Best Hyperpigmentation Serum Products
Dark blemishes that appear on the skin can raise a lot of questions. Where did they come from? Do they pose a health danger? Is there anything that can be done to eliminate them?
The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, these dark spots – known as “hyperpigmentation” – pose no real health risk and are caused by things such as sunlight, medications and even genetics. In addition, they can often be effectively treated by way of various OTC products.
Below we’ll answer some common questions about hyperpigmentation and look at some of the best hyperpigmentation serum products.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is a usually harmless condition that affects many 10s of millions of people. The term is self-explanatory in that “hyper” means “excessive” and “pigmentation” means “colour”. So hyperpigmentation literally means excessive colour in certain areas of your skin. This usually means dark spots of various shapes and sizes that do not typically require medical treatment. There are several different kinds of hyperpigmentation which we’ll get into in a moment.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation?
The exact mechanism which triggers hyperpigmentation is not known. What is known is that the body sometimes releases excessive amounts of melanin in response to certain stimuli. Melanin is the substance responsible for giving your eyes, hair and skin their colour. So when excessive amounts of melanin flood into a particular area of skin it becomes darker than its surroundings.
The following causes have been linked to hyperpigmentation either directly or indirectly:
- Overexposure to the sun.
- Addison’s disease wherein the body does not produce enough cortisol.
- Hormonal changes, typically during pregnancy.
- Insect bites, cuts or acne that trigger an inflammatory response.
- Certain medications, including some oral contraceptives.
- Thyroid disorders.
Symptoms of Hyperpigmentation
The only symptom of hyperpigmentation is dark spots on the skin. If you have dark or discoloured areas that are painful or displaying other symptoms besides just discolouration you should see a dermatologist immediately.
Different Types of Hyperpigmentation
There are several different types of hyperpigmentation, some more common than others.
Overexposure to sunlight is the number 1 cause of hyperpigmentation. This type of hyperpigmentation is variously referred to as age spots, liver spots, sun spots or sun freckles. When the skin is exposed to too much ultraviolet light it triggers melanin production as a defence mechanism. In some cases where the individual has slowly exposed themselves to more and more sun over an extended period of time, the result is a tan. If sun exposure is sudden and excessive, however, the body seems to get confused and releases melanin unevenly, causing dark spots.
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Insect bites, cuts and acne all trigger an inflammatory response in the skin. The inflammation in turn triggers melanin to rush to the affected area. Sometimes too much accumulates, causing a dark area around the injury. Scratching and picking at a bite or a cut can exacerbate the situation causing even more melanin to stream to the area creating a more significant occurrence of hyperpigmentation than would have otherwise been the case.
Melasma is sometimes referred to as the “mask of pregnancy” because A) pregnant women are particularly susceptible to it and B) it manifests on the face, often in large continuous areas. It is believed that the hormonal changes pregnant women go through is what makes them prone to this type of hyperpigmentation. That, combined with being exposed to lots of sunlight, creates the (perhaps imperfect) impression that the woman is wearing a face mask. Fending off melasma usually entails applying a strong sunscreen and wearing a wide-brimmed hat that shades most or all of the face.
Drug induced hyperpigmentation
In some instances, hyperpigmentation can be brought on by certain medications. This type of drug-induced hyperpigmentation usually takes on a brown, grey or bluish colour and will often clear up on its own some weeks after the person stops using the medication. It is estimated that as many as 20% of hyperpigmentation cases are related to medications with the pigmentation usually occurring after the person takes the medicine and then exposes themselves to sunlight. NSAIDs, tetracyclines, antimalarials and psychotropic drugs are the most likely to cause hyperpigmentation events.
Although it’s not as common, genetics can also play a part in hyperpigmentation. For instance, some (not all) birthmarks are hyperpigmentation resulting from genetics, as is familial progressive hyperpigmentation; a rare condition characterized by patches of darker skin on various parts of the body.
Best Ways to Avoid Hyperpigmentation
It’s all very well to say someone should use the best face serum for pigmentation, but prevention is usually a wiser course of action. In this case, we mean that the best way to treat hyperpigmentation is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. The following tips will help reduce your chances of developing unsightly dark blemishes.
Easier said than done, we know. But scratching or picking at an insect bite or cut that is trying to heal will increase the amount of inflammation which, in turn, will likely increase the amount of melanin flooding into the area. The result will be a dark area that can linger for months or years.
Overexposure to the sun is the #1 cause of hyperpigmentation. So the best way to prevent dark spots is to get in the habit of wearing sunscreen when you go out. Dermatologists typically recommend a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
Most people do not drink enough water. When the skin is starved of the water it needs it becomes more susceptible to a variety of skin conditions, including hyperpigmentation. So do right by your skin and drink plenty of water. Also, make sure to use a good moisturizer, preferably one that contains retinol or hyaluronic acid.
Ingredients to Look for in Hyperpigmentation Products
Whenever possible you want your hyperpigmentation product to leverage natural ingredients that are beneficial in achieving the goal of reducing pigmentation, and beneficial to your skin from a regenerative and maintenance perspective. To that end we recommend you prioritise products that contain the following:
Liquorice root extract
Liquorice may seem like an unlikely ingredient for dealing with dark spots on the skin but its medicinal capabilities have been known and appreciated for some time. Liquorice root contains glabridin which has the ability to reduce melanin production, and since melanin is the source of skin pigmentation you can see how that would be useful. Applying serums with liquorice root directly to areas of hyperpigmentation undermines melanin production and leads to the gradual return of a more natural skin tone.
Sunflower seed oil
Sunflower seed oil contains linoleic acid which research indicates can reduce melanin production and alleviate hyperpigmentation. Sunflower seed oil is also rich in antioxidants that help bolster the overall health of the skin’s underlying layers. Sunflower oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. That’s important because it is our body’s inflammatory reaction to bug bites, scrapes and cuts that often produces hyperpigmented areas of skin. Being a natural emollient sunflower oil also helps your skin feel moist and supple.
Squalane is a saturated oil that is best known as a moisturizer and hydrating agent. However, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties it is also included in some all-natural products that provide relief from hyperpigmentation. Research has demonstrated that squalane can reduce redness associated with acne, cuts, bug bites and even eczema. While some unethical manufacturers will source squalane from shark livers, responsible manufacturers like Bianca Miller, (maker of Hian Skin Renewal Serum), source the squalane in their products from plant sources such as olive and sugar cane.
Frankincense oil is an essential oil that promotes skin regeneration and the growth of healthy skin cells. Frankincense oil bolsters the skin’s elasticity, helps attract water and oxygen to the skin and is renowned for its anti-inflammatory ability and its ability to fight wrinkles and lighten and restore skin. Well-considered hyperpigmentation products will often include frankincense oil as a complementary ingredient with the goal of not just lightening dark spots but promoting all-around skin health.
Indian chiretta extract
In recent years people everywhere have sought to move away from skin lighteners that contain harsh artificial ingredients. As a result, ingredients that were once known only to small numbers of natural healers and practitioners of alternative medicine have emerged to answer the call. One of those alternative natural skin lighteners is Indian chiretta extract. Chiretta extract has undergone intense scrutiny in recent years and has proven itself time and again as a powerful anti-inflammatory that can be useful in the treatment of hyperpigmentation.
Retinol is a common ingredient in anti-pigmentation serums but it is rather harsh and can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. Retinyl palmitate is retinol’s more mellow, but still natural, chemical cousin. Like retinol, retinyl palmitate is derived from vitamin A. However, unlike retinol, it is then combined with palmitic acid to create a safer, yet still effective lightening agent that can be used to combat skin pigmentation.
Like hydroquinone, kojic acid works by inhibiting the activity of the tyrosinase enzyme, thereby reducing melanin production. Kojic acid is a common ingredient in hyperpigmentation serums and is preferred by many environmentally conscious consumers because it comes from natural sources. In this case various types of fungi.
Popular Products for Hyperpigmentation
Hian Skin Renewal Serum
Hian Skin Renewal Serum is a high-performance, natural serum that leverages the power of liquorice root and other ingredients to reduce hyperpigmentation, brighten skin and reduce scarring. Hian Skin Serum is perhaps the best serum for pigmentation as it is completely free of harsh chemicals that can often do as much harm as good to the skin. What users love about this product is that it is part of a 3-step skin renewal and rejuvenation system that not only reduces hyperpigmentation but strengthens and improves overall skin quality.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
This toner is intended to be used nightly to reduce hyperpigmentation, primarily by exfoliating dead skin cells. Exfoliation will not only reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, it will also make skin more resilient and restore a bit of lustre to skin that has suffered at the hands of the elements. Be aware, however, that those with sensitive skin may find it a bit irritating.
Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum
Murad Rapid Dark Spot leverages the ability of hydroquinone to undermine melanin production and lighten dark spots. While Murad Rapid Dark is generally regarded as effective, the inclusion of hydroquinone means that it should not be used on a daily basis for extended periods of time. This particular serum is also quite expensive compared to other products on this list.
Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution
Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective is an all-natural product that approaches the issue of hyperpigmentation from an oblique angle. Rather than undermining melanin production directly the vitamin C and white birch extract in Clearly Corrective leverage their antioxidant properties to bolster the health of the skin’s underlayers. As a result, new, healthier and brighter skin cells replace the hyperpigmented cells over the course of weeks and months.
Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C + Ferulic Dark Spot Serum
Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C+ Ferulic Dark Spot Serum feels great when applied to the skin. Silky and smooth it’s devoid of any greasiness or heaviness and the vitamin C, guava seed oil and fruit extracts bolster skin health, remove over-pigmented cells and restore lustre to the skin’s surface. And lest we forget, the ferulic acid also bolsters your skin’s ability to protect itself from damage caused by excessive exposure to sunlight, which is the #1 cause of hyperpigmentation.
Melé Even Dark Spot Control Serum
Dark Spot Control Serum from Melé is aimed at helping people with naturally darker skin tones deal with hyperpigmentation without tipping things over in the opposite direction and creating light spots. This is a carefully considered formula containing niacinamide, vitamin E and retinol, among other ingredients. Melé Dark Spot Serum manages to successfully walk the line between effectively treating hyperpigmentation and causing irritation.
Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum
Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum leverages the ability of niacinamide (vitamin B3) to disrupt cellular metabolism. By doing so it prevents over-pigmented cells from being created and preserves the natural tone of the skin. Dark Spot Serum is also effective at reducing inflammation and is considered safe for those with sensitive skin.
SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Multi-Phase Serum
SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Multi-Phase Serum (say that 3 times fast!) contains not only niacinamide and kojic acid, but also contains tranexamic acid which research indicates is effective for whitening skin. This powerful 1, 2, 3 punch is quite effective at treating hyperpigmentation, but can be irritating for those with sensitive skin.
Mighty Patch Micropoint for Dark Spots
Most hyperpigmentation serums are rubbed into the affected area once or twice a day. Mighty Patch Micropoint for Dark Spots takes a different approach. In this case, each Mighty Patch is infused with tranexamic acid, vitamin C and niacinamide. Simply apply the patch to the dark spot and leave it on for 6 hours twice a week.
Neutrogena Stubborn Marks PM Treatment
Acne scars can be some of the most stubborn kinds of hyperpigmentation. Neutrogena Stubborn Marks PM Treatment is designed specifically to address these areas of discolouration using a combination of retinol, hyaluronic acid and glycerin for soothing and smoothing the skin.
What product really works for hyperpigmentation?
All of the products we profiled above are potentially effective at reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Each takes its own approach and uses its own proprietary blend of ingredients. That said, if you are in search of a complete skin care system that will not only reduce dark spots, melasma, sun spots and more, and repair damage caused by the sun and other environmental hazards, we recommend Hian Skin Renewal Serum. It’s all-natural, cruelty free and takes a holistic approach to hyperpigmentation that not only addresses dark spots but their cause as well.
What products do dermatologists recommend for hyperpigmentation?
While some individual dermatologists will endorse specific products, most avoid potential conflicts of interest by simply recommending you look for products that contain ingredients known to be effective in the treatment of hyperpigmentation. The products highlighted above all contain one or more of the ingredients recommended by dermatologists for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. So if you are looking for a serum or other treatment that is safe and effective you can’t go wrong by choosing one of the products on our list.
How do I choose the right hyperpigmentation product?
When selecting a product to address hyperpigmentation there are several factors you should consider, these include:
- Your skin type: Some products designed to address dark spots can irritate sensitive skin. In addition, some products are better suited to people with naturally darker complexions than other products.
- Ingredients: If you haven’t already you should peruse the effective ingredients we listed earlier. Any product you choose to address hyperpigmentation should include one or more of those ingredients.
- Whether the product is environmentally friendly: Some products are made using harsh chemicals and may have relied on animal testing at some point in their production process. If you want a product that is environmentally friendly and cruelty-free make sure you read the labels carefully.
What clears hyperpigmentation fast?
Reducing hyperpigmentation is not something that can be done overnight, and anyone who tells you otherwise is not being honest with you. In most cases, even the best anti pigmentation serum and patches will take a month or two to produce the kind of results people are looking for. The key to success is persistence. When people fail to reduce their dark spots using high-quality anti-pigmentation products it is not usually the fault of the product. It is usually because the person gave up when their spots were still there after 1 or 2 weeks.
If I wait will hyperpigmentation go away on its own?
In some cases, hyperpigmentation will go away on its own. Many cases of drug-induced pigmentation will fade after the person has stopped taking the medication that caused the dark spots. But even so, it will take time. Perhaps a few months. In addition, hyperpigmentation around bug bites and cuts may also fade over time. With bug bites, it might just be a few weeks, but with cuts – especially if the person scratched the area or picked at the scab – the pigmentation may last for years before finally fading away.
What is the best way to prevent hyperpigmentation?
Since overexposure to the sun is the number 1 cause of hyperpigmentation, taking common sense steps to protect your skin from the sun is the easiest and most effective way to prevent dark spots. That means getting in the habit of applying a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 before going outside, reapplying the sunscreen at regular intervals if you are outside for an extended period of time, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck.