Ingredients like retinol (vitamin A), vitamin C, niacinamide (vitamin B3), AHAs (like glycolic acid), kojic acid, hydroquinone, arbutin (which inhibits the creation of melanin), azelaic acid, liquorice root extract and mulberry extract are all power players in the anti-pigmentation game, so keep an eye out for these star ingredients when searching for an over-the-counter option.
The type of discolouration you have can help point you in the right direction when it comes to OTC pigmentation treatments, Dr Sarah Tonks, founder of The Lovely Clinic, explains to The Independent.
“For dark spots [caused by overexposure to the sun] it’s vitamin C plus arbutin, kojic acid and liquorice. For melasma [dark brown or grey patches/splotches that tend to worsen due to hormonal changes] a combination of hydroquinone and tretinoin is the best, and for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation [caused after trauma to the skin, eg, acne], time will help – this often fades of its own accord – otherwise you can use the above ingredients.”
So, what is the best cream for skin pigmentation? We've rounded up our top pigmentation treatments.
Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum, $130 from Adore Beauty
With glycolic acid to slough away dead skin cells and retexturise your complexion, plus vitamin C to even out skin tone and brighten, this serums gets to work FAST, to have you looking radiant and ready to go. Sitting beautifully on the skin it's perfect to wear under makeup.
"This stuff is amazing - I received a sample of this and was testing it out for a few weeks and honestly has made my skin look so plump and glowy, to the point that I had a male friend comment on my skin. Definitely recommend," one user reviewed.
ProX By Olay Brightening Spot Fading Essence, $69.99
Working to fade the look of dark spots and skin discolouration, ProX By Olay Brightening Spot Fading Essence reveals a brighter, more even complexion after just two weeks of use. The formula features Niacinamide and Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine to help hydrate the skin, and Laminaria Saccharina, sourced from the North-western Coast of France, to effectively reduce discolouration. ProX by Olay is a breakthrough line developed by trusted dermatologists worldwide and Olay skin scientists for over 20 years, using genomics research (the study of skin genes/genetic cells).
"ProX by Olay is something completely different and innovative. I have been using the Brightening Spot Fading Essence and have had so many compliments on my glowing skin. I’ve noticed such a difference in the sun spots I got over summer, they’re fading in colour already!" says Jesinta Franklin.
SkinCeuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector, $148 from Adore Beauty
A paraben-, fragrance- and dye-free lotion that's gentle enough to use daily, this offering from Skinceuticals works to fade stubborn discolouration and visibly improve skin tone. It works for almost all skin types – although sensitive types might want to give it a miss.
"I recommend Advanced Pigment Corrector to my patients who struggle with hyperpigmentation and post-acne discolouration," explains facial aesthetics expert Dr Sarah Levy.
"I use it daily to maintain my results post laser for pigmentation treatment. It’s light, works on all skin types and can be used year round!"
Skinstitut Retinol, $49 from Adore Beauty
Retinol is your anti-pigmentation MVP. It's the most potent stable form of vitamin A, which is heralded and a hero for combating ageing, breakouts and redness, and is a super-corrector for refining skin and boosting radiance. This gel formula encourages the shedding of dead skin cells to even out skin tone and brighten pigmentation, but be sure to use it at night, as retinol increases skin's sensitivity to light.
"I have been using the retinol serum with Skinstitut Vitamin C at night for six months," says a fan of the pigmentation treatment. "My pigmentation has visibly improved. My skin is radiant every morning and my skin tone has improved."
Skin Medica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum, $205 from The Beauty Club
Hailed by some as a 'miracle in a bottle', this tone-evening, hyperpigmentation-correcting serum is loaded with tranexamic acid and phenylethyl resorcinol to support skin's natural melanin balance, along with niacinamide and tetrapeptide-30 to stop future hyperpigmentation in its tracks.
"I have used the original Lytera for lightening face and hand freckles and age spots [with] good results," says one reviewer who also uses it for body pigmentation treatment. "This version is even faster to lighten the darker spots. I will continue to use it as part of my regimen to have clear skin."
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, $9.80 from Adore Beauty
Cult skincare brand The Ordinary has one of the most budget-friendly anti-pigmentation products out, and plenty of five-star ratings to back it up. "I use The Ordinary Vitamin C 23% for skin tone and pigmentation," reports one fan. "I've found it has a positive effect with little irritation when use 2-3 times/week and leaves my skin feeling smooth."
What makes it so great for correcting pigmentation? Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can reverse the signs of ageing, brighten skin and even out skin tone.
PCA Skin Intensive Brightening Treatment: 0.5% Pure Retinol Night, $164 from Adore Beauty
Retinol is the hero of this potent pigmentation-fighting cream, but it's backed up by a slew of other skin-loving ingredients including niacinamide to strengthen the skin's barrier, and resveratrol – one of a group of antioxidants called polyphenols that helps protect skin from environmental damage.
"Within the first two weeks of using this retinol, I noticed that my skin texture was a lot smoother and my skin tone was a lot more even," writes one reviewer. "This retinol works wonders with any kind of discolouration. By far my favourite retinol I've used."
Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum, $69 from Mecca
If you're looking for the best product for skin pigmentation treatment, put this serum on the must-try list. Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant to brighten skin, even tone, fade dark spots and – bonus – soften fine lines, while sodium hyaluronate delivers a burst of hydration, plumping lines and wrinkles for a radiant glow.
"The serum has really transformed my skin in the past year," says one reviewer in her 40s. "It's made my skin brighter, smoother and old spots have faded away. I do have rosacea and I haven't had a bad flareup since I have been using the serum."
Aspect Pigment Punch, $149.50 from Adore Beauty
Another of the best skin pigmentation treatment products on the market, Aspect's serum addresses all pigmentation-related concerns: think age spots, brown marks, freckles, hormonal marks, blotchy and uneven skin tone and acne scarring. Use twice a day for ultimate brightening results that fans rave about.
"This is so good for mild pigmentation. I have lines of pigmentation under where my sunglasses sit and this has faded it so much already. I’ve been been using it morning and night after cleansing before all other serums and products."
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Night Serum, $205 from Mecca
With a skin-brightening blend of alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic, tartaric, lactic and citric) to do away with dead skin cells, plus salicylic acid to unclog pores and exfoliate, and raspberry fruit extract to guard against environmental damage, this vegan, fragrance-free night serum will not only fade dark spots but also reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and unclog pores.
"My skin is brighter and fresh looking, and my dark spots are not as noticeable, giving me an even skin tone. I have even noticed that the lines on my forehead and crows' feet are less visible," says one advocate for the serum.