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Whether you're dealing with sunspots, melasma, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (aka acne-caused skin spots), hyperpigmentation is a common but pesky skin condition for millions of people around the world.
Caused by an excess of melanin in the skin, hyperpigmentation can be treated by dermatologist-prescribed ointments, expensive laser treatments, or, thanks to a new generation of beauty wizards, over-the-counter skin treatments.
We scoured the internet to find the best and most promising at-home treatments to battle skin hyperpigmentation. From serums and correcting peels to spot treatments and overnight masks, this is what we found.
The Ordinary's Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA is an effective skin-brightening serum comprised of purified alpha arbutin and hyaluronic acid. It's chief ingredient, alpha arbutin, is a derivative of hydroquinone, a depigmenting agent. While hydroquinone is something of a controversial ingredient (Health Canada warns products containing hydroquinone at concentrations greater than 2% may cause skin burning, cracking, and an increased risk of cancer), alpha arbutin is a safe derivative of the chemical compound thanks to its slow release. "This is a game-changer," wrote one reviewer. "If I hadn't seen it for myself, I wouldn't have believed it. Thanks for bringing my confidence back!!"
The Ordinary's formula is safe to use with other skin-brightening products like the brand's vitamin C powder and Niacinimide. "Absolutely amazing - I've been using this product to try and lighten some of my scars," another reviewer added. "The scars were deep and dark and I've tried everything to get rid of them but this one really did the job. Absolute lifesaver."
SHOP IT: The Ordinary, $9
Pulchrie's fast-acting brightening and lightening serum averages 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon for its spot-correcting formula. The Amazon Choice serum is designed to fade the look of dark spots, age spots, and sunspots, while firming, moisturizing, and brightening the skin. "[I've] tried a lot of products to remove dark spots [but] nothing worked until this," said a shopper. "I absolutely love this!" read another review; "it's made my dark spots fade and brightened my face. [...] This product is fantastic!"
SHOP IT: Amazon, $33
Algenist's cult-loved resurfacing and exfoliating peel is a powerful vegan formula designed to reduce the look of dark spots and hyperpigmentation while evening out overall skin tone. The gel formula contains blue-green microalgae-derived vitamin C and a powerhouse blend of AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
After a four-week clinical trial, 89% of participants said their dark spots were visibly diminished after eight uses. "Acne scars 50% gone in 3-4 uses & 95% gone in 9-10 uses. I use it 2x per week. Will continue using as it helped with texture & brightness as well," reads one Sephora review."[It's] amazing for sensitive skin!" According to another reviewer. "This peel is so gentle my skin doesn't feel stripped or tight after using it. I've used this three times so far, and it has already dramatically improved some of my dark spots!"
SHOP IT: Sephora, $110
EnaSkin's dark spot correcter has earned 5,500 five-star reviews on Amazon for its powerful hyperpigmentation-treating formula. The Amazon's Choice product for hyperpigmentation works to minimize the appearance of dark spots and acne pigmentation and improve uneven skin tone. "I have Melasma on my face, and after using this product, I could not believe how much my face cleared up," wrote one reviewer.
"[It's the] perfect solution for stubborn dark spots," explained another five-star review. "I have been struggling with dark spots on my forehead and upper lip area [and] nothing worked until this product. [My] dark spots are pretty much gone"
SHOP IT: Amazon, $35
Kiehl's brightening serum is formulated with vitamin C to reduce the look of dark spots, white birch extract to even out skin tone, and peony extract to protect against oxidative damage. After a 12-week clinical study of 17 women, 49% saw a visible reduction in their hyperpigmentation and 39% in their dark spots colouring. "The key to success and positive results with this product is you must use it correctly!" said a Kiehl's reviewer. "You must apply the product to a damp face. A little goes a long way!"
"The first month I was using it, I already noticed a lightening on my dark spots," reads another review. "I had tried so many different products the past five years, and it was only this that significantly lightened my age spots."
SHOP IT: Sephora, $68
Peter Thomas Roth's intensive gel formula works to reduce the look of skin discoloration with a high-potency 15% active brightening complex. It contains niacinamide to reduce the look of discoloration, tranexamic acid to help lighten dark patches and post-blemish marks, and kojic acid to help brighten the overall appearance of skin. In a six-week panel study, users agreed dark spots and sunspots were less visible after treatment. "I've been using this product just short of 2 weeks; I've never seen my hyperpigmentation fade so rapidly," reads one five-star Sephora review.
"[It's a] hyperpigmentation killer," added another reviewer. "It is fading dark spots, filling scars, calming redness and overall making my skin so so soft without a hint or suggestion that it is congesting or causing new breakouts."
SHOP IT: Sephora, $116
The Inkey List's lightweight gel is an overnight treatment that helps target the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dark spots. It contains 2% tranexamic acid to reduce hyperpigmentation, 2% acai berry extract to promote even skin tone, and 2% vitamin C derivative to brighten skin. The formula has garnered an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Sephora; "So gentle, and I absolutely love that it's unscented! I use this 1-2 times a week, and I immediately felt and saw results within two weeks," said one Sephora reviewer. "I have a few hyperpigmentation marks from hormonal acne along my jawline, and it seems to have worked for me."
"It's a bottle of magic," echoed another review. "The best for fading those annoying red marks that are left after a fresh pimple has left your skin.. this stuff is a miracle worker for sure! Use it 2-3 times a week and trust the process!"
SHOP IT: Sephora, $19
The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.