Will Neostrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel Review Work For You?

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If you find yourself frustrated by dark spots on your body, a lightening cream might be a worthwhile addition to your skincare routine. Despite their mixed reputation, these lotions can be effective at decreasing the visibility of age spots, freckles, scars, and other skin discolorations.

Keep reading for our full review of one of our favorites available on the market today.

Product History

As found on the NeoStrata.com website, the NeoStrata brand was developed by Dr. Eugene Van Scott and Dr. Ruey Yu in 1988, after more than 20 years working together studying diseases of the skin. They discovered that over fifty percent of all skin problems are due to difficulties in shedding dead cells, and set out to find ways to positively influence the formation of new layers of the skin.

In 1975, the doctors discovered a class of compounds, alpha-hydroxyacids (AHAs), that had a tremendous effect on the “development, maturation and turnover of both normal and diseased epidermal skin.” That discovery became their first patent, and the basis of all their subsequent work (they now hold over 80 patents). NeoStrata Company, Inc., located in Princeton, NJ, continues their research developing and marketing skin care brands including NeoStrata, Exuviance, CoverBlend, and NeoStrata Therapeutics. NeoStrata and Exuviance products are sold in over 75 countries worldwide.

Products and Claims

According to the NeoStrata.com website, NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel is an essential skin lightening gel with Hydroquinone and Polyhydroxy Acids to gently exfoliate and fade dark spots, enhance cell turnover and lighten pigmentation concerns.

Specifically, it contains both 10% Polyhydroxy Acids and 2% Hydroquinone (HQ) to help remove hyperpigmentation. On top of that, antioxidant chelators are added to help capture the naturally occurring pigment promoting metals already present in the skin. Furthermore, it enhances cell turnover by gently exfoliating dark spots.

Clinical laboratory

That seems like a lot of technical information, we know. To clarify this information further, think about it this way.

The 10% Polyhydroxy Acids found in NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel helps remove hyperpigmentation by gently exfoliating dark spots and enhancing cell turnover. Then, the highly effective Hydroquinone (HQ) swoops in to lighten mottled pigmentation. For an extra boost, you’ve got Kojic Acid and licorice extract, both natural, botanical brighteners, working to promote an even complexion and smooth out your skin tone.

Antioxidant chelators help capture pigment promoting metals to help prevent new discolorations from developing. This means that they’re using what your skin already has to heal itself and look better. That’s a huge benefit over either adding a lot of new materials into your system or providing a temporary cover-up. The result is significantly brighter skin with noticeably more even pigmentation.

This product is impressively diverse. NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel will effectively lighten all skin discolorations, including, but not limited to freckles, age spots and hyperpigmentation that may occur from pregnancy or from the use of oral contraceptives.

Now, you’re probably wondering if this is all big talk and if it’s truly as effective as it claims. NeoStrata NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel is clinically proven to reduce discolorations and dark spots.

  • After 6 weeks, 77% of participants showed improvement in their pigmented spots all over their body.
  • After 12 weeks, an astounding 100% of the participants saw an  improvement in their pigmented spots. To break these results down further, 83% of participants noticed lightening on their age spots, 77% of participants agreed that their age spots were lighter, and 52% of participants noticed an improvement in pigmented spots, both age spots and lesions.

After the 12 week trial, 71% of participants admitted that they liked the gel better than their usual product.

It’s important to note that these tests on the product were used in combination with other products. These results can be expected when used as an anti-aging regimen with NeoStrata Facial Cleanser, NeoStrata Oil Free Lotion SPF 15 and NeoStrata Bio-Hydrating Cream.

Neostrata before and after testimonial


As listed on the NeoStrata.com website, the key ingredients in this lightening lotion are Gluconolactone, Lactobionic Acid, Hydroquinone, and Kojic Acid.

The primary active ingredient is Hydroquinone at a 2% concentration. Inactive ingredients include: Alcohol Denat., Arginine, BHT, CI 17200 (Red 33), CI 19140 (Yellow 5), Citric Acid, Gluconolactone, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Extract, Kojic Acid, Lactobionic Acid, Oxalic Acid, Polyquaternium-10, Potassium Hydroxide, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Bisulfite, Sodium Sulfite, and Water.

A bonus to this product system is that the cream is oil-free, fragrance-free,  paraben-free, and Paba-Free. This provides extra assurance that what you’re putting on your body is safe and healthy.

Regimen Recommendations

The directions for application are extremely straightforward. Here’s how to use it for best results, according to the NeoStrata.com website:

First, apply a thin layer on the affected area twice daily or as directed by a doctor. That’s all there is to it! Anyone can add that into their day.

The website also notes that if no improvement is seen after 3 months of treatment using the regimen exactly as described, discontinue use. Keep in mind that lightening effects may not be noticeable when used on very dark skin.

It’s important that you also limit sun exposure during and after use to prevent the skin darkening from recurring. Use a sunblocking agent or wear protective clothing.


There were only 8 reviews listed on the NeoStrata website for this product, and after reading them, we of course looked elsewhere on the internet. And the overwhelming result was definitely positive, regardless of the site where we found the reviews.

Of those consumers who purchased the NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel, most found it to be very effective on lightening age/sun spots and evening skin tone. Some had tried a previous cream formulation, and while the gel took a few tries to get used to, they agreed it produced the same effect. Many people had been prescribed this product after seeing a dermatologist, and a good portion of those suffered from acne scars and melasma, but still managed to see results with the HQ gel.

There were a few negative reviews to be found, though. A portion of those said that the effectives were not worthy of the price tag, some complained of the strong smell. There were a handful of reviews we found that said the HQ gel caused a rash or reaction on their skin. But most negative reviews simply stated that the product did not work at all for them.

Overall Rating

As this was not our first review of a NeoStrata product, we already knew that their website was fantastic. A sketchy website can speak volumes for not just the products sold there, but also the transparency of the company/brand, and the possible (probable) difficulties you will have communicating with them should anything go wrong with your purchase.

But the NeoStrata website remains one of the most informative and thorough that we’ve seen, both with regard to the actual products as well as the company itself. Each product was described in good detail, with ingredients fully listed.

In terms of the NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel, we love the proven science and technology behind the product. The AHA and PHA exfoliants work brilliantly on many skin types, but especially on conditions such as acne, psoriasis, melasma, dark spots, and other effects of ageing skin. We also were impressed by the long-standing history of the brand, as well as the large number of positive reviews found all over the internet.

Skin lightening product model

On the negative side…well…we couldn’t find much in the way of negatives with this product. Yes, some people complained of a strong smell, but if you’ve used other AHA, PHA, and glycolic acid products, you should be expecting some degree of a strong smell.

There were those who said it either didn’t work at all or caused an irritation/rash/breakout… but not all ingredients are suitable for all skin types.

Those with extremely sensitive skin might indeed have a reaction, but that simply means that testing areas are needed before use (however, those with sensitive skin most likely already know this is a good practice for them).

People also complained of the price. And yes, it is on the mid-to-high end of the skin care pricing spectrum…but hey, you get what you pay for. And in this case, for the large majority, they are paying for a really good and effective product.

One thing we have mentioned before with NeoStrata…since it is dermatologist-developed, we would like to see more products offered for those with milder concerns, such as the sensitive skin issues mentioned above. That would mean NeoStrata would have to start introducing products with BHA, as opposed to AHA and PHA, since BHA is a much more tolerable mild exfoliant for a broader range of skin types.

Overall though, if you are looking for a skin lightening gel that works, the NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel is absolutely worth it!

Our rating: 4.8 (out of 5)

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Avatar for Megan Foley

Megan has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. In that time, she’s penned a diverse collection of articles for online publication, with a focus on skincare and beauty. From in-depth product reviews to concise marketing content, Megan is passionate about developing content that informs, entertains, and inspires.