“Whenever darker skin is injured or inflamed, it triggers a localized inflammatory response that the skin interprets as trauma, leading to an overstimulation of the melanin-producing cells, which leads to dark marks,” says leading dermatologist Dr. Rose Ingleton. Post-inflammatory pigmentation is most prevalent in darker skin, and while it can gradually fade over time, these are the hero products that accelerate the process to diminish stubborn discoloration.
BEST AT-HOME PEEL: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Professional Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel
Chemical peels are a tried-and-tested treatment, but finding a suitable at-home alternative can be challenging. “Some at-home peels are too aggressive and can easily burn the skin if not used properly,” says Dr. Ingleton. On darker skin, peels need to be effective enough to work, but not so aggressive that they cause inflammation and further darken marks. This two-step treatment is a powerhouse cocktail of proven brightening ingredients for the ultimate complexion renewal by trusted dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross. Potent without being irritating, stubborn pigmentation doesn’t stand a chance.
BEST BODY FORMULA: Ren Clean Skincare AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum
Although less discussed, hyperpigmentation on the body is completely normal and is often found on high-friction areas, such as the inner thighs, butt, armpits and neck, which are all prone to chaffing, rubbing or the effects of shaving. Ren Clean Skincare’s body serum is a lightweight treatment that exfoliates and renews for an even skin tone using derm-approved lactic and fruit acids. Lactic acid also helps with skin hydration, so expect smoother, softer skin, too. As always when using exfoliating acids, be sure to use an SPF to prevent further pigmentation.
BEST SENSITIVE-SKIN TREATMENT: Epara Brightening Night Balm
Treating sensitive skin with hyperpigmentation can be challenging, as a compromised skin barrier rarely tolerates skin-renewing acids and active ingredients. Formulated with darker skin tones in mind, this night treatment form Epara forgoes acids in place of proven botanicals that brighten the skin. Using the brand’s signature plankton extract to tackle stubborn dark spots, the deliciously nourishing texture also cocoons the skin overnight with a luscious blend of moringa, marula and argan oil.
BEST TRAVEL-FRIENDLY PEEL PADS: Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads
Pre-soaked and travel-friendly, peel pads are great for ease of application or when you’re on the go. Formulated by Dr. Marko Lens, these combine exfoliating polyhydroxy and lactic acids, which also add some much-needed hydration to the skin. “Acne breakouts often lead to inflammation, which results in dark spots,” says Dr. Ingleton, so the addition of blemish-busting salicylic acid in Zelens’ pads helps those prone to breakouts. Swipe the pad over the face, neck and chest before flipping it over and repeating.
BEST BRIGHTENING SERUM: Rose MD Skin Complexion Brightening Booster
Powered by a trifecta of acids for skin renewal and brightening, Rose MD Skin’s serum has been formulated with peptides to minimize discoloration and brighten complexions. While there’s been a lot of recent misinformation on social media that women with darker skin shouldn’t use glycolic acid, Dr. Ingleton quickly dispels that particular skincare myth: “Glycolic acid is safe for darker skin, but stick to lower-strength concentrations to avoid any adverse reactions.” Concentrated enough to be effective, yet gentle enough for at-home use, apply this serum before bed to wake up with fresher, brighter and smoother skin. Always remember to use sun protection when treating hyperpigmentation, as further sun damage will only make the area worse.
BEST VITAMIN C: Dr. Barbara Sturm The Good C –Vitamin C Serum
No stellar hyperpigmentation protocol can be without a vitamin C, as this gold-standard antioxidant helps to dramatically improve pigmentation concerns, as well as inhibit the enzyme that prevents melanin production. This serum by Dr. Barbara Sturm, who also has a range specifically formulated for darker skin tones, contains a potent but stable form of vitamin C for optimum results without irritation, which can occur with stronger formulas. Consistency is always key to diminish hyperpigmentation, and with regular use, pigmentation will lighten and the rest of the skin will get an enhanced glow. Swipe any excess onto the back of your hands, which are often neglected, and follow up with an SPF.