Hyperpigmentation is a condition that manifests itself as patches or spots of darker skin tone than the surrounding area.
It occurs when inflammation, such as excessive sun exposure, acne, injury to the skin, or hormonal conditions such as melasma trigger uneven distribution of the brown pigment melanin across the epidermal layers.
Basically, the uneven melanin deposit gets transferred into keratinocytes (skin cells) which then travel to the surface and manifest the irregular melanin deposits as hyperpigmentation in certain areas where the inflammation occurred (such as where the pimple was.)
And besides hyperpigmentation being a menace, it’s actually not that hard to treat with the right products.
To effectively treat hyperpigmentation, you need to have a skincare routine consisting of products that soothe inflammation, repair the skin’s moisture barrier and contain brightening agents to neutralize uneven melanin production or essentially shed the uneven areas from the skin’s surface.
The best way to achieve this is to use soothing and skin-repairing ingredients in leave-on products such as toners, serums, and moisturizers, and focus your brightening actives on products that need to be washed off the skin after performing this action.
This is why face washes can be a super-effective way to get rid of hyperpigmentation, and precisely what I’m going to talk about in this article.
Bust before I jump to the main portion of the article, let’s get one important thing out of the way.
How I Reviewed Each Product
As someone who is more prone to post-inflammatory redness yet occasionally dealing with a dark, hyperpigmented spot after a pimple has healed, I’ve been looking for the perfect product that will give me an extra brightening effect without interfering with my leave-on products intended for other skin concerns.
Which is why I’ve found face washes to be a helpful addition, especially if you already have a decent skincare routine that addresses other skin concerns such as active acne.
The great thing about face washes that contain brightening actives is that they get the job done without staying on the skin for too long.
Therefore, I compiled this list of fantastic face washes based on the active ingredients they contain, add-on ingredients and how they work for different skin types with similar skin concerns, and my experience with using some of them.
Additionally, I also read through customer reviews on various websites while trying to understand how each of the products on this list works for different skin types.
And with all that in mind, here is my list of the seven best face washes for hyperpigmentation:
The 8 Best Face Washes for Hyperpigmentation
|Overall||GENTLECLEAN – Vitamin Infused Calming Wash|
|For Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots||Glow Recipe – Blueberry Bounce Gentle Foaming Cleanser|
|For Sensitive Skin||Revision Skincare – Brightening Facial Wash|
|On a Budget||The Inkey List – Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser|
|Vitamin C Face Wash||Murad – Essential-C Cleanser|
|Retinol Cleanser||Retinol – Anti-Aging Cream Cleanser|
|For Black Skin||Juice Beauty – Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser|
|Glycolic Acid Face Wash||Glytone – Mild Cream Cleanser|
GENTLECLEAN – Vitamin Infused Calming Wash
This gentle daily face wash from Clearstem contains a blend of brightening and soothing ingredients that help fight hyperpigmentation. It’s also made with natural ingredients which makes it great for acne prone skin.
Hydrates while it cleanses, removes waterproof makeup, and is gentle enough to use morning and night
Purifying, Detoxing & Restoring
Super gentle daily cleanser for acne-prone & sensitive skin
Real Ingredients. Real Results
Formulated with green tea, goldenseal, and vitamin c
No hormone distruptors, no toxins, cruelty free, gluten free, vegan, and silicon free
The Clearstem GENTLECLEAN Vitamin Infused Calming Wash is the perfect match for anyone looking for a daily cleanser that will help fade hyperpigmentation. Ingredients like vitamin C and licorice root extract work to brighten the complexion and lighten discoloration, while green tea and goldenseal extracts provide anti-acne benefits to stop future breakouts (and future hyperpigmentation) in their tracks.
Additionally, the formula works to hydrate and calm the skin. Glycerin, allantoin, cucumber extract, and other ingredients leave the complexion feeling comfortable and supple, rather than tight, dry, and irritated.
Beyond helping with hyperpigmentation and other skin concerns, this gentle formula is great at what a face wash first and foremost needs to do: clean. It’s created to effectively cleanse away makeup, oil, and excess debris, but do so without stripping the skin of its natural moisture.
What’s also great about this formula is that it’s suitable for all skin types. In addition to being safe for blemish-prone skin (it doesn’t contain any pore-clogging ingredients), this gentle cleanser works for anyone, including those with sensitive skin.
Clearstem GENTLECLEAN Vitamin Infused Calming Wash Pros:
- Contains ingredients that brighten the complexion and lighten hyperpigmentation.
- Calms and hydrates the skin.
- Vegan, cruelty-free, silicone-free, paraben-free, and gluten-free.
Clearstem GENTLECLEAN Vitamin Infused Calming Wash Cons:
Best for Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots:
Glow Recipe – Blueberry Bounce Gentle Foaming Cleanser
Gentle exfoliating AHAs help remove makeup from pores while ungluing dead skin cells – all in one step
Hydrating Face Wash
Has blueberry extract & Hyaluronic Acid as ingredients to keep the skin hydrated as you cleanse and remove make up
Ideal for all skin types and is gentle enough to not irritate combination or acne prone skin
Parabens, Mineral Oil, Sulfates, Silicones, Phthalates, Alcohol, Synthetic Dyes. Vegan.
Glow Recipe’s Blueberry Bounce Gentle Foaming Cleanser is another excellent choice if you are looking for a face wash that will brighten your complexion and help fade away those pesky dark spots that tend to linger for a long time after a pimple has healed.
The cleanser has the consistency of a lightweight, gooey gel that creates a good lather when it touches water, so it’s safe to say that you don’t need more than half a pump of product to effectively cleanse your face and neck.
When it comes to the ingredient list, this major US-based K-Beauty brand never disappoints, and their Blueberry Bounce Gentle Foaming Cleanser is no exception.
Glow recipe’s cleanser also contains an AHA blend of lactic and glycolic acids to gently exfoliate the skin, and further help shed those uneven spots that tend to stay on the skin for a long time.
Furthermore, the Blueberry Bounce Cleanser also provides a nice balance of hydrating ingredients such as glycerin and sodium hyaluronate, a version of hyaluronic acid with smaller molecules to help the skin better retain moisture.
Lastly, the cleanser is formulated without drying alcohol, making it a good option for those with dry skin; however, it does contain fragrance, which is something you should watch out for if you tend to be sensitive to this component.
What’s great about this cleanser is that it also comes in a mini version that you can try out before deciding whether you want the full-sized bottle.
Glow Recipe – Blueberry Bounce Gentle Foaming Cleanser Pros:
- Contains brightening and antioxidant ingredients.
- Also contains exfoliating acids.
- Glycerin and hyaluronic acid provide a nice balance of hydration.
- Available in a mini size.
Glow Recipe – Blueberry Bounce Gentle Foaming Cleanser Cons:
- Contains fragrance.
Best For Sensitive Skin:
Revision Skincare – Brightening Facial Wash
When it comes to the active ingredients, the Brightening Facial Wash is formulated with both glycolic and salicylic acid, as well as vitamin C, all of which are great ingredients for brightening and evening out the skin tone, smoothing uneven texture, and calming inflammation.
Normal, oily, combination and mature skin types. Not recommended for dry or sensitive skin types.
With Vitamin C, and extracts of Licorice and Lily Exfoliates dead surface cells for smoother skin
Ultrarich cleanser with Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids and brightening botanicals, removes the day’s impurities, leaving skin clean and hydrated.
Exfoliates dead surface cells for softer, smoother skin
The Brightening Facial Wash by Revision Skincare is my top choice for anyone dealing with sensitive skin issues. This includes peeling, burning, or reactions to many over the counter skincare products.
The cleanser has a thick consistency that falls somewhere between a gel and cream and creates an ultrarich lather when in touch with water.
When the formula of a face wash lathers this good, you can get away with using very little product for the entire face and neck, meaning it will last you a long time.
A huge benefit is that this face wash is very gentle and non-irritating. It also contains ingredients such as soothing licorice and lily extract and nourishing vitamin E and white tea extract, both of which are excellent antioxidants.
Revision Skincare – Brightening Facial Wash Pros:
- Contains brightening ingredients that even out hyperpigmentation.
- Contains salicylic acid to soothe inflammation and acne.
- Gentle and efficient.
- Suitable for all skin types.
Revision Skincare – Brightening Facial Wash Cons:
Best on a Budget:
The Inkey List – Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser
The Inkey List’s Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser is a thick gel formula infused with 0.5% fulvic acid, which is a powerful antioxidant that brightens the complexion and evens out the skin tone while also providing mild exfoliating action that’s especially suitable for those with sensitive skin.
Normal, Dry, Combination, and Oily
Gently cleanses and exfoliates the skin
Contains 0.5% Fulvic Acid
Gentle formula cleanses the skin removing makeup—even eye makeup—while enhancing exfoliation to reveal brighter skin
Vegan, gluten-free, and cruelty-free
The Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser by The Inkey List is another great face wash for hyperpigmentation, especially if you are looking for something on a budget.
Besides the main active ingredient (Fulvic Acid), the Brightening Cleanser also contains Kakadu plum extract, an excellent source of vitamin C and hydrating hyaluronic acid, as well as licorice root extract, which reduces the look of hyperpigmentation, visibly brightens the skin tone, and infuses the skin with antioxidants.
An excellent product for all skin types, the Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser is definitely a product you should consider trying if you are on a tight budget but are looking for something effective.
The Inkey List – Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser Pros:
- Contains brightening and antioxidant ingredients.
- Great for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
The Inkey List – Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser Cons:
Best Vitamin C Face Wash for Hyperpigmentation:
Murad – Essential-C Cleanser
Balanced, Oily, Combination and Dry
Allantoin and Panthenol
To help soften and moisturize skin
Packed with vitamins
Vitamin A conditions; vitamin C helps prevent skin damage; vitamin E relieves dryness and nourishes
Parabens, Phthalates, Gluten, Mineral Oil, Formaldehyde, Oxybenzone, Petrolatum/Petroleum
Murad’s Essential-C cleanser has a gel texture and is formulated with vitamin C, which we all know is one of the most potent antioxidants that helps brighten the skin, reverse damage done by free radicals, and helps improve skin damage done by UV rays.
Additionally, the Essential-C Cleanser also contains phospholipids and sodium PCA, which are two excellent ingredients that bind moisture to dry skin and help keep the complexion plump and hydrated.
Lastly, moisturizing allantoin and calming panthenol are great additions to vitamin C, which soothe and improve environmentally stressed skin.
Besides containing such a powerful active, the Essential-C Cleanser is gentle and non-irritating; however, you should still be careful when introducing this cleanser into your daily routine as it does contain fragrance and fragrant components such as citrus oils, which are ingredients that have the potential to trigger sensitive and reactive skin.
Murad – Essential-C Cleanser Pros:
- Contains vitamin C to brighten the skin and even out the skin tone.
- Hydrating and soothing ingredients work to repair environmentally stressed skin.
- It comes in a huge bottle that’ll last for a long time.
Murad – Essential-C Cleanser Cons:
- Contains fragrance and fragrant components.
Best Retinol Cleanser For Hyperpigmentation:
Retinol – Anti-Aging Cream Cleanser
Suitable for all skin types, although those with sensitive skin should use with caution.
The cleanser isn’t tested on animals.
The creamy cleanser is made with glycerin and sodium PCA, which boost hydration levels.
Powered by Retinol
Retinyl palmitate smooths and firms the skin while promoting a more even skin tone.
For anyone looking for a retinol-powered option, I recommend checking out the Retinol Anti-Aging Cream Cleanser. While a retinol face wash won’t give you quite as powerful results compared to using leave-on retinol treatment, this can still be a great addition to anyone creating a hyperpigmentation-fighting routine.
This cleanser is made with retinyl palmitate, which is one of the gentlest types of retinoids. It speeds up skin cell turnover and stimulates collagen production. This means it can promote a more even skin tone and provide anti-aging benefits.
In addition to retinyl palmitate, this cleanser is made with glycerin and sodium PCA. These ingredients boost moisture levels in the skin, helping to promote a softer and more comfortable complexion. They can also mitigate some of the drying effects of the retinol.
Retinol Anti-Aging Cream Cleanser Pros:
- Powered by retinol to effectively lighten hyperpigmentation and promote a smoother, firmer complexion
- Contains moisturizing ingredients to mitigate the drying effects of retinol
Retinol Anti-Aging Cream Cleanser Cons:
- Contains sulfates and fragrances, both of which may irritate or dry out the skin (especially for those with sensitive skin)
Best Face Wash for Hyperpigmentation on Black Skin:
Juice Beauty – Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser
For all skin types (except sensitive skin), 20’s and up
Exfoliate & visibly refine with malic acid from organic green apples and organic raw cane sugar
Antioxidant rich and purifying organic botanical juices, sugar cane hydroxy-acids and plant-based cleansers exfoliate and deeply cleanse.
Organic, Vegan, and Cruelty Free
Parabens, petroleum, propylene or butylene glycols, phthalates, sulfates, artificial dyes or synthetic fragrances
The Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser has a jelly-like consistency and is formulated with organic green apple juice, which is a natural source of malic acid, an AHA that’s one of the safest ingredients for dark skin and provides gentle exfoliation to reveal brighter, more even-toned skin.
In addition to green apple juice, the Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser also contains organic aloe vera juice, an ingredient that has a superior calming action on the skin, as well as an antioxidant sage leaf and black tea that help brighten the complexion and soothe irritations and allergic reactions.
Lastly, this cleanser is formulated without any harsh sulfates or drying alcohols, making it a good choice for those with dry or sensitive skin.
However, one downside to this cleanser is that it contains fragrant components such as citrus essential oils, which is something you should keep in mind if you have reactive skin.
Juice Beauty – Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser Pros:
- Formulated with organic ingredients.
- Contains exfoliating and brightening acids.
- Calming and soothing ingredients make this a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
Juice Beauty – Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser Cons:
- Contains citrus essential oils.
Best Glycolic Acid Face Wash for Hyperpigmentation:
Glytone – Mild Cream Cleanser
The Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser is an excellent choice for those who are looking for a face wash with glycolic acid to help fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots. As it says in the name, the cleanser has a gel consistency and is formulated with a 4.7 free acid value, which means it contains a low concentration of an acidic active ingredient that balances the formula and works efficiently with the skin’s naturally acidic pH.
Good Glow Score
Hydrate and Balance
Formulated with 3.4 PFAV™ Glycolic Acid and Glycerin to exfoliate while maintaining skin’s water balance,
Helps with uneven skin tones, and premature aging skin
Recommended for normal to dry skin.
Won’t clog pores
The main active ingredient in the Mild Gel Cleanser is glycolic acid, the most potent member of the AHA family of acids and the one that works the fastest and most efficiently.
Some of the main properties of glycolic acid include its ability to exfoliate the dead skin cells that sit on the skin’s surface, thus shedding hyperpigmentation, brightening the complexion, and evening out the skin tone over time.
However, glycolic acid is also the most tricky AHA because its molecules are so small that the skin swallows them up immediately, which poses the risk of irritation because of how impactful it is.
This is why glycolic acid shouldn’t be played around with, and with that being said, although mild, the Mild Gel Cleanser isn’t a product that should be used daily or even less so twice a day.
Instead, you will get the best results by using this cleanser a few times a week, on evenings when you’re not using other actives such as other exfoliating acids or retinoids.
Additionally, use just a chickpea-sized amount of product because the formula creates a rich lather that makes this product efficient in very small quantities.
Furthermore, Glytone Mld Gel Cleanser also contains potassium hydroxide to restore optimal pH balance to your skin and leave it plump, supple and relieved from concerns such as texture, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and even deeper issues such as fine lines and wrinkles.
All in all, the Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser is an excellent product to have in your arsenal of anti-hyperpigmentation agents and can yield fantastic results over time if used properly.
Glytone – Mild Gel Cleanser Pros:
- Potent glycolic acid concentration to fade hyperpigmentation and even out the skin tone.
- Maintains skin’s naturally acidic pH.
- Helps relieve deeper skin concerns such as fine lines and wrinkles.
Glytone – Mild Gel Cleanser Cons:
- It can be drying and irritating if used too frequently or in the wrong way.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation on the Skin?
When skin cells are damaged or otherwise unhealthy, they can react by producing too much melanin, which is responsible for pigment in the skin.
There are a range of different factors that can lead to hyperpigmentation – some of which are in your control, and some of which aren’t. Some people are more prone to hyperpigmentation, thanks to genetics.
One of the biggest causes of hyperpigmentation is acne. When a blemish gets inflamed, a dark mark on the skin can be left behind long after it has healed. This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, although some people may also refer to them as acne scars. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can also be caused by other injuries to the skin, such as burns or scratches. Typically, this will fade on its own, but topical treatments can speed up the process.
Chronic exposure to UVA and UVB rays (primarily from the sun) is also a huge contributor to hyperpigmentation. This type of photoaging is known as sun damage or sun spots. Wearing sunscreen and implementing other practices to limit UV exposure can greatly reduce your risk of dealing with this type of hyperpigmentation. While sun spots don’t typically go away on their own, topical treatments may help.
Melasma is also a common form of hyperpigmentation that often affects women. It’s typically tied to hormonal fluctuations, and commonly affects pregnant women. Those who take birth control pills are also at a higher risk. Melasma sometimes goes away on its own.
Lastly, there are some conditions that can lead to a higher risk of hyperpigmentation. Adrenal disorders (like Addison’s disease) and thyroid conditions can lead to these changes in the skin.
What Ingredients Help Fade Hyperpigmentation?
There are different ingredients that can help fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation. While leave-on products will have the most dramatic effects, cleansers made with these types of ingredients can be beneficial.
Here are the types of ingredients you should look for in skincare products:
- Vitamin C
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids (such as glycolic and lactic acids)
- Salicylic Acid
- Azelaic Acid
- Tranexamic Acid
- Kojic Acid
- Hydroquinone (available by prescription only, and typically can only be used for a short amount of time)
What Ingredients are Bad for Hyperpigmentation?
There aren’t necessarily ingredients that will directly cause hyperpigmentation. However, if you’re using ingredients in your routine that increase sun sensitivity – such as retinol or alpha hydroxy acids – you’ll want to ensure you’re being extra diligent about wearing sunscreen and avoiding excess sun exposure. Sun damage can make current dark marks worse (and slow down the healing time), and can cause new spots to form.
For those that are prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne, it’s also important to know what ingredients might trigger breakouts. Doing your best to prevent acne in the first place is the best way to ensure you don’t end up with new hyperpigmentation spots.
When to See a Dermatologist for Hyperpigmentation
If you aren’t seeing the results you’re looking for after using over-the-counter solutions for a few months, you may want to meet with a dermatologist. Hyperpigmentation in itself isn’t harmful, but many still wish to pursue treatments to achieve a more even skin tone. A dermatologist may decide to prescribe a more aggressive treatment (such as hydroquinone) to lighten stubborn spots.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hyperpigmentation is caused by an overproduction of melanin in the skin. Vitamin C can help reduce melanin levels in the skin and decrease inflammation. Try orally supplementing and using Vitamin C topically for best results to reduce free radicals and sun damage.
The best way to clear hyperpigmentation is to follow a low-inflammation diet, use non-comedogenic skincare products, and avoid long periods of sun exposure without SPF protection.
Some of the most common types of medications that may contribute to hyperpigmentation include analgesics, cytotoxic agents, tetracyclines, antimicrobials, and NSAIDs (although there are certainly others). Talk to your doctor if you think your medication may be playing a role in your hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is a broad umbrella term that refers to different forms of discoloration in the skin. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a type of hyperpigmentation caused by acne. With PIH, a small area of the skin where a pimple has healed is left discolored (although the texture of the skin doesn’t change).
Many people use the term acne scars to describe PIH. However, acne scars more accurately refer to raised or pitted scars left behind after a blemish heals. These types of scars are harder to treat than PIH.
Chemical peels can be an effective treatment for many different forms of hyperpigmentation. There are over-the-counter peels, but professional-strength treatments (done by a dermatologist) will lead to the best results. That said, chemical peels typically work best on fairer skin tones. This type of treatment can actually cause hyperpigmentation on those with darker skin.
Yes, retinol can help fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation. It speeds up skin cell turnover, which means it can promote a more even skin tone. Retinol can also prevent blemishes. For those with acne-prone skin that deal with PIH, this means it may help stop hyperpigmentation from even forming in the first place.
As mentioned, retinol does increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. This means that it’s even more important to wear sunscreen and avoid sun exposure when using it in your routine.