As frustrating and stubborn as it may be, hyperpigmentation, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, is exceptionally common. And though causes can differ (you can hold everything from genetics to sun exposure to hormonal changes to acne responsible), hyperpigmentation is technically defined as a condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the surrounding skin due to an excess of melanin. Life or death? No. Annoying? Absolutely.
Treatments of hyperpigmentation vary, and depending on the severity, we recommend seeing a dermatologist for a consultation and customized healing plan. That said, even though in-office procedures and treatments like lasers or prescriptions can reap some benefit (as can increased SPF use so spots don't darken further), making strategic additions to your skincare routine and product lineup can do wonders for issues of hyperpigmentation too.
As celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau explains here, results obviously won't happen overnight, and patience will be key, but by protecting your skin with a great SPF formula every single day, adding exfoliating formulas to physically break up pigmentation (these will generally involve acids), and choosing products with specific ingredients to help brighten and fade discoloration, hyperpigmentation can often be alleviated over time. To get the show on the road and because we're dreaming of bright, clear, and ultra-even skin for summer, we scoured the internet to find 15 of the top-rated hyperpigmentation treatments our fellow skincare aficionados swear by for real results. Keep scrolling!
A personal favorite for my own acne-triggered hyperpigmentation, Rouleau's gentle yet effective blend of exfoliating acids (lactic and glycolic) and brightening agents (white tea and sea whip extracts) help lift away discoloration and simultaneously fade acne marks and scars. You can use it as you would a spot treatment, but I've also had great luck by mixing a tiny pump in with my normal nighttime moisturizer for light, allover distribution.
When it comes to the most well-known ingredients to tackle hyperpigmentation, this corrective serum from industry-leading dermatologist Harold Lancer has basically every heavy hitter. Boasting 2% hydroquinone (which fades dark spots, age spots, and UV-induced hyperpigmentation) in addition to hydrating hyaluronic acid and key brighteners like niacinamide and licorice extract, it's one of the best discoloration-busting formulas on the market right now.
If you're sick of hearing us praise SkinCeutical's iconic formula, prepare yourself because we (and the mass public) don't plan on stopping anytime soon. For reference, the serum holds a perfect five-star rating on Dermstore with a whopping 1150 ratings in total. While it tackles pretty much every kind of skincare woe, it's an especially great treatment add-on for hyperpigmentation thanks to vitamin C (a known skin-brightener) and its flood of antioxidants, which help neutralize free radicals induced by UVA/UVB, infrared radiation, and ozone pollution.
Ideal for concerns regarding hyperpigmentation, aging, dryness, damage, and wrinkles, SkinMedica's TNS Essential Serum is one of Dermstore's top-rated elixirs and features pigmentation- and damage-reducing players like vitamin C, vitamin E, antioxidants, peptides, green tea, and dimethicone. It's another best seller at Dermstore and maintains a healthy five-star rating with over 270 reviews.
Sunday Riley's Good Genes treatment is a best seller across all of our favorite beauty retailers. It's hailed as a holy-grail formula thanks to its high-potency ingredient list of hyperpigmentation-sloughing lactic acid, radiance-boosting lemongrass and licorice, and soothing aloe vera.
The aim of this no-nonsense formula from IS Clinical is to target all types of hyperpigmentation regardless of skin type, and that (according to its perfect five-star rating) it does. Its key ingredients come in the form of Norwegian kelp and bearberry extracts (which the brand says discourage pigmentation and unevenness), botanic acids to soothe and smooth your complexion, and hyaluronic acid to meanwhile keep skin plump and moisturized.
Beloved by dermatologists, PCA Skin is one of the best expert-approved brands for addressing any kind of skin issue. For hyperpigmentation concerns relating to damage, aging, or hormones, this comparably affordable pigmentation gel is the ultimate antidote. An expert-approved collaboration of pigmentation-fading hydroquinone and exfoliating acids (think a strategic kitchen sink of lactic acid, AHAs, azelaic acid, and kojic acid), this gel not only fights discoloration on the spot but prevents future damage to boot.
Even though the name might make this essence-serum hybrid sound more like a unicorn cocktail than a truly effective hyperpigmentation treatment, it just so magically happens to be both. Yes, the formula is beautifully packaged and all-around dreamy, but thanks to its effective ingredient list boasting three different kinds of acids (glycolic, lactic, and malic) in addition to brightening culprits like vitamin C and other herbal extracts, it contributes to a smoother, clearer, and brighter complexion as well.
Unlike so many exfoliating skincare products on the market, these aptly named miracle pads from Cane + Austin are suitable and gentle enough for all skin types while being formulaically tough enough to take on hyperpigmentation head-on thanks to vitamins A, C, E, and CoQ10. According to the brand (and five-star reviews!), these handy one-swipe pads help exfoliate, streamline skin tone, and reduce age spots and acne.
Even though it looks cute, according to nit-picky Sephora reviewers, this powerful vitamin C– and collagen-containing serum from Ole Henriksen is one of the best hyperpigmentation treatments you can buy off the shelves of the retailer. It's a best seller and after almost 4000 reviews still manages to maintain rating just shy of 4.5. It's a great option for those seeking the tall order of brightness, spot-fading, and hydration.
I first heard about this under-the-radar hyperpigmentation treatment from my former Byrdie editor co-worker Maya Allen and have been sold on it ever since. (Psst! She loved it so much she wrote a specialized review here!) Gentle but effective, this overnight treatment offers dramatic hyperpigmentation correction in addition to anti-aging perks. As the brand explains on its website, "This powerful treatment also helps to improve and control melasma and contains a synergistic blend of all Trans Retinol and other medical grade ingredients which help to clear clogged pores and minimize the signs of aging."
Skincare devotees absolutely love The Ordinary (effective formulas, reasonable pricetags, duh), and this glycolic acid–infused toner from the brand is one of the most highly praised concoctions on Sephora's website with five stars and over 350 reviews. In addition to the aforementioned glycolic acid, amino acids, aloe vera, ginseng, and Tasmanian pepperberry work together to effectively exfoliate and in turn decrease hyperpigmentation and dullness.
It's well known within the beauty industry that Caudalie's Vinoperfect line is one of the best collections to try if you struggle with discoloration or lackluster skin. Its serum is a cult-loved skincare treasure, but in most recent news, the brand has launched this brand-new hyperpigmentation debut that works overnight with the help of acids, papaya extract, and the brand's vine sap, Viniferine, to reduce dark spots and acne scars while you get your beauty sleep.
Another personal favorite that's consistently rescued my pigmentation-stricken skin post-breakout, this mushroom-enriched from Dr. Weil's line at Origins isn't as well-known, although I have absolutely no idea why. If you're acne-prone (like me), you'll appreciate that this lightweight moisturizer is also oil-free, and thanks to its MVP medley of rosa roxburghii, white peony, and melanin-inhibiting palmaria, it effortlessly helps nix dark spots and discoloration while simultaneously boosting radiance and luminosity. Plus, it's equipped with SPF 30 to help ward off further damage.
With over a thousand reviews and a solid four-star rating, this spot-banishing serum from Murad is one of Sephora's consistent skincare favorites. The brand formulates at the highest ingredient levels you can get sans prescription, and in as little as one week, regular application of this hydroquinone, peptide, and glycolic acid treatment helps to diminish the look of spots and uneven skin tone.