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Hyperpigmentation is a condition that causes patches of skin to darken in color. It is usually harmless and can affect all skin tones. There are various products that can help fade patches of dark skin, and they may also have other skin benefits.

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This article discusses hyperpigmentation in more detail and some products that work to minimize dark areas on the skin. It also lists some answers to frequently asked questions.

Learn more about hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin produces excess melanin — natural pigmentation found mostly in the skin. The affected areas may simply look like freckles or age spots.

According to the National Cancer Institute, some factors that can lead to hyperpigmentation include:

Acne.org lists some ingredients that can help to fade dark spots, including:

  • Azelaic acid: Doctors usually prescribe azelaic acid for people who have acne, but it can also slow down melanin production. It suits all skin tones, but it may take up to 6 months for an individual to notice improvements.
  • Retinoids: These include tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene, and people can use them with hydroquinone to treat hyperpigmentation. An older study found that a daily retinoid treatment lightened dark skin patches in most participants.
  • Hydroquinone: This is a skin lightening agent that bleaches the skin and may cause some side effects such as redness and itching. People who use ascorbic acid or vitamin C with this treatment may have a reduced chance of developing these side effects.

A person looking for a product that addresses hyperpigmentation may want to consider:

  • Skin type: People should choose a product that is suitable for their skin type. Some brands offer items that work on all skin types and tones.
  • Ingredients: The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends that individuals with darker skin tones look for products that contain vitamin C, kojic acid, or azelaic acid.
  • Review photos: Some brands have before and after photos on their website that show how the skin may respond to treatment and how it may look after a person applies their product.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products that clearly list all ingredients.
  • Skin concerns: Where appropriate, MNT selects products that target a specific skin concern, such as dryness, oiliness, or aging.
  • Safety: MNT chooses products that contain ingredients safe for topical use.
  • Reputable: MNT selects products from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

The products available for hyperpigmentation come with several advantages and some disadvantages.

Pros

  • Gluten-free products are available.
  • Products may come without fragrance, parabens, and sulfates.
  • They may address multiple skin concerns.
  • Some subscription options may make products more affordable.

Cons

  • Products may not work on all skin types.
  • Some products may be expensive.
  • Some products may cause side effects such as redness and itching.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Various products are suitable for people with hyperpigmentation. Below are several options a person can consider.

Best for reducing aging spots: The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

Price$10–19 for 30 milliliters (ml)
Skin typenormal, combination, dry
Volume30 ml and 60 ml
Main ingredientspurified alpha-arbutin and hyaluronic acid

This cruelty-free product claims to help reduce the appearance of age spots and improve skin tone. The company writes that this formulation contains a high concentration of 2% alpha arbutin, which is stronger than beta arbutin. According to the company, a standard concentration is 1%.

It is vegan, gluten-free, and does not contain alcohol or silicone.

The company recommends that people apply a few drops to their face in the morning and evening, and avoid using it around their eyes.

A person should also consider carrying out a patch test before including this product in their skin care routine, and they should see a doctor if they develop an irritation that does not improve.

A person can consider the following pros and cons of this product:

Pros:

  • may reduce aging spots
  • affordable
  • cruelty-free
  • vegan
  • gluten-free
  • alcohol-free
  • oil-free

Cons:

  • may irritate sensitive skin
  • some users claim it is ineffective

Best for all skin types: SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum

Price$160
Skin typeall skin types
Volume60 ml
Main ingredientstranexamic acid, phenylmethyl resorcinol, marine extract blend, and phytic acid

SkinMedica’s serum claims to correct the appearance of hyperpigmentation, improve skin texture, and prevent new dark spots from developing.

According to SkinMedica’s website, Lytera 2.0 works on every skin type, and people may notice results within 2 weeks.

Individuals can apply one pump in the morning and evening to their face, neck, chest, or other areas. They can do so after cleansing and toning the skin, and before applying moisturizer and sunscreen.

The pros and cons of this product may include:

Pros:

  • fast results
  • may prevent dark spots
  • improves skin texture
  • formulated for all skin types
  • paraben-free
  • fragrance-free
  • non-comedogenic

Cons:

  • expensive

Best non-irritating: First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Serum

Price$42
Skin typedry, normal, combination, oily skin
Volume1 fluid ounce (fl oz)
Main ingredientsniacinamide, licorice root, golden kiwifruit, and undecylenoyl phenylalanine

This First Aid Beauty product may suit individuals who have dry, normal, combination, or oily skin types, and those who have dark spots or uneven skin tone.

The formulation claims to help soothe the skin, restore texture, and make the skin appear more even-toned.

According to the company, this product is vegan, gluten- and cruelty-free, and does not contain artificial fragrance.

First Aid Beauty recommends that a person applies three or four drops to their fingertips to then spread on the affected area. They can use the serum in the morning and evening after cleansing the skin.

A person can consider the pros and cons of this First Aid Beauty product:

Pros:

  • vegan
  • gluten-free
  • cruelty-free
  • paraben-free
  • nut-free
  • nano-free
  • dermatologist tested
  • fragrance free
  • non-comedogenic
  • alcohol-free

Cons:

  • some users claimed product caused breakouts
  • some reports that product is not effective

Best hydrating: MELE Even Dark Spot Control Serum

Price$23.99
Skin typenormal, combination
Volume1 fl oz
Main ingredientsniacinamide, hexylresorcinol, and retinyl propionate

The ingredients in this serum may help reduce dark spots and even skin tone. The company claims that this formulation is free from parabens, alcohol, mineral oils, and phthalates.

Individuals can apply this serum in the morning or at night, and after cleansing or toning their skin. According to online reviews, the serum feels light on the skin and people can use it as a moisturizer.

The pros and cons a person can consider may include:

Pros:

  • hydrating
  • anti-aging
  • may be suitable for acne-prone skin
  • paraben-free
  • alcohol-free
  • mineral oil-free
  • phthalate-free

Cons:

  • company tests products on animals
  • some reports that product does not reduce dark spots

Best for acne marks: SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense

Price$102
Skin typedry, normal, oily, combination
Volume1 ounce (oz)
Main ingredientstranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, and hepes

This SkinCeuticals product claims to help brighten the skin by correcting difficult to treat dark spots. The company claims the product yields a 60% average improvement in the appearance of brown patches.

It may also help reduce the appearance of post-acne marks.

The formulation of this serum may suit those with dry, normal, oily, or combination skin types, and a person can apply three to five drops to their face twice per day.

The company recommends using SkinCeuticals vitamin C and a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 or higher after applying this serum in the morning.

Also, many users who wrote product reviews said that the formulation is lightweight and helps fade their acne scars.

Pros:

  • can be used daily
  • product has been clinically tested
  • may reduce appearance of acne scars
  • paraben-free
  • silicone-free
  • gluten-free
  • hydroquinone-free

Cons:

  • expensive
  • may not be suitable for sensitive skin

Best for mature skin: Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade IPL Dark Spot Correcting Serum

Price$92
Skin typeall skin types
Volume1 fl oz
Main ingredientslactic acid, kojic acid, and arbutin

The manufacturer claims this correcting serum’s formulation is suitable for all skin types, and the ingredients it contains may help fade dark spots, firm the skin, and even out tone. The lactic acid helps remove dead hyperpigmented cells located on the skin’s surface.

Those who are aged 60 years and over have also noted its effectiveness at correcting sun spots on the hands and forearms.

The company states that individuals can apply this serum in the morning or evening when their skin is dry.

Reviews note that this correcting serum is lightweight and quickly absorbed.

Pros:

  • antioxidant properties
  • may fade sunspots
  • may firm skin
  • may even out skin tone
  • lightweight
  • easily absorbed

Cons:

  • expensive
  • can take up to 8 weeks to see results

Best for detoxifying the skin: Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturizer

Price$79
Skin typedry, sensitive, combination
Volume1.7 fl oz
Main ingredientsmarrubium plant stem cells, sunflower, cucumber and barley botanical blend, and vitamin C

This product may benefit individuals with combination, dry, or sensitive skin types.

The company claims it plumps the skin to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles and reverses dehydration that develops from pollutants. The company cites a study by Unilever that posits blue light can negatively impact the skin, and Murad claims this overnight moisturizer can help to combat these effects.

However, this study is not easily accessible online, and more research is needed to back up this claim.

Reviewers note that this moisturizer is not greasy and leaves the skin feeling smooth.

Users should apply the product before bed after cleansing and toning.

Pros:

  • detoxifies skin
  • reduces appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • hydrates skin
  • protects skin from pollutants
  • non-greasy formula

Cons:

  • study cited by company is not readily available
  • expensive

Best for brightening the skin: Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex 30%

Price$164
Skin typedry, oily, combination
Volume1 fl oz
Main ingredientsvitamin C, sodium carboxymethyl beta-glucan, and diglucosyl gallic acid

Revision Skincare claims this product suits all skin types and can help firm the skin, make it appear brighter, and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

The company’s patent-pending MelaPATH technology includes antioxidants that may combat free radicals. This formulation also includes a stable form of vitamin C, THD ascorbate, that the company states brightens the skin.

According to the product description, there are no dyes, fragrances, parabens, or sulfates in the formulation.

The company’s website states that individuals should use this product on cleansed skin in the morning and evening. They should also use it before applying moisturizer.

Pros:

  • antioxidant properties
  • may brighten skin
  • may reduce appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
  • dye-free
  • fragrance-free
  • paraben-free
  • sulfate-free

Cons:

  • expensive
  • small product size
  • may not be suitable for sensitive skin

The table below provides a comparison of each of the products included in this article.

Best forProConPriceSize
The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HAreducing aging spotsaffordablemay irritate sensitive skin$10–1930 ml
SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serumall skin typesworks quicklyexpensive$1602 fl oz
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Serumnon-irritatingveganreports product caused breakouts$421 fl oz
MELE Even Dark Spot Control Serumhydratingmay be suitable for acne-prone skintested on animals$23.991 fl oz
SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defenseacne markslightweightexpensive$1021 fl oz
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refinerfine lines and wrinklesantioxidant propertiesnot formulated to combat dark spots$25–8010 ml, 30 ml, 50 ml
Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Dark Spot Correcting Serummature skinmay fade sunspotscan take 8 weeks to see results$921 fl oz
Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturizerdetoxifyingnon-greasy formulastudies cited not readily available$791.7 fl oz
Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex 30%brighteningcontains stable vitamin Cexpensive$1641 fl oz

A person should speak to a doctor if they experience hyperpigmentation, as some types of cancer can cause the skin, moles, or freckles, to change shape or color.

If a person experiences skin irritation or an allergic reaction after using their skincare products, they should stop using the product and seek advice from a health professional.

A dermatologist may be able to help a person work out what is causing their hyperpigmentation and find the most effective treatment.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association writes that skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis can all cause hyperpigmentation, especially in darker skin tones. Skin injuries and certain skin care products can also cause hyperpigmentation.

Seeing a dermatologist to treat any existing skin conditions may help a person manage their hyperpigmentation.

Below are some of the top frequently asked questions about hyperpigmentation.

What do dermatologists recommend for hyperpigmentation?

The AAD recommends that people use sunscreen to help clear dark spots and prevent new dark areas from forming. It is best to choose a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection and offers SPF 30 or higher.

Individuals can also check that the product contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and that the formulation does not clog pores, as this may prove problematic for those with oily skin.

Learn more about choosing a sunscreen.

How do you quickly fade hyperpigmentation?

Acne.org states that individuals should wear sunscreen and limit the time they expose their skin to the sun.

They should also avoid picking at acne lesions, as this can worsen pigmentation.

How long does it take for hyperpigmentation to fade?

The AAD explains that dark spots can take 6-12 months to fade, and if the darker pigment is deep into the skin, healing may take years.

However, using the right treatment can help speed up the healing process.

Many companies stock products for people with hyperpigmentation and some may also help address other skin problems, such as redness, dryness, and acne.

However, a person who is interested in purchasing a hyperpigmentation product should consider various factors before committing to a purchase. These include customer reviews, skin type, and ingredients.