best skincare products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin

Did you know that dark spots are more common – and harder to treat – in dark skin? Unfair, I know!

The good news? Treatment options abound! You’re literally spoiled for choices.

But, before I tell you all about the best skincare products for hyperpigmentation in dark skin…

What Is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is just a fancy word for dark spots.

They happen when melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin) pump out too much melanin in an effort to protect skin from sun damage and inflammation.

UV rays are the main cause of hyperpigmentation. But popping pimples, hormones imbalances, and any kind of trauma to the skin can result dark spots too.

Dark skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation because it pumps out more melanin in response to inflammation.

Related: How To Treat The Dark Spots Left Behind By Pimples


Struggling to put together a skincare routine that fights wrinkles and gives your skin a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” cheat sheet to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):


What Are The Best Ingredients For Treating Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin?

Not all skin-lighteners are safe for dark skin. Hydroquinone (the gold standard for hyperpigmentation) can cause ochronosis, a permanent bluish discolouration.

It’s rare, but why take the risk – especially when there are safer options around? Here’s what you need to look for:

  1. Azelaic Acid: A multi-tasker that reduces both acne and dark spots and mildly exfoliates skin. It’s suitable even for sensitive skin. OTC products usually contain 10% concentrations – enough to do the job. If you need a higher %, you need to go prescription. The only con? Azelaic Acid has a thick, unpleasant texture.
  2. Glycolic Acid: The most famous member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family, this exfoliant dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together. It helps shed those damaged, darker cells on the surface of your skin faster and replace them with newer, lighter ones. OTC products use small concentrations suitable for mild hyperpigmentation, like dark spots left behind by pimples. If yours is more severe, go for peels at your dermatologist.
  3. Kojic Acid: Derived from fungi during the fermentation process, it treats melasma, sun spots, and dark spots left behind by pimples by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme involved in the production of melanin.
  4. Retinoids: A catch-all term for all forms of Vitamin A, retinoids increase cellular turnover (the skin’s natural exfoliating process). In other words, they help the older, darker cells on the surface of your skin shed faster, so the newer, lighter ones underneath can come to the fore. Retinoids are irritating. Start with a small concentration of retinol and build your way up to prescription retinoids slowly.
  5. Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant that prevents wrinkles and boosts sun protection, it also brightens the skin tone and fades away dark spots. L-Ascorbic Acid is the best form of Vitamin C for this.

Related: Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?

The Best Skincare Products For Hyperpigmentation In Dark Skin

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (£5.50)

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% has a very unpleasant texture. If you can stick with it, it’s totally worth it. It has 10% Azelaic Acid to speed up cellular turnover, even out the texture of your skin, and brighten its tone. Use it straight after cleansing, morning and/or evening.

Available at: Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, Feel Unique, Sephora, and Ulta

Related: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% VS Paula’s Choice Azelaic Acid Booster 10%: Which One Is Better?

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant ($29.50)

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant is a multi-tasker. It has 8% glycolic acid to exfoliate skin and fade away dark spots, hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin, and a bunch of antioxidants to prevent wrinkles. Its lightweight texture spreads easily on the skin and absorbs quickly, too. For best results, use every other night after cleansing.

Available at: Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It

Skinceuticals Discolouration Defense ($98.00)

Skinceuticals Discolouration Defense uses the next generation of skin-lighteners: 5% Niacinamide, 5% HEPES, 3% Tranexemic Acid, and 1% Kojic Acid. Together, they help fade away dark spots and brighten your skin tone. Oh, it’s suitable for all skin types. You can use it morning and/or night after cleansing.

Available at: Look Fantastic

Related: Kojic Acid VS Hydroquinone: Which One Is Better?

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream ($50.00)

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream isn’t for the faint of skin. It has 1% retinol, a high concentration that dries out skin, making it peel and fake. If you’ve never used retinol before, start with a lower %. If your skin can take it, this retinol cream helps speed up cellular turnover to fade away dark spots faster. Plus, it has a big dollop of niacinamide, another skin-brightener that evens out the skin tone, and antioxidants to prevent premature wrinkles. Use it every other night only.

Available at: Cult BeautySephora, and SpaceNK

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% (£10.00)

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% uses two of the most powerful skin-brighteners in skincare. Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that also brightens your skin tone. Alpha Arbutin is another antioxidant that’s very powerful at reducing all kinds of dark spots. Use it after cleansing, morning and/or night.

Available at: Asos, Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, Feel Unique, Sephora, and Ulta

Related: The Complete Guide To Vitamin C In Skincare