In Europe, hydroquinone is a forbidden cosmetic ingredient. It is, however, still abundantly used because of its effective skin-whitening properties. The question arises as to whether the quantities of hydroquinone used become systemically available and may cause damage to human health. Dermal absorption studies can provide this information. In the EU, dermal absorption has to be assessed in vitro since the Cosmetic Regulation 1223/2009/EC forbids the use of animals. To obtain human-relevant data, a Franz diffusion
cell protocol was validated using human skin. The results obtained were comparable to those from a multicentre validation study. The protocol was applied to hydroquinone and the dermal absorption ranged between 31 and 44%, which is within the range of published in vivo human values. This shows that a well-validated in vitro dermal absorption study using human skin provides relevant human data. The validated protocol was used to determine the dermal absorption of illegal skin-whitening cosmetics containing hydroquinone. All samples gave high dermal absorption values, rendering them all unsafe for human health. These results add to our knowledge of illegal cosmetics on the EU
market, namely that they exhibit a negative toxicological profile and are likely to induce health problems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Pages (from-to)300-308
Number of pages9
JournalSkin Pharmacol Physiol
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2017

    Research areas

  • Bleaching agents, Cosmetic products, Franz diffusion cell, Human skin, Percutaneous absorption

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