The Top 7 Products That Erase Hyperpigmentation

Call it what you will—freckles, hyperpigmentation, age or sunspots—discoloration that appears on the surface of the skin stems from one thing and one thing only: an overproduction of melanin. The sun, hormones and inflammation can all send your skin’s melanin production cycle into extreme overdrive, causing your complexion to be unevenly toned. But, there are ways to eliminate unwanted discoloration once and for all.

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Kojic Acid

Get it in: SkinCeuticals Phyto+ ($80)

Good for: Discoloration that lives deep in the skin, such as melasma

Although kojic acid is lauded for its ability to lighten dark spots, because it inhibits tyrosinase, this is one ingredient that works best when used in tandem with either glycolic acid or hydroquinone (both powerful skin brighteners).


Glycolic Acid

Get it in: Kat Burki Restorative Dual Acid Peel ($125)

Good for: Brown spots

When it comes to treating pigmentation in the skin, glycolic acid, in a peel or topical form, is effective. Glycolic acid lifts up the “glue” that holds dead, discolored skin cells on the surface—the fewer discolored skin cells there are, the more even skin looks in color.



Get it in: Zo Medical Melamin Skin Bleaching and Correcting Creme ($60)

Good for: Serious discoloration

The gold standard and doctor go-to for getting rid of discoloration, hydroquinone is a chemical-based ingredient that works on tyrosinase to inhibit the production of melanin in the skin. “Hydroquinone switches off melanocyte melanin production by as much as 90 percent, making it an effective skin lightener for treating severe pigmentation,” says Beverly Hills, CA, dermatologist Zein Obagi, MD.


Azelaic Acid

Get it in: Rodial Super Acids Daily Azelaic Acid Serum ($98)

Good for: Leftover discoloration from acne and rosacea breakouts

Derived from wheat and barley, azelaic acid is said to rival the skin-brightening effects of hydroquinone. Look for products that boast 15–20 percent of the acid, which ensures you’ll get a steady dose of the ingredient.



Get it in: NIA24 Rapid Exfoliating Serum ($92)

Good for: Maintaining results

Niacinamide, a derivative of niacin (also known as vitamin B3), provides more than a single benefit. While it’s best known for its ability to suppress inflammation, New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD, says it’s also great to use once the pigmentation has lifted considerably.


Vitamin C

Get it in: Erno Laszlo White Marble Translucence Cream ($150)

Vitamin C works wonders at tackling changes in the skin that result from sun exposure. The vitamin acts as a melanin interrupter as opposed to an ingredient that’s toxic to the melanocyte. It works on copper ions where tyrosinase lives to counteract pigment production.


Retinols and retinoids

Get it in: Glow by dr. brandt Overnight Resurfacing Serum ($95)

Prescription-strength retinoids and over-the-counter retinols encourage skin cell turnover, bringing new, evenly pigmented cells to the surface while exfoliating away discolored skin. “Depending on their strength, retinoids are effective because they, too, affect tyrosinase. Unlike hydroquinone, they deliver a more homogenous tone instead of bleaching the skin,” says Dr. Obagi.

  • Heather
    Posted on

    Hi! I would save the money being spent on OTC (over the counter) products until I had $200 to spend on the medical grade product. The retinol part of your regime is great! A definite 👍🏻 good choice. Over the counter products just don’t have enough of the active ingredient to really make a difference in or skin. We end up having to use more of the product for each application and usually it takes a few tubes before we start seeing a change. Save and buy the $200 pharmaceutical grade product and get the result you’re looking for. Good Luck!

  • Lisa M Carter
    Posted on

    I'm a 52yr.old woman who has fairly good skin except for two rather large sunspots at the top of my forehead. I've been treating these rascals for around 3 yrs. now with no noticeable improvement. I can't afford the $200 rx my dermatologist has rx'd but I do use a 0.1% Retin-A cream nightly as well as drugstore spot removers twice daily and sunscreen. My current spot remover is Clinique's 'Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Remover'. All of a sudden within the last week, one of the two spots (which seem to be about to morph into a single larger spot) has become more red then brown. What can I do that is affordable to effect a quicker fade and am I doing something wrong to have caused the color change ? (I do have an appt. scheduled to make sure it's still a sunspot and not something dangerous) Thanks for your wonderful magazine, website, and time.

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