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The Best Skincare Ingredients & Treatments for Fading Hyperpigmentation

June 07, 2023

The Best Skincare Ingredients & Treatments for Fading Hyperpigmentation

Ever looked in the mirror and noticed dark patches or spots on your skin? This may be caused by a skin condition called hyperpigmentation, which occurs due to an excess production of melanin.

Hormonal changes, acne, sun exposure, and aging are just some of the many factors that can cause dark spots to form. These are all things that most of us experience at some point in life, so hyperpigmentation is fairly common.

The good news is that while hyperpigmentation is inevitable for many of us, it can be treated. There are a wide variety of skincare ingredients and treatments that are designed to promote a bright, more even complexion. Keep reading to learn about them and how they can be incorporated into your routine: 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is most commonly known for its ability to brighten and even the skin. This antioxidant has been shown to help impede melanin production, which can aid in fading dark spots. It can also help to fade the appearance of scarring and boost collagen production, which is essential for keeping skin firm.

One of the most common ways vitamin C is applied to the skin is in the form of serums. Vitamin C serums, such as the Herbal Dynamics Beauty Vitamin C 25% Rejuvenating Serum, penetrate the outer layer of the skin to stimulate collagen production while toning and brightening the complexion.

Vitamin C can also be found in creams, masks, and even oils. The way you use vitamin C in your routine is entirely up to you. If you’re looking to provide your skin with a higher concentration of the ingredient, serums are a great place to start, as they tend to be very potent.


Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. When applied to the skin topically, it provides a variety of benefits, including:

  • Keeps skin firm and healthy
  • Minimizes redness
  • Improves skin’s ability to retain moisture
  • Regulates oil production 
  • Treats large pores
  • Fights wrinkles and fine lines
  • Improves skin texture

In addition to all of this, niacinamide has also been found to treat hyperpigmentation. Research has shown that applying niacinamide can help to lighten dark spots, which is most likely due to its ability to increase collagen production. 


Known for its ability to fight signs of aging, retinol is one of the most effective skincare ingredients on the market. When applied to the skin, retinol boosts the production of collagen and elastin, while neutralizing harmful free radicals.

Retinol also has an exfoliating effect, which can improve skin tone and texture. This is why it’s often suggested for those who have hyperpigmentation or active breakouts and acne scarring.

While dermatologists often prescribe prescription-strength retinoids, there are also many forms of retinol that are available over the counter. Whether it be a serum, cream, or oil, retinol products can be incredibly effective if you’re looking to achieve a youthful, even-looking complexion. 

Licorice Extract

When you think of licorice, you probably think of the sweet candy… but licorice is much more than that!

Licorice extract is a popular skincare ingredient known for its ability to improve hyperpigmentation. It does this by dispersing melanin and decreasing free radical production. Glabridin, a main component of licorice extract, has been shown to prevent hyperpigmentation caused by the sun while also fighting inflammation in the skin.

More studies need to be done in order to prove the effectiveness of licorice extract. But, the research so far is promising—which is why you’ll find the ingredient in many brightening skincare products. 

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is naturally found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, it’s commonly used to treat skin conditions like rosacea and acne.

So how exactly does this ingredient work? Essentially, this acid works to clean pores of bacteria that have the potential to cause breakouts and irritation. It also works to fight inflammation in the skin, helping it to appear less red and irritated.

With regular use, azelaic acid will encourage cell turnover, which is what helps to minimize scarring and hyperpigmentation. This, in addition to its ability to keep skin clean, makes it a powerful weapon for fighting against both active breakouts and acne scarring.

Similar to retinol, azelaic acid can be prescribed in stronger formulations by a dermatologist. However, there are also plenty of over-the-counter treatments you can try. If you do decide to start with the at-home route, just be careful with your product combinations. Avoid any harsh ingredients that have the potential to strip the skin, as this can cause irritation when used alongside azelaic acid.

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid isn’t as well-known as ingredients like retinol and vitamin C, but it can be incredibly effective for treating hyperpigmentation.

Made from different types of fungi, this acid works to prevent tyrosine from forming, which is an amino acid that plays a role in melanin production. Therefore, it can have a lightening effect when applied to the skin.

Research shows that kojic acid also has antimicrobial properties, so it may be effective for fighting off bacteria in the skin and preventing acne. 

Alpha Arbutin

Alpha arbutin is extracted from the bearberry plant and is known to lighten dark spots and promote an overall even skin tone.

If you have sensitive skin, this ingredient is a great option. Its active ingredient is released slowly, which makes it a more gentle alternative to other brightening ingredients. You won’t have to worry about it drying out or irritating your skin like some products on the market.

Another benefit of using alpha arbutin is its ability to be combined with other lightening skincare ingredients. If you’re using retinol or doing chemical peels (more on that later), you can also use alpha arbutin for an extra brightening effect. 

Mandelic Acid

Whether you have dark spots, acne, dullness, wrinkles, or all of the above, an ingredient like mandelic acid can help to transform your skin.

Mandelic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is derived from almonds. AHAs are known to exfoliate the skin, and mandelic acid is considered to be the most gentle because it penetrates the skin slower than other AHAs.

This powerhouse ingredient offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • Encourages collagen production
  • Accelerates cell turnover 
  • Regulates oil production 
  • Removes dead skin cells
  • Softens appearance of fine lines

One of the most common uses of this acid, however, is treating hyperpigmentation. Studies have shown that mandelic acid can help to reduce dark spots caused by skin conditions like melasma. It also gets to work fast—it’s been found to have an impact in as little as two weeks! 


Hydroquinone is an ingredient that has long been debated in the skincare industry. This skin-lightening agent bleaches the skin and blocks the process that leads to hyperpigmentation—which can be very effective, but not suitable for all skin types.

The FDA has confirmed that hydroquinone is safe for the skin—but only in small amounts. Over-the-counter products that contain this ingredient are available at 2% concentrations or less.

If you’re someone with sensitive or dry skin, it may be best to avoid hydroquinone altogether. When in doubt, consult with a dermatologist to see what will be the most effective for your specific skin type and concerns. 

Treatments to Try

If you’ve tried numerous brightening products but are still struggling with hyperpigmentation, it may be time to try a treatment. Some common treatments suggested for those with hyperpigmentation include: 

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels utilize acids to peel away the outer layer of your skin. This can be very effective for those who struggle with hyperpigmentation, as it helps to reveal fresh, new skin underneath.

Oftentimes, chemical peels are made of beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), depending on the type of peel and desired results. These formulas can be very strong—so it’s important to use them with caution and do plenty of research beforehand.

Some chemical peels are available over-the-counter, while some must be applied by a professional. If you have mild hyperpigmentation, an at-home treatment may do the trick, but if you have more intense dark spots, it may be best to see a dermatologist. 

Laser Peels

Another type of peel to consider is a laser peel. This type of treatment utilizes light energy to resurface your skin. After some time, new skin will grow back—leaving you with a soft, smooth, and even complexion.

This type of peel is best for those with more advanced hyperpigmentation, and it can only be done by a professional. If you’re unsure of what kind of peel is best for you, consult with a dermatologist. They will be able to examine your skin and give you a professional opinion. 


Microdermabrasion is a procedure used to target a variety of skincare concerns, such as wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, scarring, and even melasma.

A dermatologist uses a small hand-held device that sprays or rubs small crystals on the skin to exfoliate and remove the top layer. It’s often used in conjunction with brightening skincare products, as it can help the ingredients to penetrate the skin more effectively.

While at-home microdermabrasion kits are available, they don’t offer the same results as a professional treatment. For effectiveness and safety reasons, it’s best to see a dermatologist for a treatment like this.

Whether it be microdermabrasion or a peel, a targeted treatment can help to start the process of fading hyperpigmentation. These results can be maintained with the use of skincare products that contain ingredients like those listed above. Just be sure to do your research to ensure your skincare routine caters to whatever treatment you try.

For example, if you decide to get a chemical peel, follow the specific aftercare instructions you’re provided. Be sure to give your skin enough time to fully recover before resuming your normal skincare routine.

As you can see, there are many different products and treatments available for those with hyperpigmentation. Whether you have dark spots or not, these tips and tricks can be used to keep your skin looking fresh, glowing, and youthful!

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