Have you ever failed the urge to pop a zit? It probably felt good at first but then you woke up the next morning to see your worst nightmare, a big dark spot. Depending on your skin tone, these spots can take weeks, even months before they fade. But that doesn’t always have to be the case. Let’s talk about hyperpigmentation and how you can treat it with the help of some must-have products and ingredients.

What Is Hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is the appearance of darker skin in small or large patches. It can occur anywhere on your body and often takes longer than you would like to heal. There are primarily three types of hyperpigmentation:

  • Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH): These are the dark spots that are left behind after a pimple. When your skin experiences irritation due to a pimple or wound, it reacts by becoming inflamed. The skin fights this inflammation by producing melanin, a pigment that gives skin its color, and hence, the overproduction of melanin results in a dark spot. 
  • Melasma: This refers to the patches of darker skin caused by hormonal changes. While this can occur on any part of your body, melasma most commonly occurs on the face and stomach. Pregnant women or those taking birth control pills or hormone therapies are most prone to this kind of hyperpigmentation.
  • Sunspots: Also known as solar lentiginosis, this kind of hyperpigmentation occurs due to excessive sun exposure. These appear most commonly after the age of 40 and manifest as small black or brown spots. Face, hands, arms, and shoulders are the most susceptible to sunspots. 

Now that we understand what hyperpigmentation is and what the likely causes are, we can begin to treat it. You will be happy to know that with the boom of the skincare industry, there is not one but multiple over-the-counter ingredients that cure hyperpigmentation when used safely and regularly. Let’s talk about some of them.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids for Hyperpigmentation

Commonly known as AHAs, these are plant or animal-derived acids that are gentle enough to be included in over-the-counter products. While there are multiple acids that fall under the category of AHAs, lactic and glycolic acids are the most common for skincare products as they are less likely to cause irritation. 

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane, whereas lactic acid is derived from lactose. Among the many benefits of AHAs, they are most commonly used as chemical exfoliants to get rid of different kinds of hyperpigmentation. AHAs do this by gently exfoliating the dead skin cells on the surface of your epidermis. This prevents the build-up of dead skin cells and allows the new skin cells to come to the surface of the epidermis. Regular use of AHAs can ensure a faster skin cell generation cycle which allows for quicker healing of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Apart from helping cure hyperpigmentation, AHAs can also help brighten your skin, delay signs of aging, and boost collagen production. 

My Alpha Hydroxy Acid Product Recommendations: 

Advanced Clinicals Micro-Peel Glycolic Acid Facial Cleanser

Packed with glycolic acid, this cleanser is a must-have for treating hyperpigmentation. This product will help you achieve that radiant and clear skin you have always dreamt of. As an added bonus, this product is 100% sulfate-free. Try using it once a day to start and then work up to twice a day. If dryness or flaking occurs, go back to once a day or even every other day.

Advanced Clinicals Dark Spot Corrector

This lightweight serum is packed with everything your skin needs to fight off hyperpigmentation. Formulated with lactic acid and marine extracts, this product targets dark spots, sun spots, and uneven skin tone. This serum is also a powerhouse for hydration; with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and vitamin E, you will not face the irritation that usually comes with the use of AHAs. Use it after cleansing, focusing on any blotchy areas and/or dark spots.

Beta Hydroxy Acid for Hyperpigmentation

Just like AHAs, BHAs are common ingredients in skincare products that help with hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, and skin texture. Of the various kinds of BHAs, the most common is salicylic acid. While salicylic acid is the go-to ingredient for acne, and it is also highly effective to treat hyperpigmentation. Some other BHAs are trethocanic acid, willow bark extract, and tropic acid.

BHAs are oil-soluble acids that go deep into your pores and get rid of the excess gunk, sebum, and dead skin cells. This helps with more severe forms of hyperpigmentation and acne. 

My Beta Hydroxy Acid Product Recommendation: 

Cos de BAHA Salicylic Acid BHA 4% Serum 

This Korea KFDA-certified product has everything you need to say goodbye to those dark spots. The active ingredients in this product are 4% salicylic acid and niacinamide, a perfect concoction to clear and even skin. Just 1-2 drops of this cruelty-free serum in your PM routine for 2-3 nights a week will give you the glowing skin of your dreams! 


Retinols are vitamin A derivatives that treat hyperpigmentation by increasing skin cell turnover. While they can cause intense dryness and irritation, they do wonders when used in a conducive skincare routine. Typically, the visible effects of retinol take longer than AHAs and BHAs. In addition to speeding up the skin cell turnover, retinol also helps with hyperpigmentation by inhibiting the activity of one of the enzymes that stimulate the production of melanin, tyrosinase. 

My Retinol Product Recommendation:

PrescriptSkin Retinol Toner

This lightly fragranced retinol toner can be used in your AM and PM routine to reduce dark spots, melasma, and even signs of aging. Since this toner is packed with the goodness of cucumber, green tea, and calendula, you do not need to worry about dryness or irritation. Make sure to use SPF while using retinol to prevent further sun damage. 

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll probably want to do a patch test before using any of these ingredients on your face, to make sure it won’t irritate you. To do a patch test, put a small amount of the product on your inner arm and see how your skin reacts. 

In the case of retinol, irritation is common when you begin using it, but your skin will adjust over time. Start using it 2-3 times per week and when your skin adjusts to it, add another day, and so on.