How I Treat Hyperpigmentation from Head-to-Toe

How I Treat Hyperpigmentation from Head-to-Toe featured image
Kayla Greaves

For as long as I can remember, hyperpigmentation has been the bane of my existence—which, I guess, makes sense, seeing as it’s one of the most common skin issues for Black people. But even though I know it’s a natural part of the healing process and won’t cause any physical harm, that doesn’t mean I want discoloration lingering around for longer than it has to.

Whether it’s a few dark spots on my back that came as a result of a tight sports bra and intense Pilates session, or I got a little too extraction-happy when doing my nighttime skin-care routine, I give hyperpigmentation about two to three weeks max to hang out on my body before it has to go.

This timeframe may sound wild to some, but trust me, once I decided to build a routine that works to fight hyperpigmentation daily, stressing out over uneven skin tone soon became a thing of the past.

But before I get into my head-to-toe routine, it’s important to note that I typically deal with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. I will be sharing a few options for both my day and nighttime routines to help you discover what may be right for you. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you may be dealing with a different form of hyperpigmentation (i.e. melasma or sun spots). So before starting any new regimen or product, it’s always a good idea to speak with a board-certified dermatologist who can give you a specific diagnosis and help you develop a personalized treatment plan.

How I Treat Hyperpigmentation on My Face

Step 1: Cleansing


The first thing to know about treating hyperpigmentation is that prevention is key. So my first step is always thoroughly cleansing my skin twice a day. For daytime, I can’t get enough of Rose Ingleton MD’s award-winning SuperFruit Brightening Cleanser ($38).

The SuperFruit Brightening Cleanser gives me that super satisfying lather I crave, without the dryness I want to avoid, thanks to the coconut surfactants found in the formula. Along with sugar cane extract for gentle exfoliation, pro-vitamin B5 to keep the skin barrier intact, hyaluronic acid and aloe to keep skin hydrated, and Dr. Ingleton’s signature antioxidant-rich Jamaican SuperFruit blend, my skin is left looking and feeling more radiant after every wash.


Thanks to my regimen, I don’t wear a lot of complexion products, so I can typically skip a double cleanse at night. But I do love a volumizing mascara and good liner. One of the few products that have worked to remove my eye makeup without triggering my eczema (thus causing more hyperpigmentation) or drying out my skin is Daily Practice’s Eye Revive ($33). It’s a beautiful three-in-one cleanser, specially formulated for the eye area. It melts away makeup, hydrates the eye area, and thoroughly cleanses the eyelids.

I always follow up with epi.logic’s Clean Reveal ($65), which contains star ingredients like glycolic acid and PHA to carefully exfoliate even the most sensitive skin. With regular use, it’s helped to leave my skin bright, and keep hyperpigmentation under control.

Once a week, I also like to apply Benefit Cosmetics’ The POREfessional Deep Retreat Pore-Clearing Kaolin Clay Mask ($39) after cleansing. Kaolin clay works to clarify pores, while sea fennel extract sucks up excess oil. Jojoba seed rounds out the formula with fatty acids to leave skin feeling soft and supple.

Step 2: Serums


After I’ve cleansed my skin, my daytime regimen is pretty simple, and primarily revolves around vitamin C. “Vitamin C is an important ingredient to have in your arsenal to help counteract against hyperpigmentation and to even skin tone,” says Hamden, CT dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. “It actually inhibits the production of melanin which will help with any hyperpigmentation worries.”

Providence, RI dermatologist Tiffany Libby, MD adds, “It’s also a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals which can induce photoaging changes to skin like dark spots.”

Right now, my go-to vitamin C products are Ustawi’s Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum ($45), which boasts a blend of vitamin C, E, and B3 that gives me the glowiest skin overtime; along with Bloomeffects’ Vitamin C Facial Oil ($85), that offers a blend of 20% active THD ascorbate and 70% plant-based squalane for the days I want to look like a dewy dumpling.

Dr. Gohara is also a fan of SkinMedica Vitamin C + E Complex ($106) and First Aid Beauty’s 10% Vitamin C Brightening Serum ($50), both of which I adore as well.


Because the skin uses the night hours to regenerate, my bedtime routine is when I do a lot of the heavy lifting.

After cleansing, I start off with Murad’s new Retinal ReSculpt Overnight Treatment ($105) two to three times a week. “[Retinal] is great for brightening the skin while also smoothing skin texture and tone,” Dr Gohara explains.

On nights when I’m not using the ReSculpt Treatment, I put Drunk Elephant’s Bouncy Brightfacial Brightening Mask ($68) to work. Star ingredients like 10% barley-derived azelaic acid pair nicely with 1% salicylic acid to help brighten and smooth skin. “Azelaic acid is a natural occurring dicarboxylic acid which is typically found in grains,” says Dr. Gohara. “The acid ends up decreasing pigmentation thus inhibiting an enzyme called tyrosinase that can occasionally lead to improving hyperpigmentation.”

Next up is Mother Science’s Molecular Hero Serum ($89), with hero ingredient malassezin. While this product, and ingredient, may be the new kid on the block, it is not to be played with. I saw a reduction in hyperpigmentation in just two weeks. “Malassezin is a natural compound produced by malassezia furfur, a yeast that causes a common condition called tinea versicolor, in which it inhibits pigment production by melanocytes,” Dr. Libby shares, adding that larger studies on the ingredient are still underway.

Another plus? Much like Murad’s ReSculpt Treatment, it helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines over time as well.

Last but not least is the MelanoLyte Serum from Epionce ($100). This particular product is nice because it can be used all over the face, or just as a spot treatment on stubborn dark spots. To top it off, the botanical-based formula, which features ingredients like apricot kernel oil, plays well with other treatment products. “Apricot kernel oil facilitates faster healing of wounds, protects skin against toxins and bacteria, lightens unwanted blemishes and dark spots, thus balancing skin tone to create an even glow,” Dr. Gohara shares.

Step 3: Moisturizer


Next up is a good moisturizer. When I’m in a rush and I have to skip my serums, I always reach for Paula’s Choice C5 Super Boost Moisturizer ($45), which is pretty much an all-in-one (minus the SPF, but more on that later) vitamin C-rich daytime product. And the gel-cream formula never leaves my skin feeling clammy.

I am also obsessed with No7’s Lift & Luminate Triple Action Day Cream with SPF 30 ($33). The formula contains hibiscus peptides and hyaluronic acid to help make skin appear firmer, while keeping hyperpigmentation at bay with broad-spectrum SPF 30.


After applying a few treatment products to my face, I want to make sure I’m slathering on a nourishing moisturizer to keep my skin barrier intact. I know people have opinions on Le Domaine, and you can say what you want, but all I have to say is that The Cream ($242) is one of the best moisturizers I’ve ever used. The blend of grape water, organic olive oil, shea butter, and more keep my skin feeling just as supple in the morning as when I first put it on. Plus the formula contains a high concentration of GSM10 and ProGR3, two patented actives that work to slow down the signs of aging.

Step 4: SPF


When it comes to hyperpigmentation, wearing SPF in the daytime key.

“Sun exposure causes tanning of the skin that deepens dark spots, prolongs their existence, and decreases the effectiveness of hyperpigmentation treatments,” says New York City dermatologist and host of the Beauty Curious podcast Elyse Love, MD. “Sun protection is the hallmark and first step to treating hyperpigmentation because it prevents worsening of the dark marks and allows treatments to take their max effect.”

On the days when I’m not wearing No7’s day cream, I typically reach for either Dr. Dennis Gross’ All-Physical Ultimate Defense Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 ($42) or ZO Skin Health’s Gel Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 ($70). The former offers light, never chalky, mineral protection, while the latter features a clear gel formula, packed with antioxidants and plant stem cell complexes to refine skin. Both are water and sweat-resistant.

How I Treat Hyperpigmentation on My Body

Step 1: Cleansing

Day and Night

Believe it or not, skin care doesn’t stop at your neck, and hyperpigmentation can occur anywhere on the body. So much like with my face, I want to ensure my body is thoroughly cleansed at least twice a day. However, if you have sensitive skin, speak with your dermatologist to develop a routine that works for you.

I personally like to do a double cleanse in the shower, starting with SheaMoisture’s African Black Soap ($4). While the rest of the world may only be getting hip to this product now, it’s been used in West Africa for centuries to help clear and smooth skin. And with ingredients like shea butter, aloe, vitamin E, and more, it’s easy to see why.

After I rinse off, I go in with Dove’s Deep Moisture Body Wash ($11)—it’s an old reliable that works and leaves my skin feeling clean, nourished, and ready for actives.

Step 2: Exfoliation


I don’t use a lot of physical exfoliants on my face, but for my body, it really makes a difference. Yonka Paris’ Gommage Sucre Mandarin ($58) uses brown sugar and sunflower seed oil to gently slough away dead skin cells, leaving my skin feeling incredibly smooth and moisturized. Its awakening mandarin and sweet orange scent really puts some pep in my step before I have to face the world. I usually use this around one to two times a week.


Sol de Janerio’s Bom Dia Body Scrub ($42) has become my go-to night time scrub, not only because of the beautiful floral scent, but the AHA-BHA resurfacing complex is best suited for when the sun has set (these ingredients can increase sun sensitivity) and my skin is about to go into regenerative mode. I use it about once or twice a week on the days when I haven’t used the Yonka Paris scrub in the morning.

Once I’m out of the shower, Cosmedix’s A-Lift Overnight Vitamin A Body Treatment ($99) is a must. I use it around three times a week when there are no other exfoliants in the mix. Ingredients like 25% LG-retinex have made any marks on my back and chest a thing of the past. “This is a glycosaminoglycan or (GAG)-enhanced encapsulation of retinol and retinaldehyde,” says Dr. Libby. “Once converted to retinoic acid, the most active form of topical retinoid, it acts similarly by treating hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase and increasing keratinocyte turnover.” Plus, it helps to improve the appearance of crepey skin.

Step 3: Moisturizer


Vitamin C will always and forever be my main squeeze when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation. That’s why Goldfaden MD’s Body Surge Moisturizer ($65) has become a regular in my rotation. Star ingredient kakadu plum offers a highly concentrated form of vitamin C to even out skin tone quickly.


I tend to use more actives at night, so I want my bedtime moisturizers to primarily focus on locking in hydration and nourishing my skin. Oui the People’s Featherweight Hydrating Body Gloss ($65) has become a fave for this exact reason. A blend of olive-derived squalane and organic avocado oil hydrates, provides antioxidant protection, and supports the skin’s natural healing cycle, while rosehip seed oil gently brightens complexion by increasing collagen production.

The oil alone will usually suffice during the warmer months of the year, but if I’m looking for a bit more nourishment, Nivea’s Essentially Enriched Body Lotion ($6) has been my go-to for years. Formulated with almond oil, it leaves my skin feeling luxurious—plus the scent is so classic and nostalgic.

Step 4: SPF


The most important step of any skin-care routine is sunscreen. One I can’t get enough of is Vacation’s Classic Spray SPF 50 ($19). This lightweight formula goes on clear and has the most amazing scent. Bonus: since it comes with a spray nozzle, I don’t have to think about it spilling over my bag when I take it on-the-go.

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