Pigmentation is a common skin concern appearing in many different ways – ranging from hyperpigmentation to melasma, it can be reduced or improved with a few specialist products in our beauty regimen.
Consultant dermatologist, Dr Hiva Fassihi, explains to IndyBest the many ways it can affect our skin. “The top three conditions seen by dermatologists are melasma, post acne marks (also known as post inflammatory hyperpigmentation), and solar lentigines,” she says.
Melasma is particularly prone in pregnancy and women on the oral contraceptive pill, and is caused by sun exposure. Commonly appearing on the cheeks, forehead and upper lip of young women, particularly in skin types that tan easily, Dr Fassihi explains.
She goes on to say, “Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is more commonly seen in those with darker skin types and can follow anything that causes irritation on the skin such as acne and eczema, or after injury to the skin. This includes hair removal with hot wax on the upper lip and also after certain cosmetic procedures and lasers.”
Lastly, solar lentigines are round brown lesions, most often found on the face, chest or hands, and are the result of a culmination of UV exposure. When it comes to treating pigmentation, one of the best preventive measures you can take is to wear sunscreen everyday.
Additionally, according to Dr Fassihi, antioxidants including vitamin C and niacinamide, along with alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and azelaic acid can all be helpful in reducing the appearance of pigmentation.
To help you find the best solution for your skin, we’ve spent weeks putting toners, serums and moisturisers to the test, to find the most effective treatments, taking into account budgets big and small as well as different skin types, from oily to dry. These are our top-rated picks.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across TheIndependent.
The best hyperpigmentation products for all skin types 2021 are:
Best overall and for sensitive skin – SkinCeuticals discolourations defense corrective serum: £85, Feelunique.com
Best for acne-prone skin – La Roche-Posay pure vitamin C10: £38, Lookfantastic.com
Best for improving skin texture – Allies of Skin mandelic pigmentation corrector night serum: £89, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for dry skin – Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% vitamin C rich hydration cream: £60, Spacenk.com
Best for those on a budget – The Ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA: £20, Asos.com
Best for dark spots – Niod re: pigment: £28, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for oily skin – Dr Glycolic pore purifying glow toner: £30, Beautypie.com
Best for anti-ageing – Susanne Kaufmann pollution skin defence system: £48, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for combination skin – Summer Fridays CC me serum: £57, Selfridges.com
SkinCeuticals discolouration defense corrective serum, 30ml
Best: Overall and for sensitive skin
This niacinamide-rich formula is so light and thin, it feels almost like water and is recommended to use between three to five drops twice a day. It’s fast absorbing and leaves the texture of our skin smooth, soft and ready for moisturiser. If you have a higher budget, this is well worth the spend, leaving no irritation, despite our reviewer having severe dryness as a side effect from acne medication.
It also sat nicely beneath make-up and was a pleasure to apply. As it’s such a thin consistency, it doesn’t clog up the pipette, nor leave any dregs behind, so it definitely feels like you can reach every last scrap of product. If you use it in the morning, just be sure to always apply sunscreen after, to keep skin as protected as possible.
Buy now £85.00, Feelunique.com
La Roche-Posay pure vitamin C10, 30ml
Best: For acne-prone skin
We love La Roche-Posay for its science-led, accessible approach to skincare. Though this serum – along with its hyaluronic acid and retinol – is at the most expensive price points of the entire range, for less than £40, you get an effective, fast-acting, skin-smoothing serum that brightens and reduces hyperpigmentation.
It’s a gloopy texture but doesn’t take an age to rub in and the pipette picks up a generous amount of product. Containing hyaluronic acid to hydrate and retain moisture, salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and unclog pores and of course, vitamin C, which brightens, it’s a triple threat that addresses a multitude of concerns.
Buy now £28.50, Lookfantastic.com
Allies of Skin mandelic pigmentation corrector night serum, 30ml
Best for: Improving skin texture
This is a brilliant all-rounder if you regularly chemically exfoliate with an acid, but don’t want to add too many products into your routine. As an AHA serum, it contains a cocktail of hardworking ingredients including; mandelic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, bakuchiol, eight brightening agents and seven antioxidants and peptides. Combined they tackle breakouts, pigmentation and uneven texture.
Surprisingly it smells ever so slightly of brown sugar and is a light yellow consistency. The bottle is helpfully labled and shares it’s to be used at night and the ingredients are clearly written. We loved that our skin felt hydrated and supple after only a few uses and over the course of the following weeks, our skin was left looking more even.
Buy now £89.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% vitamin C rich hydration cream, 50ml
Best for: Dry skin
If you have dry skin, this cream is a godsend. Rich, but not sticky, it’s instantly softening and keeps our skin looking plump and dewy. It’s a weighty pot, and a small amount of product goes a long way, and was especially great at reducing patches of dryness on our reviewers cheeks.
As the weather gets warmer, this is an ideal option if you are in desperate need of a daily moisture boost with brightening benefits thanks to the vitamin C, as it’s lightweight but won’t leave skin looking greasy. There’s a very slight citrus scent with every application, which is a refreshing bonus too. When used before bed, you’ll wake up with a brighter complexion that’s plump and healthy-looking.
Buy now £60.00, Spacenk.com
The Ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA, 30ml
Best for: Those on a budget
This clear gel serum contains a mix of alpha arbutin, which brightens skin, and hyaluronic acid, a humectant that attracts and retains moisture. Often gel-based serums can leave a tacky finish, but this is fast-absorbing and feels weightless on the skin. Just be sure it’s fully rubbed in before continuing with the rest of your routine to avoid your products pilling.
Targeting hyperpigmentation and dark spots, it’s gentle but hydrating and over the course of a few weeks, we saw a subtle reduction in the appearance of both, especially on our cheeks. It works quickly to improve skin texture too, with a definite difference in redness and skin tone with regular use.
Buy now £7.00, Asos.com
Niod re: pigment, 15ml
Best for: Dark spots
This serum from The Ordinary’s sister brand, NIOD, is another water-like serum that’s an emollient without the rich texture. It’s so fluid, it’s easy to over apply so make sure you only use three to four drops to avoid wasting any product.
It’s notable ingredients include d’glucosyl gallic acid for brightening, azelaic acid to reduce redness, shiitake ferment to target dark spots and red evodia fruit derivatives, which can even skin tone and improve radiance. Designed to be used morning and evening, we began to notice a reduction in hyperpigmentation on our cheeks and around the nose within days.
Buy now £28.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Dr Glycolic pore purifying glow toner, 150ml
Best for: Oily skin
We have to admit, this is the best smelling toner we’ve ever tried, with a refreshing scent. It’s a simple way to address hyperpigmentation in your routine, simply soak a cotton pad and swipe over skin after cleansing two to three times a week. You can use it daily if you’re particularly oily, but if you’re prone to irritation, it’s always best to start using a new acid two to three times a week at first. It’s a small but simple change to make in your routine and while results won’t be drastic, it’s good for the long haul.
Containing glycolic acid, niacinamide and natural fruits AHA’s, including bilberry, orange and lemon fruit extract, it’s a powerhouse for treating acne scarring, breakouts and hyperpigmentation. For Beauty Pie members, it costs £12.49.
Buy now £30.00, Beautypie.com
Susanne Kaufmann pollution skin defence system, 3x 2ml
Best for: Anti-ageing
This three-step system is a little fiddly, the ampoules come with a opener tool to snap the lid to get to the product, which would come in handy for travel. In each ampoule, you get 2ml of product, which doesn’t look like much but fills your whole palm. As you can’t re-seal it once opened, you do need to massage the whole ampoule to the skin. Each one has quite a wet consistency that’s lightweight on the skin and takes a little long to massage in, but that said, it smells incredible and feels pampering.
It’s perfect for a quick pick-me-up if your skin is feeling lacklustre and is a speedy way to kickstart working on reducing hyperpigmentation. It’s also available in a 15 x 2ml set if you wanted a longer treatment.
Enriched with a mix of vitamin C, ectoin, and Q10, it treats and protects skin from environmental aggressors that can age skin, such as UV rays, a common cause for pigmentation, and improves hydration.
Buy now £48.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Summer Fridays CC me serum, 30ml
Best for: Combination skin
Most known for its masks and lip balm, New-York based brand Summer Fridays, also has an extensive range that’s worth your time. While this bottle feels small, it’s packed with hydrating and brightening ingredients including vitamin C, niacinamide and squalane.
Designed to be used in the morning on clean skin, it’s fuss-free and gentle to easily introduce into your routine without any irritation. Lightweight and non-greasy, it’s fast-absorbing without taking ages to rub in. As a multitasking product, it brightens while simultaneously evening out skin tone, and we noticed increased radiance within two weeks of regular use.
Buy now £57.00, Selfridges.com
The verdict: Hyperpigmentation products
Of all the products we tried, it was the Skinceuticals discolouration defense serum that left us most impressed, and while it’s not cheap, it’s worth investing in if hyperpigmentation is your biggest concern. Lightweight and fast-absorbing, it will suit even the most sensitive of skin without causing irritation and was an easy addition to our skincare routine.
If you’re tackling dryness and dehydration along with any pigmentation concerns, the Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% vitamin C rich hydration cream is a lovely non-greasy cream that’s soothing, softening and brightening, but will also last you ages.
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