Our editors independently research, and recommend the best products; learn more about our editorial policy. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links; learn more about how we make money.
Retinol is an excellent skincare ingredient to use if you’re looking to fade hyperpigmentation, because it boosts cell turnover and stimulates collagen production. Here is a guide to the best retinols for hyperpigmentation.
1. Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
Neutrogena Retinol for Moisturization and Anti-Aging
This anti-aging moisturizer is a great way to add retinol to your routine, as the addition of moisturizing ingredients may help mitigate some of the irritation often associated with retinol. The cream contains retinol SA, which works to smooth lines and even skin tone. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which pulls moisture to the skin for healthy hydration levels.
May cause irritation
In addition to the hydrating benefits, hyaluronic acid has been shown to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which makes this drugstore moisturizer even more effective for anti-aging. Even though the hydrating ingredients may mitigate the irritating effects of retinol, if you’re new to this skincare ingredient or have sensitive skin, you may want to start by using this cream every other day or every two days to see how your skin reacts.
This is an excellent choice for those looking for an affordable retinol. This fragrance-free retinol serum not only helps with acne scars and large pores, but it can also help fight signs of aging and brighten the skin.
Developed with dermatologists
May cause irritation or dryness
This non-comedogenic retinol serum also contains ceramides and niacinamide, which work to calm and restore the skin while maintaining its barrier. Additionally, this formula contains licorice root extract, which gives a brightening boost. That extra benefit may further help lighten discolored scars.
This over-the-counter anti-aging retinol contains retinaldehyde, a potent retinoid, as well as other ingredients that help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, plump the skin, and protect against free radicals for a youthful complexion.
Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals:
How to use: At night, after cleansing and drying the skin, apply to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
The star ingredient of this over-the-counter, fragrance-free retinol treatment is retinaldehyde. This kind of retinoid is one of the strongest that you can get without a prescription, and it has been proven to stimulate collagen production, smooth the appearance of wrinkles, and brighten skin tone. It also contains peptides that help plump the skin.
Formulated to minimize the risk of allergic reactions
Contains color additives
May cause irritation (especially for those new to using retinoids)
In addition to the peptides and retinaldehyde, this anti-aging treatment cream contains vitamin E, an antioxidant, as well as Avène thermal spring water, which is meant to soothe and soften the skin.
This is a cult-favorite The Ordinary product, and one of the best for preventing and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without the irritation often associated with traditional retinol.
Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Anti-Aging
Tested on animals:
How to use: At night, after cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
The unique, next-generation retinoid actives in this serum makes it one of the best The Ordinary products for those who want to use a retinol but are worried about irritation. Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) are well-known for preventing and reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.
Vegan and cruelty-free
Those with retinoid experience may prefer a stronger product
This product contains granactive retinoid, a complex of solubilized hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR). This form of retinoid offers anti-aging benefits without the irritation associated with retinol (which is also a vitamin A derivative). It also contains retinol that comes in a protective capsule to further prevent irritation, boost anti-aging benefits, and support the granactive retinoid.
Retinol is the gold-standard for minimizing wrinkles, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation. Those who are experienced with retinoid products may prefer the Retinol 1% in Squalane over the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, as it is more potent. However, with the higher strength comes a higher risk of irritation, so it is best suited for those who’ve used retinoid products in their routine.
Vegan and cruelty-free
High likelihood of irritation, especially as skin adapts to the product
This serum contains squalane and jojoba oil, two ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin. They may help minimize the irritation caused by the retinol.
Retinol is an incredibly effective ingredient for diminishing wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of sodium hyaluronate and niacinamide make this a soothing, hydrating, and effective anti-aging product.
This serum contains a gradual release retinol, which slowly acts on the skin for maximum efficacy and better tolerance.
Retinol is the gold-standard for fighting signs of aging, so this is an excellent choice for those with wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of soothing and hydrating ingredients helps counteract some of the potential irritating side effects of retinol.
May irritate more sensitive skin types
This serum contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin, as well as licorice extract and oat extract, which soothe and calm redness.
How long does it take retinol to get rid of hyperpigmentation?
This largely depends on the severity of your hyperpigmentation and how your skin reacts to the retinol. In general, with consistent use, you should begin to see improvements in the appearance of your hyperpigmentation within about four to six weeks.
How can I lighten my hyperpigmentation fast?
Unfortunately, there is no way to fade hyperpigmentation super quickly, but using the right skincare products will help speed up the healing process. In addition to using a retinol, consider adding a chemical exfoliant containing AHAs and/or a vitamin C serum to your skincare routine, as these ingredients will further help fade hyperpigmentation. Retinol, a chemical exfoliant, and a vitamin C serum should be used at different times. Additionally, it’s important to wear sunscreen daily to protect the skin. Damage from the sun can make hyperpigmentation worse (and can also lead to new spots), and this will only make it harder to fade these marks.
Does retinol lighten skin?
No, retinol will not lighten the skin. It helps fade hyperpigmentation for a more even complexion, but it won’t lighten your overall skin tone.
The Bottom Line
If you are dealing with hyperpigmentation, retinol is a great ingredient to add to your skincare routine, since it is known to lighten dark marks and promote a more even complexion. Add one of these retinol products to your routine to speed up the process of fading hyperpigmentation.
About the author
Kyra is a content writer based in Los Angeles, CA. She works in the health and wellness sphere, and covers everything from beauty to skincare to fitness. She has been passionate about skincare since she was a teenager, and loves uncovering the absolute best routines and products available to help people reach their skin goals.