Dark spots, patchy skin, scarring… hyperpigmentation is a common skin complaint, but one that can be difficult to treat.

The number-one skin concern for women of colour is not ageing or wrinkles. It is hyperpigmentation. This is essentially the overproduction of melanin on the skin. It manifests itself in dark spots and patchy, uneven skin and is caused mainly by over-exposure to UV rays. There’s also the skin trauma caused by acne or a wound – post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – where the skin overcompensates during the healing process by producing so much melanin it leaves scars.

Many ladies live with blemishes and dark spots on their skin for years. We know that navigating the sea of anti-pigment creams out there is worse than finding the right man on Tinder. We speak to skincare experts on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to lightening skin.



Fruit acids have been the mainstay of skin lightening for many years, in part because of their visible effects after a few weeks and the fact they also have other key skin benefits such as skin exfoliation, reducing dead cells and improving pore size. The key is to find one that is gentle enough for your skin yet strong enough to see results.

Try: Sapphire Peel works wonders on dull, blemished skins. Use it daily as an add-on after your moisturizer if you have oily pigmented skin. If you have dry and sensitive skin, try it as a twice weekly treatment.

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# Cysteamine

A natural ingredient that is also found in breast milk, cysteamine has potent lightening effects. In fact, it is so powerful that only a 10 minute daily application is all that is needed to see effects.

Try: Superwhite, a daily treatment sold only in-clinic at SW1 or by prescription. Apply the cream for 10 minutes each day. Users report seeing clearer skin and lightening of their marks at the end of the first month.

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#3 Vitamin A

Retinol, retinoids are all forms of vitamin A. One of the most well studied vitamins, vitamin A doubles as an anti-aging vitamin as well. Because of their effects on skin cell turnover, vitamin A based products have shown promise in treating hyperpigmentation on top of their youth reviving properties.

Try: Age Defy which is a hyaluronic acid based vitamin A topical that delivers fresher, fairer skin with regular use.

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#4 Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a safe and effective option for patients who want a all-round improvement to their complexion. It boosts healing, skin glow and overall complexion colour as well. The type of vitamin C salt however does make a difference in terms of efficacy.

Try: Vitamin C elixir that uses a sodium ascorbic phosphate salt that is very stable and delivers brighter, more luminous skin with judicious use.

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#5 Tranexamic Acid

This ingredient is favoured by many Japanese for its lightening properties especially for stubborn pigmentation such as melasma. Its high safety means that it is safe even for sensitive skins, and can be used by all skin types.

Try: White Plasma is a tranexamic acid based gel that helps to lighten skin and treat melasma.

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