Obagi skin care side effects

Updated March 21, 2017

Obagi skin care products are designed to lessen the appearance of wrinkles, scars, lesions, blemishes and even freckles and dark spots. The products work more intensely then popular microdermabrasion techniques and induce the renewal of skin cells when applied. The Obagi process generally takes three or more weeks. Though Obagi claims that its products are successful, there are side effects that consumers risk incurring when using the skin care line.

How it Works

Obagi skin care is an alternative to microdermabrasion therapy. It causes drastic peeling of the outer layer of skin through chemicals such as Retin A and Phytic. The product causes facial skin peeling, often several times a day, and its end result is younger, healthier looking skin. The system takes several weeks until the end results are achieved; skin with scars, wrinkles, acne or blemishes are reduced or removed completely. The Obagi system also uses hydroquinone and Tretinoin to prevent a condition known as hyper pigmentation and to eliminate blemishes as a result of the products peeling the skin.

Peeling and Irritation

The side effects of the Obagi skin care line vary from mild to drastic, depending on the consumer's skin type. Tretinoin, one of the main active ingredients in Obagi products, causes skin to become overly sensitive to the sun. Tretinoin, in conjunction with the other main ingredient, hydroquinone, also causes skin irritation to the site where Obagi is applied. Other side effects include severe redness, discomfort and extreme peeling. Though the product is designed to cause layers of the skin to peel away, it may occur so drastically that the process is uncomfortable, unattractive and even painful.


The chemical hydroquinone is known as a potential carcinogen. A carcinogen is a chemical, product or organism that causes or may cause a type of cancer when exposed to human beings in small or large doses. The chemical has been tested by the Center for Molecular and Cellular Toxicology at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, and scientists there have concluded that hydroquinone is a nongenotoxic carcinogen that has induced tumours in test subjects. Thus, cancer may be a side effect of the Obagi skin care products that use hydroquinone.

Obagi Products

The Obagi process includes several Obagi skin care products, some of which may result in more side effects than others. "Obagi Clear," "Obagi Sunfader" and "Obagi Blender" contain hydroquinone. "Obagi Exfoderm" uses phytic acid to make skin peel faster, and "Obagi Exfoderm Forte" uses glycolic and lactic acid to allow hydroquinone to penetrate the skin even further.

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About the Author

Tessa Holmes has been writing professionally since 2007. Her short stories and articles have been published on and in the "Cypress Dome." She has worked with the "Florida Review." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida.