A prescription is not required for an over-the-counter concentration of hydroquinone up to 2 percent, as stated by Paula's Choice. It is also available in prescription form between 4 percent and 12 percent concentration.
Hydroquinone is a skin lightening cream that is used to treat dark spots, freckles, liver spots and melasma on the skin. The cream works well on those conditions caused by skin injury, pregnancy, hormonal medication or birth control pills.
Most women can find hydroquinone in the United States in an over-the-counter concentration between 0.5 and 2 percent, according to Paula's Choice. Women with melasma or more severe hyper-pigmentation of the skin may want to seek a prescription medication. Stronger concentrations are more effective at blocking the activation of melanin in the skin. Melanin is a brown pigment found in human skin. With regular application of the cream, dark patches will begin to lighten within 2 months. However, a concentration as high as 12 percent will block the production of melanin altogether.
Hydroquinone is usually applied twice daily to the skin, as noted by WebMD. The skin may be sensitive to the sun while using this medication. Remember to wear sunscreen and wear protective clothing when outside. Avoid staying in the sun for long periods. Users should also avoid tanning, sunlamps and tanning booths. It is a good idea to speak with a doctor before using hydroquinone in any concentration.