What is the Difference Between Cysteamine and Hydroquinone?

What is the Difference Between Cysteamine and Hydroquinone? - Sente Labs

Hydroquinone and cysteamine are medical-grade solutions to hyperpigmentation. More than 5 million Americans are affected by dark spots and discoloration, and many of them have found success through the use of both cysteamine and hydroquinone.

However, that doesn’t mean that the two skin-lightening agents are interchangeable. In fact, there are some major differences between them that you should know about before moving implementing them into your skincare routine.

Does hydroquinone work? While prescription-strength hydroquinone lightening agents may help to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, cysteamine hydrochloride cream is a non-prescription solution that’s preferred by many users who have tried both ingredients, as well as countless dermatologists.

Let’s take a look at their differences and which will help you achieve safer and more even-looking results.

Major Differences Between Cysteamine & Hydroquinone

Potential Side Effects


Does hydroquinone work? Hydroquinone can be beneficial to quickly improving dark spots and patches. However, there are some significant drawbacks to keep in mind. Hydroquinone is aggregative to the skin and can cause redness, dryness, and irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin.

Additionally, using hydroquinone daily can cause an irreversible skin condition called ochronosis which causes skin to have a bluish-black pigmentation and papules (inflamed bumps on the skin). Because of these potential side effects, hydroquinone shouldn’t be used for more than five months at a time.


In contrast, cysteamine hydrochloride cream is biocompatible, well tolerated, and safe for long-term use. You can incorporate it into your daily skincare regimen for everyday use and significantly less risky results.

The Rebound Effect

The rebound effect refers to a phenomenon that occurs following the discontinuation of using certain medicines.


In the case of hydroquinone, many people who stop using it find that their hyperpigmentation returns, leaving them right back where they started. In fact, the resulting hyperpigmentation can even return more pronounced than before.


Cysteamine doesn’t cause the rebound effect. If you decide it’s not right for you, you don’t have to worry about your skin rebounding. You can simply stop using it anytime.

So, while hydroquinone does work, the potential risks may not be worth it.

Prescription Requirements


In order to access hydroquinone products, you need to obtain a prescription from a doctor or dermatologist.


Cysteamine is available without a prescription. Cysteamine users love that they can replenish their supply anytime, and Senté provides an easy way to order it online from the comfort of your home.

Risk of Hypopigmentation

While hyperpigmentation refers to dark spots on the skin, hypopigmentation refers to white spots on the skin.


Hydroquinone does work, and very powerfully! Sometimes it’s too powerful, bleaching the skin so severely that it causes hypopigmentation.


Cysteamine hydrochloride cream is a much safer option because, among other reasons, it doesn’t cause white spots, even when used every day.

Current Scientific Research


Hydroquinone has shown improved results at a far quicker rate.

  • Within 4-6 weeks, dark spots may begin to fade with daily or twice-daily use.
  • Within 8-12 weeks, the best results will appear, achieving an even-looking complexion.


Because cysteamine isn’t a prescription-strength medicine, you might be assuming that it’s not efficacious. However, clinical studies have shown that it’s an extremely effective hyperpigmentation solution:

  • 71% overall reduction in brown spots in 16 weeks.
  • 94% hyperpigmentation improvement in 16 weeks.
  • 94% dark patches and dark spots less noticeable in 16 weeks.

Cysteamine has been used in skincare products for over 50 years. It’s a potent antioxidant that’s produced by skin cells.

While hydroquinone does work to provide temporary results, cysteamine has shown to be a viable long-term solution, not only among users, but in renowned clinical studies.

Skin Tones


Hydroquinone works best when used on fair skin tones, and it may actually increase hyperpigmentation on medium-to-dark skin tones.


Cysteamine hydrochloride cream is suitable for all skin tones and won’t exacerbate discoloration.

 A woman applying cream to her face

Ask Your Dermatologist About Cysteamine Today

Whether you’ve struggled with hydroquinone in the past or you’re seeking out an effective long-term solution, we invite you to try Senté Cysteamine HSA Pigment & Tone Corrector. Like all Senté skincare products, it’s clean, medical-grade, hypoallergenic, paraben-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free, and non-comedogenic. There’s no risk in trying cysteamine hydrochloride cream, and the results can be life-changing.

While hydroquinone does work, we believe cysteamine is a better option. We encourage you to continue doing your own research on the differences between these two ingredients, as well as talk with your dermatologist to make the best choices in managing your hyperpigmentation.