmani said,

August 12, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

For Parine:
Skin hyperpigmentation is a long-term battle which should include daily use of a stable, broad-spectrum sunscreen like Anthelios. Skin care professionals may recommend that you use hydroquinone in a cyclic fashion – on for four months and off for two – repeat cycle. The hyperpigmentation may return once treatment stops. If you are concerned at all, check in with your dermatologist.
Best, Sharmani

Parine said,

October 25, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

Hi have been using lustra for 5 months now the dark patches are almost gone . So the top of my face is lighter than the bottom of my face. Now . What should I do . Use lustra all over face? I used to use lustra everyday and weekend a vit a cream now for the past two weeks use lustra one day on dark patches and next day isotrexin one day all over face . What should I do please ?

Sharmani said,

October 28, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

For Parine:
We’re glad to hear that the Lustra cream has helped to lighten your dark patches.
Regarding your question – while it is beyond the scope of this blog to give advice regarding individual situations without a proper consultation, we are concerned that if you continue to apply Lustra on your entire face, it is possible that you will lighten both the lighter top part of your face along with the darker bottom part of your face. This could potentially result in two noticeably different skin tones. It may be wiser to use the Lustra only on the darker part of your face so that the two tones eventually match. As you are tolerating both the Vitamin C and the isotretinoin, it is probably fine to continue with those treatments as before.
However, if you notice any untoward side effects or aren’t certain how to proceed, it is a good idea to consult with your dermatologist.
Best, Sharmani

Parine said,

March 15, 2014 @ 8:28 am

Hi My skin had become perfect so did stop useing lustra cream for two week. . ( Had been using lustra for a year )Pigmentation started to come back . Stared using it again on two night a week have been doing this for 2 weeks now but slowly it is getting darker again pigmentation ( melsma coming back . Oh why ! I thought lustra makes it lighter . What should I do ? Please help.

Sharmani said,

March 17, 2014 @ 11:05 am

For Parine,
Melasma and hyperpigmentation are ongoing battles. You may want to change up your routine and move beyond that skin lightening plateau by incorporating different products that will work together to maintain that “perfect” skin you achieved. Read more about options here and here. Don’t forget that your dermatologist should be a key resource.
Best, Sharmani

Toto said,

November 7, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

I applied lustra for the first time at night and i woke up with redness along the entire patch where the cream was applied. How long will this take to resolve?

Sharmani said,

November 10, 2014 @ 10:44 am

For Toto,
We’re sorry to hear that you are experiencing irritation with Lustra AF Cream. Minor redness may occur as the skin builds up tolerance. However, with any active skin treatment, a sensitivity test should be performed before regular applications begins. You may also want to incorporate Lustra AF slowly into your routine, applying a thin layer at night on alternate nights until you determine if your skin can tolerate it. In the case of severe reactions (itching, swelling, excessive redness etc), it would be best to stop immediately and consult your doctor or dermatologist.
For more information on using Lustra AF Cream, please read precautions here.
Best, Sharmani

Emily said,

November 28, 2014 @ 2:28 am

Does this cream work only on face. I have discoloration between my legs. Will it work if I apply it? I ordered my lustration cream online, not prescribed thru a dermatologist.

Sharmani said,

December 1, 2014 @ 11:54 am

For Emily,
As your discoloration occurs in a very sensitive area, we would not recommend using Lustra AF Cream or any skin lightening product without first consulting your doctor or dermatologist.
Best, Sharmani

Neelo said,

March 8, 2015 @ 6:35 am

I applied lustra for the first time and i feel mild redness and peeling my skin so can i stop using lustra or continue it?

Sharmani said,

March 12, 2015 @ 10:07 am

For Neelo,
As with any new skin care treatment, a skin patch test should be done when using Lustra AF Cream (which now contains both hydroquinone and retinol). If your skin seems to tolerate it well, we would still suggest introducing it gradually into your routine, starting with every second night to build up tolerance. Although mild redness can be a normal reaction while the skin adjusts to the active ingredients, you should stop using the product immediately and contact your dermatologist or doctor if there is itching, blistering, excessive swelling and redness.
Best, Sharmani

Eldi domingiez said,

March 1, 2016 @ 3:04 pm

I have one question .what different hidroquinone4% cream and lustra 4% cream .my doctor give lustra 4%cream and my sister have hydroquinone 4%cream whats different?

Sharmani said,

March 3, 2016 @ 12:16 pm

For Eldi,
Thanks for your question. Hydroquinone is the active ingredient which decreases the production and increases the breakdown of melanosomes (melanin pigment granules) in the skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes). Melanin and melanocytes are responsible for skin coloring. Hydroquinone does this by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to make melanin. Both your sister’s 4% hydroquinone cream and Lustra 4% Cream contain the same strength of hydroquinone and should, technically, work equally. However, Lustra may also contain other ingredients which can speed up cell turnover or exfoliation, revealing the new “undamaged” skin quicker.
Best, Sharmani

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