First of all, reducing hyperpigmentation will take a multi pronged approach to see best results. Patience and diligence will be your best friends. Remember your skin didnʼt get this way overnight and it doesn’t go away overnight. In a lightening routine youʼll want to prepare the skin, lighten, inhibit, and protect.
Also remember, pigmentation shows up in many forms. You can have freckles, melasma, ‘age spots’, post inflammatory pigmentation, etc. There is no one size fits all cure when it comes to using products and some forms of pigmentation are harder to lighten than others.
How to Prepare the Skin: Exfoliation
Exfoliation is the removal and/or loosening of the top layers of the epidermis. This helps remove surface pigmentation by eliminating melanin present in the upper layers. Exfoliating also preps the skin to better receive lightening ingredients. Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHA, are common exfoliating ingredients that can gently prep the skin.
Lighten and Inhibit: Serums and/or Laser
Hydroquinone is the ‘gold standard” yet I would use it as a last resort. If you must, use it until it lightens and then take a break. It does lighten but its a controversial ingredient and I’m not convinced it is good for the health of your skin.
Years ago I used it and it did lighten while it also left my skin feeling a bit more fragile. Also, it has some possible unsavory side effects depending on what study you read.
I’d start with something gentler to begin with before using more aggressive products. The health of your skin should always be the goal in anything you do.
Some ingredients to look for would be niacinamide, kojic acid, ellagic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, retinol, and vitamin C. Many lightening serums are tyrosinase inhibitors. You can read why using an inhibiting product is important here.
My preferred routine is to use a Vitamin C serum in the morning and a lightening serum at night.
If you’re considering laser treatment for reducing pigmentation it’s wise to start a lightening routine several weeks beforehand. This is thought to help prevent post inflammatory pigmentation. I strongly recommend doing this in spring or fall, that way you can recover without harsh temperatures.
Protection: Sunscreen applied often and lavishly
Truthfully there’s no point in trying to lighten dark spots if you’re planning to soak up the sunʼs rays. The sun and heat will bring all of your hard work back to square one.
I highly recommend at least SPF 30 to 50 as well as using hats, visors, parasols, etc. If you hate sweat and hat hair from wearing a hat all summer, I suggest looking at a Lily-Lark parasol. These are high quality handcrafted parasols with a UPF 50+ coating that protect from over 98% of UV rays and so much prettier than regular umbrellas. I’ve always wanted parasols to be a fashion statement!
This isn’t a sponsored post, I’ve just had one of these beautiful works of art on my wishlist for quite a while. I’m also a fan of supporting women owned and created businesses. Take a look and I’m guessing you’ll want one too!
Some Recommended Serums
I hesitated to recommend specific products because I only have one face and can’t possibly use every lightening product on the market. Also, I’ve used a few serums that did nothing for me but worked beautifully on others. These recommendation were selected carefully based on ingredients, first hand reviews, and reputation. They might just work for you.
I say “might” because depending on the cause, pigmentation can be one on the most stubborn skin concerns to deal with. Let me tell you how much I enjoy watching my hubby lighten a spot in a month while I use the same product and it doesn’t budge for 6 months…thank you hormones!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links! This means I earn a small commission if you purchase anything through said link. I only recommend products I know and love or that are on my wishlist for future purchase.
SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum- Lightens with niacinimide, Tetrapeptide-30, Tranexamic acid, phytic acid, vitamin C and other beneficial peptides.
Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade IPL Dark Spot Correcting Serum- Full of antioxidants combined with AHA and lightening ingredients such as L-ascorbic acid, lactic and glycolic acids, kojic and azelaic acids and quite a few more!
Verso Dark Spot Fix- This has a high dose of retinol 8, niacinimide, and curcumin along with hyaluronic acid.
Obagi Professional-C Serum 20%- One of the highest concentrations of L-ascorbic acid with the added benefit of hyaluronic acid.
SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF- Includes vitamin C, vitamin E, and phloretin to provide antioxidant protection against sun damage while evening skin tone.
This is not the be all end all list of serums, just a good starting point. Sometimes lightening dark spots requires some trial and error. Besides having lightening properties, all of these serums have other beneficial ingredients so you won’t be wasting time and money. Serums are always where you want to spend the most too.
Don’t forget you can use these products on the back of your hands too!