A Beauty Editor shares her top picks to deal with dark spots

You have finally cleared up your latest breakout. It’s time to celebrate! You look in the mirror, and you see a lot of dark spots. What should you do? This question has been a constant for me over the past decade because of my darker skin. Even though I use sunscreen and try to avoid picking at my skin, dark spots still appear. I have tried almost every product that claims to be able to remove dark spots, hyperpigmentation or post-acne scars over the years. Some? Useless. Some are transformative. It was not an easy task to find the best hyperpigmentation products.

My skincare focus was for a long time on quick fixes to hormonal breakouts. All the beauty mistakes I made are painfully obvious. All the classic errors were made. I slept with my makeup on too many occasions. I tried too many DIY acne treatments, like putting toothpaste on my breakouts and rubbing lemon juice on my dark patches. It was a constant irritation that caused my skin to become inflamed and itchy. There were also the years that I believed my oily skin meant that I didn’t have to use moisturizer, and my darker skin meant that I didn’t require sunscreen. I also had a passionate love affair with St. Ives Apricot Scrub in my acne-prone teen years.

My hormones have rebalanced to leave me with persistent hyperpigmentation and rare breakouts. My skincare journey has taught me one thing: patience is key. Easy solutions only make your skin worse. It doesn’t work if it takes too long. It can take several weeks for even the most effective hyperpigmentation products to show results. But don’t lose hope! You can forget about the past breakouts with guidance and consistency.

Continue reading to discover the top hyperpigmentation products that I have come across over the past decade as a beauty editor and skincare lover.

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation can be classified into three types. Each type has a different cause. Melasma can be a side effect or aging. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the darkened areas left by acne’s scarring. Sun-induced hyperpigmentation is the darker marks commonly called sunspots. Each person is different and needs to be treated accordingly. The first step to addressing hyperpigmentation is to identify the root cause.

How can I prevent hyperpigmentation?

If you don’t take preventative measures, even the best hyperpigmentation products won’t work. Sunscreen is universally effective in preventing melanin production from rising due to sun exposure. It will also prevent the sun-induced hyperpigmentation and aging effects, such as melasma.

A comprehensive skincare regimen tailored to your needs can help prevent hyperpigmentation. Clarifying your skin will prevent you from getting blemishes if you have sensitive skin. To encourage cell turnover, you can also add a prescription-retinoid like tretinoin to your regimen. Your skin will be transformed after a few weeks of the long-awaited retinol purge.

What professional treatments can help with hyperpigmentation?

Consult a dermatologist or esthetician to determine if professional treatments are right for you. This will allow you to go faster and get more immediate results. Cosmetic treatments can be used to superficially alter the skin. They target the top layer of your dermis and address hyperpigmentation. The best way to achieve results is to use professional treatments and the top hyperpigmentation products.

  • Chemical Peels

A chemical peel is one of the most common and effective treatments for hyperpigmentation. These have changed my life every time I have done them. The treatment took seven days to remove the top layer of my skin, revealing a smoother, clearer surface. You can decide how strong you want to achieve your goals with the help of a skin specialist. You’re now ready to go.

What is the downside to chemical peels? You will need to stay home for seven days while your skin literally peels off. That sounds awful. You don’t need to spend that much time, I have Zoom calls and places to go. Other treatments may give you faster results.

  • Laser Therapy

Another popular treatment for hyperpigmentation is laser therapy. Lasers penetrate the skin’s layers to promote cell turnover and target melanin. In turn, they fade dark spots by using consistent treatments. These are not suitable for all types of hyperpigmentation, and light therapy may make it worse.

  • Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion

For deep exfoliation, microdermabrasion and dermabrasion are also available in-office. Dermabrasion uses a faster brush to resurface the skin and reduce or remove scarring depths. It can take up three weeks for the process to fully heal. Microdermabrasion is a procedure that removes the skin’s surface with a handheld device. It does not require downtime. Multiple treatments can be very effective.

Talk to your dermatologist to determine which treatment is best for you type of hyperpigmentation. Doctors may also prescribe retinoids to increase cell turnover and treat external signs of aging such as hyperpigmentation and fine lines.

What ingredients should I look for in hyperpigmentation products?

There is hope for hyperpigmentation that goes beyond professional treatments and topical retinoids. You can easily fade dark spots with the right products over-the-counter. Experts recommend that you combine ingredients that boost cell turnover with ingredients that moisturize your skin and restore your lipid barrier, to protect yourself from further sun damage. This is how you can create a skincare routine that balances active ingredients with nourishing ones.

Look out for active ingredients such as azelaic, kojic, tranexamic, alpha hydroxy acids (like lactic acid and glycolic acid) and retinol. You should also include antioxidant stars such as vitamin C and niacinamide. Don’t forget to apply the best sunscreen for your skin type.

You can choose from one or more! Choose from one (or more) of these top hyperpigmentation products to brighten your skin and effectively fade scarring.

  • Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser

You know what you’re doing. Since the first time I tried it, this cleanser has been a staple of my skincare routine. This cleanser removes dead skin and impurities, resulting in a brighter complexion. It is rich in antioxidants such as strawberry seed oil and lycopene to brighten the skin and protect it from environmental stressors. Hydrolyzed wheat protein strengthens and fortifies the skin. It can be left on for up to 5-10 minutes to be used as an exfoliating masque.

  • The Whistling Thorn Daily Brightening Toner

Tone or not to tone? That is the question. This moisture-rich product will place you in the pro-toner group. It is a blend of soothing and hydrating ingredients such as licorice root extract, hyaluronic acids, and actives like kojic and azelaic acids. It has a smooth texture that is hydrating and tacky without feeling sticky. You can also feel the product working without experiencing any burning sensation. It’s gentle and effective and a great addition to your routine.

  • Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Clinical-Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel

This two-step process is not for everyone. Be aware: This two-step system is not for the faint of heart. If you are willing to dig in, this peel will be worth it. This peel contains a clinical-grade mix of AHAs and antioxidants, as well as bromelain. It is a great way to exfoliate your skin without destroying your moisture barrier.

  • Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment

This beloved treatment can be used to exfoliate your skin with a gentler, but equally effective, chemical method. This is a great product for even skin tone. Its powerful combination of lactic acid and lemongrass helps to increase radiance and lighten hyperpigmentation.

  • Renee Rouleau Vitamin C&E Treatment

Renee Rouleau, celebrity facialist, creates effective, targeted products that provide results tailored to your skin’s needs without irritation. For intense brightening, this serum is antioxidant-packed and contains multiple stable forms vitamin C as well as hydrating vitaminE. It is combined with licorice root (a natural exfoliant that corrects color) to lighten dark spots and remove blemishes.

  • Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment

Because it does everything, Niacinamide is a holy grail ingredient. It improves texture, protects against discoloration, and strengthens your moisture barrier. Your dark spots won’t be able to hide with multitasking niacinamide and targeted tranexamic acids.

  • Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Solution for Dark Spots

Everyone who has ever struggled with dark spots and stubborn skin lesions should have a small bottle of this corrective product in their arsenal. This product is the ultimate remedy for hyperpigmentation and has sold over a million bottles. Its effective formula was specifically created to treat dark spots after acne. For all skin types, this stable solution works with buffered salicylic acids, activated C (a stabilized vitamin C) and peony extract.

  • Naturium Multi Bright Tranexamic acid Treatment 5%

The highest concentration of tranexamic acids on the market is Naturium’s tranexamic emulsion. This serum is a great example of the popularity of tranexamic acid. It targets post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and blends tranexamic with encapsulated alpha arbutin (kojic acid), acetylglucosamine, and tranexamic to create a more radiant, even complexion.

  • Topicals Faded cream

Topicals also makes tranexamic acids-rich products. This cream was created by a Black woman tired of ineffective dark spots treatments. It is the only dark spot treatment that sells out. Transexamic acid and niacinamide are powerful ingredients that transform the complexion.

  • Hyper Skin Hyper Even Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum

Hyper Skin’s Hyper Even Serum, another Black-owned solution to hyperpigmentation, is packed with vitamin A to nourish skin cells and promote skin healing. It also brightens dark spots. Kojic acid is exfoliating, while hyaluronic acids retains moisture.

  • Ranavat Brightening Saffron Serum

Ranavat brings the power of saffron into skincare with its range of powerful, effective products. The brightening serum combines superfoods such as saffron and ayurvedic herbs with antioxidants to give your skin a healthy glow.

  • Cyspera Intensive Pigment Corrector

Cyspera, a clinical dark spot treatment that isn’t prescribed, is the best option if you want to go all out. An esthetician recommended it to me, stating that she had seen miracles in treating acne scarring. It can also be used to treat other scarring types, such as post-surgery scarring and bacne scarring. It is especially effective on the face because its cysteamine catalyst complex provides powerful antioxidant activity that improves stubborn dark spots.

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