Hyperpigmentation, dark spots, brown spots, grey spots, sunspots, melasma, uneven skin tone—whatever you like to call it—pigmentation problems are tricky to combat, especially if you love to bask in the sunshine. But if you’ve recently developed dark or ashen patches, take heart. There are things you can do. Namely, making friends with a power-packed brightening serum.
First things first, however, it’s important to understand just what exactly causes pigmentation, so that you both know the nature of the beast you’re tackling and fare better at preventing it in the future. Keep scrolling to find out more and then shop the best pigmentation-fighting serums.
Regardless of ethnicity or skin colour, pigmentation can affect everyone, appearing most commonly on the face, neck and hands as patches of discolouration. In super-simple terms, this happens because of a malfunction in the body’s melanin production process.
Skin, hair and eye colour are all down to melanin produced in the body by cells called melanocytes. Pigment production is triggered by an enzyme called tyrosinase, but when something in this process goes awry, with either too much melanin being produced (creating dark spots) or not enough (leaving grey or ashen patches), we’re left with uneven skin tone.
So what causes the disruption? Well, we’re sorry to say it folks, but sun exposure is a key player in the pigmentation game. Hormonal imbalances can contribute too (more so during pregnancy), but damage to cells from UV rays is the main thing to look out for—and another reason slathering on a broad-spectrum SPF is so crucial!
It’s our skin’s vulnerability to the sunshine that makes fighting pigmentation so much trickier during the summer months. Wearing a high-protection SPF every day is an excellent place to start (even through autumn and winter) and vital for preventing any further discolouration, but when it comes to fading your uneven patches, there’s nothing quite as effective as a powerhouse serum.
Packed with higher concentrations of skin-replenishing and brightening ingredients, serums can penetrate deeper than creams or lotions, taking action to fade dark spots on a more cellular level. But it’s important to know what you’re looking for, especially if you’re not in the habit of wasting your cash on ineffective products (is there anything more annoying?).
The most popular ingredient among skin correcting serums that really work is hydroquinone (benzene-1)—most effective at its 2% strength, but available as a 4% prescription grade too. Having dominated the skin lightening market for the past 50 years, hydroquinone is a key component in serums that target discolouration, as it works to inhibit melanin production. Many natural ingredients can be broken down into organic hydroquinone too, so if you’re looking to avoid harsh chemicals, look for serums that list mulberry (morus bombycis), madder (mitracarpus scaber) or bearberry (uva ursi) extracts as ingredients.
Other powerhouse ingredients to look for are liquorice extract, vitamin A–derived retinoids, azelaic acid, niacinamide, acetyl glucosamine and vitamin C, as well as AHA and BHA exfoliants, which act as skin resurfacers.
Got all that? Of course you have! So let’s dive right into a round-up of the very best skin-perfecting serums all designed to target pigmentation.
Silicone-free, paraben-free and fragrance-free, this serum is a good way to go for sensitive skins in need of brightening. High levels of vitamin C work to slow the production of melanin, while plant extracts resurface to help with fade.
Designed for use beneath a daily SPF, this formula incorporates niacinamide, a vitamin that works to suppress melanin, synthesis at a cellular level and reduces inflammation.
Harnessing the potency of vitamin C, this serum fades sunspots and prevents further discolouration by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which triggers melanin production in cells.
A great natural option, this concentrate can be teamed with your existing products to brighten dark patches and stave off new ones, thanks to extracts of papaya and geranium rich in vitamin C.
Gentle on skin but tough on discolouration, this serum packs niacinamide, licorice and mulberry extracts, all of which inhibit melanin production, along with reparative botanicals to nourish skin.
Containing dimethoxytolyl propylresorcinol, an extract from the Dianella ensifolia plant, plus BHA exfoliant salicylic acid, this award-winning serum slows down melanin production and increases surface skin cell turnover, to help fade discolouration quickly.
Boasting SPF protection and skin-brightening vitamin C, this daily serum helps fend off UV rays, which lead to cell damage and discolouration, making it a great preventative measure.
A great multitasker, this formula contains liquorice, mulberry and bearberry extracts ,plus azelaic acid to fade dark spots, along with retinol to increase skin's moisture and elasticity.
Packing hexylresorcinol, potent vitamin C and salicylic acid too, this serum curtails the production of melanin, fades existing spots and protects against the formation of further discolouration.
Opening Image: Imaxtree/Nasty Gal