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What happened to Obagi Skin Care Line?


Posted October 04, 2016 in Products

The Obagi skin care line had many loyal patients until 2011 when it was discontinued in Texas.  The success was in many ways attributable to the fact that some of the products contained hydroquinone, a strong skin lightener.  In 2011, the Texas Attorney General’s office informed Obagi that selling hydroquinone through physician offices is against Texas Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  Hydroquinone was an “unapproved Drug”.  The issue was the sale of hydroquinone through a physician office.  Not only did they ban hydroquinone, but they confiscated the hydroquinone containing products and cited physicians for “dispensing drugs without a pharmaceutical license”.  Once Obagi stopped shipping the hydroquinone containing products to Texas, the Attorney General closed the investigation without penalties against the company.

In 2012, a bill was in the Texas legislature that would allow doctors to sell certain prescription products, including those with hydroquinone.  This bill passed in early 2013.  However, Rick Perry veto’d the bill, again banning the sell of hydroquinone by physicians.  The sale of hydroquinone was not the primary concern, as you can obtain the cream with a prescription.  The issue was where it was or was not being sold.

cream application

Hydroquinone is an efficacious drug that has produced very good results.  However, it is a prescription and no drugs exist that do not have side effects or risks.  Hydroquinone should be used only under the direction of a physician.  The problem comes if the drug is under-estimated and thought of like a cosmetic that can be used for an indefinite amount of time.  If it is used too long, over 12 weeks, it can cause irreversible darkening and create a bluish hue to the skin, onchronosis.  Alternatively, some people can become resistant to hydroquinone and the hyperpigmentation can return if hydroquinone is used too long.

Lower concentrations (<4%) of hydroquinone can be sold outside of pharmacies and the concentration that your physician feels is medically appropriate can be sold or compounded at a pharmacy.  There are also non-hydroquinone products, like the ones by Dr. Obagi’s new line ZO, that can help with lightening in place of hydroquinone or during the time that you are cycling off of your prescription.  So, if you have sun spots or hyperpigmentation and/or loved the effect of Obagi in the past, you can still get good results, just by a little different means.


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