Benzyl Hydroquinone

Benzyl Hydroquinone (Agerite, Monobenzone, Pigmex) is a white and odorless crystalline powder. It is used as an antioxidant in the production of polyvinyl chloride and polypropylene oxide. The chemical is also used as a rubber antioxidant, stabilizer and polymerization inhibitor. Benzyl hydroquinone is approved by FDA for use in packaging, transporting, or holding food. It also may be used as a component of articles intended for repeated in contact with food.2

Animals repeatedly exposed to benzyl hydroquinone experience depigmentation of the hair. Oral administration over a period of 18 months caused lung and liver tumors in mice. The substance has been designated as carcinogenic (neoplastic) agent by by RTECS toxicological database criteria.2

Monobenzone is the most potent skin depigmenting agent, discovered in 1939. Skin contact with phenols or catechols, such as the benzyl hydroquinone, induces depigmentation in susceptible individuals, which is clinically and histologically indistinguishable from vitiligo, an acquired disorder characterized by depigmented skin patches due to localized loss of melanocytes. The skin depigmentation spreads to distant sites unexposed to monobenzone, indicating that monobenzone induces a progressive systemic reaction against melanocytes.1


  1. Effective Melanoma Immunotherapy in Mice by the Skin-Depigmenting Agent Monobenzone and the Adjuvants Imiquimod and CpG
  2. Indirect Food Additives and Polymers: Migration and Toxicology. Victor O. Sheftel