These skincare products are holy grail for my hyperpigmented skin

Illustration of a girl with pink hair and hyperpigmentation

By Megha Goel, Contributor

One hot summer afternoon, I walked back home with the sun kissing my moderately-pigmented brown skin. In a desperate need for ‘fairness and fame,’ I hit the nearest store to pick up a tube of cream. Growing up in India, my holiday mornings were all about applying gram flour and yogurt ubtan (herbal paste), rubbing fairness creams and hearing about the treatment that worked best for my neighbor’s sister’s daughter. Every week, my categorization varied from ‘wheatish’ to ‘dusky’ to ‘dark’ but never fair, reducing my self-esteem to my skin color. Little did I know that there was more to my skin than just color. I had never learned what my skin type was or that skincare wasn’t a ‘one size fits all’ magic. 

I only dreamt of being lighter-skinned than having even-toned, healthy skin.

Most of us have lived with this societal pressure without questioning the obsession with fairness. My melanin-enriched skin has struggled with issues of hyperpigmentation and damage from the sun. Being a journalist, I always returned from travel to a barrage of comments about my complexion’s continued tanning. Hyperpigmentation was a big issue for my skin, just like most of us.

While hyperpigmentation is a big concern for many of us and it is mostly harmless, we don’t often know how to actually treat our skin—often resorting to laser treatments, chemical peels, and acid potions. Sure, slapping it with a tinted corrector and layering on a concealer could work wonders for the day. But what if a few effective products could help hyperpigmented skin in the long-run? From sunscreen to vitamin-infused skincare, here are 6 holy grail products that work wonders for my hyperpigmented skin. 

Editor’s Note: These product recommendation are from someone who has hyperpigmentation and not from the perspective of a skincare expert or dermatologist. We recommend that you consult with a doctor or dermatologist before trying something new and spot testing new products on a small part of your skin first. 

1. Sunscreen is non-negosh!

Picture of La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 100

No matter how much we hate it, sunscreen and more sunscreen is key. I have always found myself hunting for the best sunscreens for brown skin on the internet every 2 months and most often ending up buying a completely new product. If you need an extra incentive to apply SPF, try La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-in Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 100 ($24.99). It sinks into the skin effortlessness without leaving residue. My dermatologist recommends an additional dosage of antioxidant in extreme temperatures. Heliocare Skin Care Dietary Supplement ($27.99) is no harm if you are extra precautious of skin damage due to the sun. 

If you are prone to hyperpigmentation, make sure to wear a sunblock of SPF 30 or higher. Choose sunblocks that contain micronized zinc and titanium dioxides. Protect your skin’s progress and prevent your dark spots from darkening. Check out Kulfi Bite’s 6 Best sunscreens for People of Color for more sunscreen recommendations. 

2. Don’t skip out on Vitamin C.

Picture of Tatcha cream

Tatcha Violet-C Radiance Mask ($68) is my favorite. Teeming with Japanese beautyberry, the product has two types of brightening vitamin C to take on hyperpigmented skin. Thanks to the 10 percent AHA that eliminates dead cells and unveils glowing skin. Another product that works great is Clinique's Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10% ($79). It’s a week-long, 2 step process of a powdered cleanser and moisturizer booster. Use this product for 7 days, and voila, brighter skin guaranteed! 

You can read some expert advice to get the most out of your Vitamin C serum here.

3. Meet my holy grail skincare product: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution.

The Ordinary product

This product works great if you do not have sensitive skin, and if you have used acid exfoliators before. While the product might smell funny and look eerie, the combined 32% alpha and beta hydroxy acid solution exfoliates your skin to reduce visible blemishes, improving skin radiance with the first use. This is the only wash off peel-mask that includes a very high concentration of AHAs (glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric) and BHAs (salicylic acid). Use it on a dry face after cleansing, and do not leave it on for more than 10 minutes. It’s $7. Yeah—hard to believe!

Note: Avoid Vitamin A and C after you use it. Cosmetic treatments and chemical peels work great for lighter skin tones but could cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation on South Asian skin. 

4. Hydroquinone aka ‘the gold standard.’

Murad serum

Note: While Hydroquinone is approved by the FDA in the U.S., it is banned in the U.K., Europe, and Japan, and may cause a side effect of 'halo spots.' You can read more about it here.

Hydroquinone stops the production of melanin and prevents dark spots from getting darker or fades the existing ones. A favorite everywhere, Murad's Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum ($70) with 2% hydroquinone is magic! Rub the serum onto clean skin, especially on the areas affected (around the mouth and chin, in my case). I seal it in with a moisturizer. With skin-brightening peptide and glycolic acid that helps hydroquinone penetrate deeper into the skin, the product shows excellent results within a week. Use the product as long as you need it, every night on a clean face followed by a moisturizer.

5. The WFH partner for most of us: Sheet Masks.

Dr. Jart sheet mask

2020 came with a ring of self-care. This new year, let’s continue skincare with our favorite sheet masks, rollers, and Guashas. Unarguably, sheet masks are the simplest and easiest way to get glowing natural skin. Dr. Jart+ Dermask Micro Jet Clearing Solution ($16.79) is better than many sheet masks out there. Packed with ingredients such as tea tree oil, niacinamide, and salicylic acid, the mask is formulated to help hyperpigmented skin. 

Note: This mask contains glutathione, an antioxidant often marketed as a 'safe skin whitening agent.' The FDA advises that certain products that contain glutathione are potentially unsafe. Find out more here. 

Above all, it’s important to adopt a positive attitude and accept yourself and your skin with gratitude. 

I practice positivity with a simple affirmation: My skin is beautiful, and I love it. 

AboutMegha Goel is a freelance writer and social media student at NYU. She is a fountain pen collector and fell in love with writing as a young girl flipping through magazines. A writer by day, Megha is a certified bartender and can be seen swinging drinks at her home bar or making words on the scrabble board. With a mission to amplify diversity, she has about 30 human interest pieces to her name. Visit her online at meghagoyel.tumblr.com

Cover photo creditAkanksha Apte is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Bangalore, India. With a textile design background, she is a nature enthusiast who is currently exploring a universe of colorful fauna and flora. She currently works as a full-time visual designer at Xiaomi. For a visual treat, check out @akanksha_apte on Instagram.


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