Hyperpigmentation, or dark spots, can be caused by a handful of factors. Among them: sun exposure, genetics, acne scarring, certain medications, or, most-commonly, an excess production of melanin, a pigment in the skin responsible for giving it color.
Hyperpigmentation can appear at any time in life, but according to doctors, you have a better chance at avoiding the common skin condition altogether if a physical sunblock is in your daily lineup. If you’re late to the SPF game and are struggling with the repercussions, top experts share their favorite spot-busters below.
“My go-to product for hyperpigmentation is a combination of Dr Deborah Longwill Illuminator Mask Brightening Boost ($80) and the Doctor’s Daughter Papaya Enzyme Peel ($88) once a week. The combination of these two products improves visible discoloration, brightens the skin tone, nourishes and restores the natural skin barrier.”
—Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill
“EltaMD UV Restore Borad-Spectrum SPF 40 ($37) is multifaceted in that it protects our patients’ skin both indoors and outdoors by providing broad-spectrum UVA, UVB, HEV, IR and pollution protection. It was also specifically developed for individuals who want brighter, healthier skin and to improve discoloration or sunspots. Its lightweight and hydrating coverage not only protects the skin, but it also gives a beautiful glow that helps to even out and brighten the complexion.
I also like NOON Aesthetics Double White, which was developed as an intensive at-home treatment product for skin lightening and brightening, as well as an alternative to hydroquinone. It is ideal for individuals who want to repair any abnormal discolorations in their skin, such as hyperpigmentation from over-exposure to UV radiation, hormonally-induced pigment from melasma or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can occur after breakout activity. It’s dual pump container features a mega stable 11 percent vitamin C on one side and 20 percent azelaic acid with 5 percent alpha arbutin on the other side, which makes this an incredibly effective and comprehensive blend of free radical protection and cellular repair. This one is a gem!”
—Toledo, OH plastic surgeon Peter Koltz, MD
“I like the Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican ($112), which acts as an antioxidant to reduce the inflammatory cascade that ages skin and reduces hyperpigmentation. The ultraglycans and hyaluronic acid additionally hydrate the skin, making this a great double-duty treatment.
Retinoids are another key component of any regimen to target pigmentation because of the indirect effect of improved cell turnover and the direct effect on pigment. Alastin retinol .25% ($55) and 0.5% ($60) include anti-inflammatory and moisturizing ingredients, which reduce potential retinoid irritation. The retinol itself is encapsulated in lipids to improve efficacy and reduce irritancy.
I also love the Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum ($79), which is based on the potent pigment-reducing ability of viniferine, a grapevine extract.”
—Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi A. Waldorf, MD
“My in-house favorite for hyperpigmentation is Werschler Rx Melasma Emuslion, which is a compounded pharmaceutical-grade prescription product comprised of tretinoin 0.025%, hydroquinone 4%, hydrocortisone 0.5%, snd kojic acid 6%.
Second is iS Clinical Brightening Complex ($145), another pharmaceutical-grade cream that treats hyperpigmentation through a proprietary blend of botanicals and hydrating glycolic acids.
Lastly, Restorsea PRO Intensive 10X Serum ($195) is a cream that treats hyperpigmentation with ingredients such as organic salmon roe, which decreases inflammation in skin immediately after application. Patients really love all three products. The Brightening Complex and the Restorsea both give the skin a real glow.”
—Spokane, WA dermatologist Wm. Philip Werschler, MD
“My two favorite procedures for melasma-prone skin are the Permea laser with Skin Medica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum ($154), which both inhibit pigment production in the melanocytes—cells that normally overproduce pigment in melasma—and microneedling with exosomes to address generalized damage and pigmentation changes. Microneedling increases cellular turnover and stimulates collagen induction and exosomes derived from the embryonic cells to provide potent stimulation, leading to healthy, younger-looking, and tight skin.”
—New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD