Those with darker skin are particularly prone to hyperpigmentation – a skin condition that is tricky to treat.
We’ll discuss the best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin, as well as treatment options for more stubborn cases.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation refers to the darkening of the skin in certain spots.
These spots visually manifest when melanocytes (skin cells that produce melanin) are triggered to produce an excess of melanin as a way to protect the skin.
While all people have approximately the same number of melanocytes, the size of and distribution of melanosomes in the skin (which transport the melanin) directly impacts how dark the skin is.
Hyperpigmentation is primarily caused by sun exposure. However, trauma to the skin – such as popping pimples – also causes the spots, as do influxes in hormones.
Why is Hyperpigmentation More Prevalent in Dark Skin?
Hyperpigmentation tends to affect those with darker skin more frequently, due to the fact that darker skin tends to produce more melanin in response to inflammation.
This is especially true of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. In which are dark spots that develop at the site of previous inflammation. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons people with dark skin seek out professional help from a dermatologist.
Fortunately, there are many topical products (both over-the-counter and prescription strength) that work to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation in dark skin, as well as professional treatment options.
Best Products for Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin
Now that we’ve covered some of the top ingredients to look for, here are the best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin.
1. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1%
This product, which is a retinoid, comes recommended by Leighanne. It contains a 0.1% concentration of adapalene, a strength that has recently become available over-the-counter. This gel promotes skin cell turnover, and also helps reduce breakouts.
How to Use: At night, cleanse the face, and then apply a small amount to affected areas (or all over the face). Then, follow up with a moisturizer to avoid dryness. When starting to use this product, start applying a few nights a week, and then gradually moving to nightly application. Therefore minimizing the risk of irritation. Leighanne also recommends first applying a thin layer of moisturizer and then following up with the product, as it will also minimize irritation.
2. Paula’s Choice Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser 7% AHA Lotion
This treatment lotion feature hydroquinone, glycolic acid, and kojic acid, making it one of the best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin. The hydroquinone and kojic acid work to lighten and brighten the skin, while glycolic acid (as well as lactic acid, another AHA) work by exfoliating the skin to reveal fresh skin underneath. This lotion also contains antioxidants that nurture the skin.
How to Use: At night, cleanse and dry the skin, and then apply the lotion to any area of the skin where hyperpigmentation is present. Follow up with a moisturizer to fight dryness.
3. The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
This product contains a 10% concentration of azelaic acid, which speeds up the cell turnover rate. It brightens the overall tone of the skin, while also evening out texture. The cream-gel formula (which comes from cult-favorite skincare brand The Ordinary) absorbs easily into the skin, and can be used 2 times per day.
How to Use: Cleanse and dry your skin. Dispense the product into your hands, and then gently massage into your skin. Follow up with a moisturizer. You can use this product 1 to 2 times daily.
4. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant
Exfoliating glycolic acid is the key ingredient in this gel serum, making it one of the best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin. It has a lightweight texture that absorbs quickly. Plus, the serum has the ability to fight the visible signs of aging.
How to Use: Cleanse and dry the skin. Next, massage the product into your skin. Last, follow up with a moisturizer. You may apply it day or night. Finish off with a sunscreen during the day.
5. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum
This serum combines brightening vitamin C with konjac root, ferulic acid, and hyaluronic acid to provide a hydrating, softening, smoothing, and anti-aging punch. The combination of ingredients makes it not only effective for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, but also for improving the overall look and feel of the skin. Moreover, it is all natural, vegan, and cruelty-free. Lastly, it is one of the best vitamin C serums on Amazon.
How to Use: Cleanse and dry your skin. Dispense the product onto your fingers and gently massage into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer. Use at night.
6. Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF 50
While this product won’t directly treat hyperpigmentation, sun protection is vital for preventing new spots from appearing. It also will help current spots heal faster. “Sun protection is key,” says Dr. Oluwatobi Ogbechie-Godec, MD, MBA, a board-certified dermatologist at APDerm. “A few hours of sun can undo weeks of using a topical product. I always tell patients to use sun protection every morning and to reapply as needed.”
This is a cult-favorite chemical sunscreen that shields the skin from the sun. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which hydrates the skin. Furthermore, it is waterproof and has both UVA and UVB protection. The formula is lightweight and absorbs well without leaving a greasy film. Lastly, it is one of the best sunscreens to prevent tanning.
How to Use: Apply to the skin prior to sun exposure. If swimming, reapply after 80 minutes in the water.
Safe Ingredients for Managing Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin
When you are looking for the best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin, it is vital that you pay close attention to the ingredients. These are some of the ingredients that have been proven to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, and are safe to use on darker skin:
1. Kojic Acid
Kojic acid is commonly used as a skin lightening agent to treat dark spots.
It is found in a variety of over-the-counter skincare products. “Kojic acid works to disrupt pigment production in the skin by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in the production of melanin,” says Leighanne McGill, a certified Physician Assistant at Dermatology and Laser Center of Chapel Hill in North Carolina.
“Derived from fungi during the fermentation process, kojic acid can treat several types of hyperpigmentation, including melasma, sun spots, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”
Many of the best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin contain retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A.
Retinoids are effective for treating hyperpigmentation because they increase skin cell turnover and collagen production.
You’ll find lower strength retinoid products over-the-counter, but products with a higher concentration are also available through a prescription. Leighanne notes that Adapalene 0.1% gel, which is a prescription strength retinoid, became available over-the-counter in recent years.
3. Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid, which is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), exfoliates the top layer of the skin. Over time, this exfoliation process works to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. There are plenty of over-the-counter products that contain glycolic acid. Many professional strength chemical peels will also contain glycolic acid, combined with other acids.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is well-known for its skin brightening abilities, and is one of the ingredients often used in the best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin. The antioxidant has the ability to repair UV damage to the skin, protect against future sun damage, and even increase collagen levels.
5. Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is an excellent choice for treating hyperpigmentation, as it speeds up cell turnover rates. As a result, it can even out the skin’s texture and minimize the appearance of spots. Azelaic acid is found in a variety of over-the-counter topical products. Additionally it is also available in a higher prescription strength.
This bleaching ingredient is often used to lighten hyperpigmentation.
Hydroquinone products are available to buy at a lower strength at the drugstore, although you can also get prescription strength (6% and higher) from a medical professional. While the ingredient is effective, it should also be used with care.
“I caution use of this ingredient without consulting a dermatology professional,” says Leighanne. “Prolonged use of hydroquinone can cause exogenous ochronosis, a condition manifested by blue-gray discoloration in the skin.”
Professional Options for Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin
For more stubborn cases, there are professional treatment options, including the following:
1. Chemical Peels
In this treatment, a strong exfoliating chemical solution is applied to the skin. Typically, the solution will contain exfoliating ingredients to target the patients unique needs. It may include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and/or lactic acid.
“Superficial chemical peels are generally well tolerated by darker skin tones,” says Dr. Ogbechie-Godec. “Generally the peeling with superficial treatments is mild and peaks at days 2 to 3 after the treatment was applied.” Patients typically need a series of around 3 to 6 peels.
2. Laser Therapy
Dr. Ogbechie-Godec recommends fractionated resurfacing lasers for treating hyperpigmentation in darker skin. “With fractionated resurfacing technology, a percentage of the skin is treated, leaving fields of untreated skin,” she says.
“This allows for impressive decreases in hyperpigmentation in darker skin types.” She recommends consulting with a dermatologist who specializes in lasers, as overexposure may actually end up promoting pigmentation.
When to See a Professional
If you have tried some of the above products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin and haven’t seen results, consult a dermatologist. Furthermore, Leighanne recommends setting up an appointment in order to get desired results. After all, a dermatologist can provide professional options, or may prescribe a prescription-strength topical.
Summary: 6 Best Products for Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin
- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% (Retinoid)
- Paula’s Choice Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser 7% AHA Lotion (Hydroquinone)
- The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (Azelaic Acid)
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant (AHA)
- Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum (Vitamin C)
- Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence Sunscreen SPF 50 (Sunscreen)
How do you get rid of hyperpigmentation on dark skin?
The best products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin will have ingredients like kojic acid, retinoids, hydroquinone, glycolic acid, azelaic acid, and/or vitamin C. Additionally, chemical peels and laser treatments are also effective and suitable for darker skin.
What products get rid of hyperpigmentation?
Brightening and exfoliating products are the best choice for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Sunscreen is also essential for preventing further damage.
How do you fade hyperpigmentation?
To fade hyperpigmentation, you should consistently apply a topical product that targets the problem. In the event that you don’t see results, talk to a dermatologist about professional treatments or prescription-strength topicals.
The Bottom Line
Darker skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation, but it is possible to treat. Products containing kojic acid, retinoids, hydroquinone, glycolic acid, azelaic acid, and vitamin C have all been proven to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Chemical peels and laser treatments are also effective for more stubborn spots.