Whether caused by acne breakouts, sun damage, or anything else, hyperpigmentation can be a tricky condition to treat. Not only do dark spots reoccur so easily, but it can take at least a few weeks for skin lightening products to start working their magic, and that’s only after you’ve found a formula that actually works.
That’s why we’re here. We know that you want to fade your skin discoloration as quickly as possible, so, to save you from having to waste months of your life on worthless products, we’ve rounded up the best skin lightening creams for hyperpigmentation out there. Ok, they’re not all creams – we’ve added a few serums into the mix too – but, whichever you choose from this list, you can expect to see big results.
- The Best Skin Lightening Cream for Hyperpigmentation: Our Top 11 Picks
- 1. Best Overall Cream: Meladerm by Civant Skin Care
- Best for Instant Results: Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
- Best Vegan Formula: Civant Meladerm Pigment Correction
- Best for Preventing Excess Melanin Production: Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum
- Best Kojic Acid Treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Pro Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment
- Best Bleaching Cream: Ambi Fade Cream
- Best for Sensitive Skin & Intimate Body Areas: Amaira Natural Lightening Serum
- Best for Exfoliating Discolored Dead Skin Cells: Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
- Best for Black Skin: Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum
- Best Value for Money: The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA
- Best for All-Round Benefits (Dark Spots, Wrinkles & Hydration): Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum
- What is Hyperpigmentation?
The Best Skin Lightening Cream for Hyperpigmentation: Our Top 11 Picks
Every skin lightening formula out there will be unique in its own way. Some will produce instant but temporary results, while others may bring about deeper changes over a longer period of time. It’s also important to keep your skin type and skin tone in mind when picking a product – some will be too harsh for sensitive skin, while others won’t be suitable for darker skin tones.
Have a think about exactly what it is that your skin needs before scrolling through our featured products.
If your skin has a dark tone, check out our guide and pick the best skin lightening cream for black skin.
1. Best Overall Cream: Meladerm by Civant Skin Care
If we had to pick just one skin lightening cream to use for all types of hyperpigmentation, we’d go with Meladerm. There aren’t many hydroquinone-free formulas out there that are capable of producing real results in a matter of days, which is why Meladerm is such a winner.
How’s it able to do that without the use of hydroquinone? Instead of relying on just one ingredient, Meladerm brings together more than 10 advanced skin lightening compounds, each one capable of tackling hyperpigmentation from a different angle.
You’ll find vitamin C in its highly stable form of sodium ascorbyl phosphate, niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3), kojic acid, and azelaic acid. These are joined by high-performance plant extracts, including licorice root, bearberry, white mulberry, and lemon. There are also a few patented brightening ingredients in this formula that you won’t find anywhere else.
What makes Meladerm even better is its packaging. Many of the above ingredients quickly degrade as soon as they come into contact with air or light. To keep this product ultra-potent for longer, it has been packaged in a container with a vacuum desiccator, which is a big contributor to how effective this formula is able to be.
Best for Instant Results: Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
Everyone loves instant results, and while it’s true that hyperpigmentation takes at least a few weeks to start fading, the Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum still manages to offer up instant lightening effects. How? It all comes down to the pearl powder in this formula, which reflects light in a way that gives your face a lighter and brighter appearance.
However, that’s not all it does. This serum also contains some truly unique ingredients, which is why it’s one of our favorites. From its patented resorcinol technology, which is exclusive to Murad, to its tranexamic acid and glycolic acid infusion, this blend will lighten age spots, balance out an uneven skin tone, and boost your skin’s natural radiance all at the same time.
Best Vegan Formula: Civant Meladerm Pigment Correction
In this day and age, it’s entirely possible to create an effective skin lightening formula that also happens to be 100% vegan and cruelty-free, and that’s exactly what Civant has done with their Meladerm Pigment Correction. Designed to treat all types of hyperpigmentation, Meladerm’s formula brings together over 10 advanced lightening ingredients.
From licorice root and kojic acid to arbutin and vitamin C, just about every ingredient that you should be using to treat hyperpigmentation can be found in this sleek bottle. Speaking of the bottle, we absolutely love its airless dispenser.
It’s designed in a way that prevents even the tiniest amount of air from coming into contact with the product, which helps to keep those active ingredients stable for longer.
Best for Preventing Excess Melanin Production: Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum
While all of the products on this list will prevent excess melanin production to some extent, the Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum from Biossance is the most effective at doing so. Why? Because it contains vitamin C, an ingredient that has been proven to inhibit the enzyme in the skin that’s responsible for producing melanin (1).
Not only that, but it contains an impressive 10% concentration of the vitamin, in a unique, water-soluble form that ensures stability and doesn’t come with side effects.
This dark spot corrector also contains a few other noteworthy ingredients. Top of the list is sugarcane-derived squalane, which not only hydrates the skin but also enhances the delivery of other active ingredients, including the white shiitake mushroom extract and the licorice root extract that you’ll find in this formula.
Best Kojic Acid Treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Pro Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment
Why have we given kojic acid a category of its own? Because this mushroom-derived ingredient has been proven (several times) to be extremely effective at lightening hyperpigmentation (2). It also acts as an antioxidant, preventing new dark spots from forming while slowing down the skin aging process.
Many skin lightening creams contain kojic acid, but the best formula we’ve found is the Pro Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment from Peter Thomas Roth.
This cream contains a powerful blend of kojic acid, niacinamide, tranexamic acid, alpha-arbutin, and pentapeptide at an impressive 15% concentration. Designed to be used twice daily to begin with, this treatment has been clinically proven to improve skin tone and skin texture in just a few weeks.
Best Bleaching Cream: Ambi Fade Cream
There aren’t many effective bleaching ingredients available over-the-counter, with the exception of hydroquinone. There’s no denying that this topical bleaching agent really does work, but there’s also no hiding from its side effects – severe skin redness, dryness, and blisters are all pretty common.
Still, if nothing else has worked for you yet, give it a try at a 2% concentration, which is exactly what the Ambi Fade Cream provides. In addition to hydroquinone, this skin whitening cream, which is designed for normal skin types, also contains lactic acid and vitamin E to promote softer and smoother skin. Use it twice a day and you should start to see results in just two weeks!
Best for Sensitive Skin & Intimate Body Areas: Amaira Natural Lightening Serum
Many of the lightening products out there aren’t suitable for sensitive skin – their ingredients can trigger skin irritation and exacerbate existing skin problems. This is why we love the Amaira Natural Lightening Serum – it has been designed to be as gentle as possible, which is why you can also use this formula on intimate areas. After all, let’s face it, dark spots can occur anywhere, not just on the face!
Wondering if a formula as gentle as this will actually work to fade your hyperpigmentation? The answer is yes, and it’ll happen in as little as two weeks.
It’s all thanks to the way in which Amaira has combined ancient plant extracts, such as red seaweed, mulberry, and field dock, with science-backed ingredients, including kojic acid, sodium hyaluronate, and alpha-arbutin – merging old with new usually does produce fantastic results!
Best for Exfoliating Discolored Dead Skin Cells: Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
The 10% Azelaic Acid Booster from Paula’s Choice has made it onto our list of the best skin lightening creams for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as you can tell from its name, this product contains 10% azelaic acid, an ingredient that’s particularly effective at treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, such as acne scars (3).
It has also been infused with salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that’ll remove dead skin cells.
In addition to treating hyperpigmentation to bring you lighter skin, this cream will also brighten the skin while fighting acne breakouts. It’s ideal for those prone to acne, but it can also safely be used on all skin types, including rosacea-prone skin.
Best for Black Skin: Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum
Many skin lightening active ingredients aren’t suitable for dark skin tones. Some can make hyperpigmentation worse, while others have the opposite effect and cause excessive skin lightening, leaving the skin with light, instead of dark, spots.
While many of the products that we’ve already featured can safely be used on dark skin, the Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum has been specifically designed for people of color.
This creamy serum works in three ways; by targeting excess melanin without altering natural skin tone, by hydrating the skin to leave it looking brighter, and by gently exfoliating away old skin cells with fruit enzymes. The result? Dark spots start to fade in a matter of weeks, with the rest of your skin taking on a smoother and more refined finish.
Best Value for Money: The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA
If you’ve been looking for a highly concentrated lightening formula that doesn’t cost the earth, you’ve now found one – the Mandelic Acid 10% + HA from The Ordinary. If your skin can’t usually tolerate alpha-hydroxy acids, then mandelic acid is worth a try. It consists of larger molecules, meaning that it doesn’t penetrate quite as deeply into the skin, therefore minimizing its side effects.
Mandelic acid is a fantastic ingredient for lightening and brightening hyperpigmentation. What makes this dark spot corrector even more appealing is its hyaluronic acid infusion, which helps the skin to better tolerate the mandelic acid.
Best for All-Round Benefits (Dark Spots, Wrinkles & Hydration): Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum
If your hyperpigmentation isn’t too severe and you would like a multi-purpose formula that can target your other skin concerns too, such as wrinkles, then the Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum from Dr. Dennis Gross is the product for you.
This serum contains an exclusive phyto-retinol blend that’ll not only fade age spots, but will also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture, and give you brighter skin.
In addition to retinol, this blend also contains bakuchiol, which is a powerful retinol alternative, along with ferulic acid and rambutan extract for their skin-protecting properties. Clinically proven to provide results in just one week, this is a serum that you’ll definitely want on your side.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that causes certain areas of the skin to darken. These dark spots develop on the surface layer of the skin, and, although harmless, they lead to an uneven skin tone that can make you look so much older than your years.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin deposits excess melanin (the pigment that gives your skin its color) in certain skin cells, rather than distributing the pigment evenly across your skin. Why does it do this? For a number of reasons, and each one leads to a different type of hyperpigmentation…
The Different Types of Hyperpigmentation
There are several different types of hyperpigmentation, with the most common being:
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – triggered by skin trauma, whether this may be a scratch, an insect bite, or breakouts that cause acne scars. Either way, the skin responds by producing excess melanin to help with the healing process, which then leaves that area of skin darker
- Sun spots and freckles – caused by sun exposure, which triggers excess melanin production
- Melasma – these dark patches are caused by hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or taking birth control pills, but is then made worse by sun exposure
What is the best skin lightening cream for hyperpigmentation for men?
Skin lightening creams designed for women with oily skin are the best option for men, since the average male usually has oilier skin than the average female.
What’s the difference between skin bleaching and skin lightening?
Skin bleaching, also known as skin whitening, refers to lightening the color of your natural skin tone. The only way to do this is with the use of harsh chemicals, which is why skin whitening creams should be avoided.
On the other hand, skin lightening involves repairing, and therefore lightening, dark spots and hyperpigmentation – ie. areas of your skin that have turned unnaturally darker due to damage of some sort.
How do skin lightening creams work?
Skin lightening creams work in a couple of different ways. Firstly, they block the skin from producing the excess melanin that causes dark spots in the first place. They also disperse existing melanin clusters to fade dark spots and even out the skin tone.
Do skin lightening creams work on hyperpigmentation?
Yes, skin lightening creams are effective at fading most types of hyperpigmentation.
What is the fastest way to get rid of hyperpigmentation?
Professional cosmetic procedures, such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, are the fastest methods for getting rid of hyperpigmentation.
How long does hyperpigmentation take to lighten?
Some lightening creams for hyperpigmentation offer instant results, but these are usually just temporary. Other formulas produce long-term changes, and it usually takes about 2-4 weeks for improvements to be noticeable. Results should then continue to improve for several weeks after.
How do you speed up hyperpigmentation fading?
Using multiple skin lightening ingredients together can help to speed up how quickly hyperpigmentation fades. It’s also important to protect your skin from sun damage – UV rays will prevent your skin lighteners from working properly.
Can hyperpigmentation be completely removed?
Most forms of hyperpigmentation, from acne marks to birthmarks, can be completely removed, unless they’re particularly deep within the skin.
What are the best natural ingredients for skin lightening?
Some of the most effective natural ingredients for skin lightening are kojic acid, lactic acid, citrus fruits (for their vitamin C content), and licorice root extract.
Do I need to see a doctor before using skin lightening products?
It’s not usually necessary to see a doctor before using over-the-counter skin lightening products. However, if you’re using products that contain high concentrations of harsh ingredients, such as hydroquinone, it would be worth seeking your doctor’s advice first. Likewise, if you experience any severe side effects after using a skin lightener, speak to your doctor.
Is it possible to wear makeup with skin lightening creams?
Some skin lightening creams are quite thick and heavy, and they leave a white cast on the skin, making it difficult to layer makeup over the top. However, other formulas, including serums, are light enough for makeup to easily be worn over the top. If you do this, give your skin lightener about 20 minutes to sink into your skin before you apply your makeup.
Can skin lightening creams be used by breastfeeding mothers?
Technically, yes, there are some skin lightening creams that contain 100% natural and organic ingredients that should be safe for both mother and child. However, exactly how skincare products are absorbed by the bloodstream is something that’s not yet fully understood.
Even natural ingredients could still trigger sensitivities when passed through to a vulnerable baby, so, to be safe, speak to your doctor for more advice on the specific product you want to use.
Can a dermatologist prescribe a prescription cream for hyperpigmentation?
Yes, dermatologists can prescribe prescription lightening creams for severe cases of hyperpigmentation.
ALSO READ: What Causes Discoloration of the Skin?
So what’s the best skin lightening cream for hyperpigmentation? As you can see, there are some great options out there when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation. Rather than going for a single product, we would recommend combining two or three, ensuring that each one has different ingredients. This way, you’ll be able to tackle your dark spots from every angle, meaning faster and more noticeable results.
- Sanadi, Rizwan M, and Revati S Deshmukh. “The effect of Vitamin C on melanin pigmentation – A systematic review.” Journal of oral and maxillofacial pathology : JOMFP vol. 24,2 (2020): 374-382. doi:10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_207_20
- Sarkar, Rashmi et al. “Cosmeceuticals for Hyperpigmentation: What is Available?.” Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery vol. 6,1 (2013): 4-11. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.110089
- New. “New Insights into Azelaic Acid – Practical Dermatology.” Practical Dermatology, 2013, practicaldermatology.com/articles/2013-mar/new-insights-into-azelaic-acid. Accessed 2 May 2023.