Whether it’s from acne, trauma to the skin, sun exposure, or hormonal changes, hyperpigmentation can happen to anyone. Hyperpigmentation, or the overproduction of melanin, doesn’t discriminate based on age or skin tone, and at some point in our lives, most of us experience it. While the causes may vary widely, there are a few commonalities: Hyperpigmentation is stubborn, it’s often difficult to cover up (no matter how much concealer you use), and you probably want it gone yesterday.
For years, hydroquinone, a popular skin-lightening agent, was the gold standard in the battle against hyperpigmentation. While it still works, you have several newer treatment choices as well, from vitamin C and niacinamide (a compound derived from vitamin B3 that reduces inflammation) to retinol and glycolic acid (both chemical exfoliators).
Among these seven products, all of which reviewers claim fade hyperpigmentation, you’ll find multiple serums with a variety of active ingredients, so you can choose the one that’s best for your skin type. We’ve even thrown in a mask and an oil that tackles hyperpigmentation anywhere on your body.
1. To reduce signs of aging: CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum
Formulated with encapsulated retinol (for deeper penetration), niacinamide, licorice root extract, and three essential ceramides, Cerave’s Resurfacing Retinol Serum tackles hyperpigmentation to reduce the appearance of post-acne marks. Over time, this product claims to smooth the skin’s texture and brighten skin tone. CeraVe also restores and maintains skin’s natural barriers with controlled-release technology for long-lasting moisturization.
One Amazon reviewer raves: “I’ve now purchased five different CeraVe products, and my only complaint is, why didn’t I find them sooner? I’ve only been using this particular product for a few weeks, but I already see the difference. […] I started using the product every day, and after just a couple weeks, the dark areas were already much lighter and smoother. I highly recommend this for anyone trying to lighten scarring and smooth uneven skin tones and texture.”
2. To brighten: Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus
Hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, niacinamide, retinol, and salicylic acid are all blended together in a base of vitamin C in this Eva Naturals serum. The result is a skin brightening serum that gently exfoliates the skin, fades dark spots, and reduces the appearance of enlarged pores. The Eva Naturals Vitamin C serum is suited for all skin types and gentle enough for daily use. With over 11,000 ratings and reviews on Amazon, this is a must-have for many.
One happy Amazon customer writes: “This serum really works! I was amazed by the fast results, and I feel way more confident with my face and skin. I even cut back on makeup because I don’t have blemishes and dark scars to cover anymore. Not to mention I’ve always had extremely dry, flaky skin, but this serum makes me glow. Even family and friends recognized the change and asked what I’m doing different[ly].”
3. To banish fine lines and wrinkles: Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum
Formulated with antioxidants to protect the skin against free radicals that age the skin, Mario Badescu’s Vitamin C Serum claims to not only brighten your complexion but also to diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles. With a blend of vitamin C, collagen, and hyaluronic acid, this highly-rated serum combats hyperpigmentation and plumps and smooths skin.
One Amazon reviewer writes: “Noticed a difference in my face within weeks of using this product! My hyperpigmentation began to fade (finally), and my overall skin just looked brighter and more glowy.”
Get the Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum on Amazon for $45
4. To exfoliate: Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
The Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum contains two percent hydroquinone (the maximum amount you can get over the counter without a prescription), glycolic acid, brightening peptides, and vitamin C that work to nix dark spots, whether they’re from age or sun damage. Glycolic acid gently exfoliates as hydroquinone targets hyperpigmentation and fades dark spots quickly. To round it all out, brightening peptides and Vitamin C brighten and improve overall skin tone. Murad Rapid Age Pigment Lightening Serum is suitable for all skin types ranging from dry to oily.
One Sephora reviewer notes: “After using this product for about five days, I could notice my scars beginning to lighten. Then by day 10, most of my scars had gotten much lighter to the point that my sister and mother were shocked.”
5. To fade sun and age spots: Proactiv Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Serum
Proactiv’s Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Serum contains hydroquinone to fade dark spots caused by sun damage, freckles, and age spots. But this serum is also infused with sea buckthorn berry oil (an antioxidant that helps calm the skin and reduce irritation) and citric acid to brighten the skin. Be forewarned, though, if you’re sensitive to smells: A few users noted that while this serum works well, it has a strong “sulfur” like smell.
One Sephora reviewer noticed a difference in only two weeks: “My daughter has brown skin, and when she gets a pimple, it sometimes causes that area to scar a darker brown color where the pimple was. This stuff has been the only thing that has made a difference in reducing the darker pigment areas on her face! We noticed a difference in literally less than two weeks, and with continued use, her spots have almost completely faded away.”
6. To buff away dead skin: Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Exfoliating Mask
This mask from Andalou is like pumpkin spice in a jar, but for your face. Its blend of fruit stem cells and glycolic acid exfoliates the skin, pumpkin helps to turn over skin cells for a smoother complexion, and aloe vera and manuka honey moisturize.
One Amazon reviewer saw drastic results in the look of her skin: “My complexion always looks brighter and fresh the next morning after I use this product. (I mostly use this product at night and pair it with the Tree of Life vitamin C serum also sold here on Amazon.) I have sensitive skin, and it’s been great for it so far. I haven’t had any burns or breakouts from this product (be aware when you first put this on it has a bit of a strong tingling sensation but it goes away after a few mins so don’t worry). My pores are smaller, my acne scars and hyperpigmentation have faded drastically, and it even helps shrink the size of pimples I have!”
7. To improve the appearance of scars: Bio-Oil Skincare Oil
With “good for you skin” ingredients like vitamin E, vitamin A, chamomile oil, and lavender oil, Bio-Oil increases your skin’s moisture and addresses concerns like uneven skin tone and texture caused by hormonal changes and sun damage. This body oil works for all skin types and it can be used on any area of the body, and reviewers say it’s done wonders for their stretch marks and scars.
“Omg, this stuff is the best!” one Amazon reviewer gushes. “Not only is it one of the best facial moisturizers I’ve ever used (yes, I totally replaced my moisturizer with this), but it also helps so much with dark spots from acne. will definitely be using this forever.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.