Best Face Washes & Cleansers for Hyperpigmentation That Exfoliate Gently

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You know you have hyperpigmentation if your skin tone appears uneven and is marked by patchy discoloration, dark spots, and sun spots. But it’s a totally harmless skin concern that can be treated with the right kind of skincare products, such as the best face washes & cleansers for hyperpigmentation.

And that’s not it, these nourishing, skin-friendly formulas offer plenty of other skin benefits too, apart from eliminating your hyperpigmentation of course. So you have every reason to incorporate them into your skincare routine.

InstaNatural Glycolic Facial Cleanser
Top Pick
InstaNatural Glycolic Facial Cleanser
9.8
  • Glycolic acid formula for deep skin exfoliation
  • Anti-aging benefits with arginine
  • Cruelty-free, oil-free blend with all-natural ingredients
La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Cleanser
Runner Up
La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Cleanser
9.8
  • Brightening, cleansing properties
  • Cream-based with no harsh beads or particles
  • Cell-by-cell exfoliation through lipohydroxy acid
Eva Hansen Vitamin C Face Wash
Eva Hansen Vitamin C Face Wash
9.6
  • Vitamin C formulation for depigmentation of hyperpigmented spots
  • Deep pore cleansing action minimizes pore visibility
  • All natural, organic ingredients suitable for sensitive skin
Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Face Wash
Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Face Wash
9.6
  • Glycolic acid + salicylic acid blend (deep cleansing action)
  • Tea tree, shea butter, and bamboo for anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cruelty-free and sulfate-free
Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser
Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser
9.5
  • Glycolic foaming cleanser exfoliates skin surface
  • Chamomile, sage, and marshmallow for a calming effect
  • Works even for dry and sensitive skin
SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
9.5
  • Deep exfoliating cleanser with AHA + BHA
  • Gentle jojoba spheres as a natural exfoliant
  • Rich lather eliminates oil buildup and makeup
Body Merry Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Facial Cleanser
Body Merry Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Facial Cleanser
9.5
  • Glycolic acid exfoliation fades dark spots
  • Natural, gentle jojoba beads and natural tea tree scent
  • Evens out complexion and tightens aging skin
Cetaphil Healthy Radiance Face Wash
Cetaphil Healthy Radiance Face Wash
9.5
  • Dermatologist recommended brand
  • Best face wash for sensitive skin (hypoallergenic and fragrance-free)
  • Niacinamide, antioxidants, and polyhydroxy acid for a clearer, smoother complexion
Mia del Mar Instant Bliss Glycolic Acid Face Wash
Mia del Mar Instant Bliss Glycolic Acid Face Wash
9.5
  • Oil-control, brightening skin cleanser
  • Glycolic acid exfoliation and pro vitamin B5 moisturization
  • Cruelty-free, paraben-free, vegan
Dr Song Korean Skin Care Glycolic Acid Face Wash
Dr Song Korean Skin Care Glycolic Acid Face Wash
9.5
  • Deep pore exfoliating cleanser with glycolic acid
  • Non-drying, soothing formula for sensitive skin
  • Natural anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties

Dermatologist-Recommended Face Washes / Cleansers to Treat Hyperpigmentation

1. InstaNatural Glycolic Facial Cleanser

Pros
  • Acne-fighting, anti-aging facial cleanser
  • Formulated with gentle skin exfoliant glycolic acid
  • Arginine added to restore moisture and smoothness
Cons
  • Watery consistency
  • Unpleasant scent

First of all, how is glycolic acid good for hyperpigmentation? This alpha hydroxy acid, which is actually a very gentle chemical skin exfoliant, works like a magic potion when it comes to healing the inflammation often accompanied by hyperpigmentation. And it penetrates your skin quickly to do that AND to minimize the appearance of your fine lines and wrinkles.

It’s enriched with organic ingredients (chamomile, sugarcane, apple, Vitamin E, and more) to gently exfoliate your stubborn, bad hyperpigmentation as well as breakouts. And let’s not forget that this anti-aging face wash contains arginine too that really hydrates troubled, dull, dry skin to make it look more youthful, firm, and smoother.

Dark, patchy areas begin to lighten, breakouts become less prominent, and even if you have sensitive skin, the cleanser doesn’t cause any amount or kind of irritation.

2. La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Cleanser

Pros
  • Skin-brightening, foaming face wash
  • Deep cleansing ingredients gentle on the skin
  • Contains anti-acne, exfoliating lipohydroxy acid
Cons
  • Not suitable for sensitive skin

Many have used this non-bead, non-particle (hence, super gentle) La Roche-Posay cleanser morning and night to minimize the stubborn visibility of dark spots on their face. It’s a skin-brightening formula that does away with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Just make sure you follow up with a good moisturizer that suits your skin type.

More even-toned and radiant-looking skin is what you get indeed. Thanks to the inclusion of lipohydroxy acid. What it does is exfoliate away dark, dry cells from the surface of your skin to eliminate the dullness that these “worn out” skin cells cause.

3. Eva Hansen Vitamin C Face Wash

Pros
  • Natural Vitamin C cleanser to fade hyperpigmentation
  • Deeply cleanses pores and minimizes their appearance
  • Cruelty-free and free of parabens, sulfates, etc.
Cons
  • Don’t expect it to wash off makeup

Vitamin C antioxidants do more than just reduce hyperpigmentation, they also minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, protect the skin from UV damage, heal blemishes, and even out a patchy skin tone. No wonder this Vitamin C formulation by Eva Hansen is so widely popular. Plus, no need to waste money on expensive products when you have this!

It’s a natural facial cleanser with organic, vegan ingredients. Your skin can be extremely acne-prone, oily, and/or sensitive, and still benefit a great deal here. This is a pore-minimizing, exfoliating, and hydrating formula that leaves your skin feeling soft, glowy, and brighter.

4. Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Face Wash

Pros
  • Glycolic acid removes dead skin cells
  • Salicylic acid gets rid of excess sebum
  • Treats dark spots, breakouts, enlarged pores
  • Most suitable for acne-prone and oily skin
Cons
  • Contains microbeads
  • Very strong scent

Glycolic acid (AHA) can be combined with salicylic acid (BHA) to be used as a facial cleanser if you have oily and/or acne-prone skin with dark spots and uneven coloration. Both are gentle chemical exfoliants that do away with acne scars, sun spots, redness, patchy skin tone and texture, and all other such signs associated with hyperpigmentation.

This exfoliating cleanser leaves agitated, dull-looking skin feeling clean, smooth, and not all irritated or inflamed. Even cystic and hormonal acne can be treated using such an acne-fighting blend of glycolic acid and salicylic acid.

What’s also added to the formula is shea butter (boosts moisture and soothes the skin), tea tree extract (treats dark spots and cures acne), and bamboo (rejuvenates skin cell growth).

5. Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

Pros
  • Glycolic acid based cleanser brightens and retexturizes
  • Heals hyperpigmentation spots and acne scars
  • Enriched with skin-soothing herbal extracts
Cons
  • Questionable ingredients

This is one of the best glycolic acid face washes specially formulated for those dealing with severe hyperpigmentation. When your skin condition is such, the use of glycolic acid as a means to reduce discoloration, dullness, and even excess and stubborn sebum is a must.

This works the best for oily, acne-prone, and combination skin. Glycolic acid genuinely knows how to dissolve gunk from within your pores to allow them to breathe freely. And this deep-cleansing, rich-lathering exfoliating face wash also removes makeup.

6. SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Pros
  • Alpha and beta hydroxy acids gently exfoliate
  • Natural, gentle jojoba beads also for exfoliation
  • Treats congested, enlarged pores
Cons
  • Might be too sensitive for dry skin types
  • A very strong citrusy scent

This blend of alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid does wonders in that it deeply, thoroughly cleanses the skin for enhancing its texture from within. And these are all-natural ingredients that improve your skin tone and bring about smoothness.

For someone who’s low-maintenance in terms of having a light skincare routine, this exfoliating cleanser is a perfect addition. It also takes care of clogged, enlarged pores. Even though the formula contains exfoliating beads, these feel very light and non-abrasive.

7. Body Merry Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Facial Cleanser

Pros
  • An anti-aging formula for every skin type
  • Glycolic acid + jojoba spheres for gentle exfoliation
  • Easy pump dispenser and vegan-friendly
Cons
  • Preservatives are a part of the ingredients

Just like the previous formula, even this facial cleanser contains jojoba beads for exfoliation. Naturally-derived jojoba beads are way gentler on the skin in comparison to abrasive exfoliating scrubs. Now, this also works as a pore cleanser, acne-fighting face wash, and dark spot corrector.

Your skin that may have become quite sensitive and even prone to developing cystic acne will find immense relief if you use this gentle, glycolic acid based cleanser on a regular basis. It lessens hyperpigmentation, acne scars, as well as premature aging signs.

8. Cetaphil Healthy Radiance Face Wash

Pros
  • Specially formulated for sensitive skin
  • Contains polyhydroxy acid for gentle exfoliation
  • Hypoallergenic and fragrance-free (suited for daily use)
  • Hydration-boosting properties through niacinamide
  • Anti-aging benefits through antioxidants
Cons
  • The texture/consistency is slightly watery

Now here we have the best hypoallergenic face wash for sensitive skin by Cetaphil, a very affordable and effective drugstore brand. Generally, it’s very difficult to find someone who doesn’t like Cetaphil products because everything about this brand and its Healthy Radiance formula is likable.

First of all, a teeny-tiny amount goes a long, long way. Secondly, it gets absorbed into your skin very quickly, without feeling oily or sticky. And if you use this gentle exfoliating cleanser long enough, you’ll see how it lightens up hyperpigmentation and post-acne discoloration and inflammation without causing any single adverse effect.

Healthy Radiance is all about nourishing your skin and toning down the visibility of dark spots, age spots, sun spots, and acne marks. After all, it’s got niacinamide and antioxidants to make sure that your complexion looks more radiant.

9. Mia del Mar Instant Bliss Glycolic Acid Face Wash

Pros
  • Glycolic acid based face wash for gentle exfoliation
  • Also formulated with skin-hydrating panthenol
  • Foaming agent cleanses the skin, irritation-free
  • Oil-control properties with no parabens, sulfates, etc.
Cons
  • No thick, rich lather produced

Controlling excessive oil on the face is what Mia del Mar’s Instant Bliss Glycolic Acid Face Wash does best, along with effectively and gently exfoliating your skin to make its texture feels and looks smoother (once again, thanks to glycolic acid for this).

Use just a tiny amount, even if the task at hand is to clean off your makeup.

Another thing that seems to me to be one of the most appealing qualities here is the addition of panthenol (pro vitamin B5). This particular ingredient, due to its natural moisturizing properties, can really soothe, heal, and regenerate skin cells.

10. Dr Song Korean Skin Care Glycolic Acid Face Wash

Pros
  • Formulated with exfoliating glycolic acid
  • A very soothing and non-drying cleanser
  • Gentle enough for sensitive skin too
Cons
  • Slightly pungent scent

Of course it reduces breakouts (acne, whiteheads, and blackheads) but this is also the best cleanser for hyperpigmentation in black skin. So if you have African American skin, you can indeed trust the stuff contained inside this bottle to fade your dark marks (here are some more facial cleansers that complement African American skin).

It’s glycolic acid that eliminates hyperpigmentation along with making your skin less prone to developing acne breakouts through gentle yet deep and penetrating exfoliation.

On top of that, it also has antioxidants for anti-aging skin benefits!

Potential Causes of Hyperpigmentation On Your Face

Hyperpigmentation On Your Face

1. Melasma

Too much melanin production in the skin, melanin is the very pigment that adds color to your skin, is a very common cause of the condition called hyperpigmentation.

Sometimes in women, when their hormonal levels change (for example, during pregnancy), it can increase the skin’s melanin production. As a result of which, dark patches start to take form.

2. Too Much Sun Exposure

Excessive exposure to the sun can also cause your skin’s melanin production to rise because melanin protects the skin against prolonged sun exposure. And this gives rise to dark patches or spots on your skin (known as sun spots).

3. Skin Inflammation

Skin concerns like eczema, acne, or just plain skin injury lead to inflammation. And these inflamed areas on your face develop what’s called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Those with a naturally darker skin complexion are more prone to this condition.

4. Certain Medications

What types of medicines are most likely to cause hyperpigmentation? Tricyclic antidepressants and antimalarial drugs. This is when patches of your skin might turn gray.

And then you also have certain chemicals present in topical creams, ointments, etc. that have been linked to hyperpigmentation. And of course, chemotherapy treatment as well has hyperpigmentation listed as one of its many side effects.

5. Certain Medical Conditions

The first that comes to mind is Addison’s disease. It’s a very rare endocrine disorder that increases your chances of developing hyperpigmentation in areas prone to sun exposure, such as your hands, neck, face, elbows, knees, etc.

And then there’s hemochromatosis (excess iron storage in the body) as well that causes hyperpigmentation, so your skin ends up looking tanned or darker than your actual complexion.

Best Ingredients to Fade Hyperpigmentation

  • Vitamin C

The powerful antioxidants of Vitamin C (also known as L-ascorbic or ascorbic acid) significantly minimize the appearance of acne scars, even out your skin tone, protect skin cells from UV damage, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, and boost collagen production. That’s how Vitamin C decreases hyperpigmentation.

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)

The AHA celebrity here would be glycolic acid indeed (then there’s also lactic acid and mandelic acid). It’s a water-soluble chemical exfoliant that gets rid of dead skin cells to encourage the growth of new ones, so your discolored, patchy, dull skin tone looks more even and brighter.

  • Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

Salicylic acid is the most commonly used beta hydroxy acid for acne treatment as well as clearing away dead skin cells, clogged pores, excess sebum, and the visibility of hyperpigmentation.

Unlike water-soluble AHA, BHA is oil-soluble, which means it penetrates deeper into your pores through the layer of sebum present on the skin.

  • Niacinamide

This particular anti-inflammatory ingredient treats hyperpigmentation by inhibiting those very enzymes that produce skin pigments i.e. melanin (since too much melanin production is one of the most common causes of hyperpigmentation).

What niacinamide also does is increase skin cell turnover, boost moisture retention, and brighten and even out your complexion.

  • Kojic Acid

A natural agent that hinders the hyperpigmentation-inducing overproduction of melanin in the skin is kojic acid. So those stubborn dark or brown spots left by acne breakouts start to look less and less visible.

  • Azelaic Acid

Derived from grains such as rye and barley, azelaic acid reduces pigment intensity. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, azelaic acid helps in dealing with skin redness, inflammation, and acne breakouts.

  • Retinol

A derivative of Vitamin A, retinol is a part of many skincare products that slough away dead and pigmented skin cells to combat hyperpigmentation. When used for a long course of time, retinoids also minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Arbutin

This is a water-soluble active molecule derived from the dried version of bearberry, blueberry, and also pear tree leaves. A natural skincare ingredient that decreases melanin production, therefore fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Best Treatment for Hyperpigmentation On Face

No matter the type of hyperpigmentation, dark patches on your skin can indeed be faded or lightened, so your complexion can look natural and skin texture smooth.

The very first step to take is to incorporate a facial cleanser formulated with gentle exfoliants like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, etc. These ingredients target your skin discoloration, dark spots, and acne scars. They encourage the formation of new skin cells by sloughing away dead skin cells. Along with leaving your troubled skin feeling calmer, smoother, softer, clearer, and brighter.

There are body washes and soaps also formulated using these same kinds of ingredients. Because it’s not just the face that can develop hyperpigmentation, the body can too.

The second step has more to do with your willpower. You have to make it a point to avoid fidgeting with your skin. Do not touch acne breakouts, do not pull at your skin, and things like that if you want to prevent inflammation and damage. When you interfere with pigmentation spots, you’re only making them darker and more permanent.

And now the thirst step if over-the-counter skincare products like facial cleansers and serums don’t work. That would be dermatologist-prescribed hydroquinone. This is a skin-lightening ingredient that slows down melanin production to reduce your skin discoloration.

Then there are chemical peels as well (dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and laser therapy) that dermatologists might recommend for getting rid of hyperpigmentation. What these procedures (non-invasive of course) do is remove your skin’s top layer very gently. So the pigment or dark spots on it lighten to pave the way for a more even, clearer complexion.

Most Effective Tips to Prevent Hyperpigmentation

1. Apply Sunscreen

Protecting the skin from harsh, harmful UV rays is never an option, it’s an obligation if you really care for your skin. Sun damage leads to skin discoloration and sun spots, which you obviously want to avoid. Hence, always put on a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protection from UVA and UVB rays) in the day when both indoors and outdoors.

2. Avoid Direct Sun Exposure

Speaking of sun exposure, sunscreen can only do what it can. Meaning it has its limitations of course. But that doesn’t mean you skip it entirely because if that’s what you end up doing, then be ready to deal with not just hyperpigmentation but other skin conditions as well. At the same time, you can’t choose to NOT go out, right?

So the best solution here is to avoid stepping out when the sun’s rays are the strongest i.e. the most adverse. And that is between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.

3. Choose Anti-Inflammatory Skincare Products

Hyperpigmentation is often caused by inflammation, which is often caused by acne breakouts. Scars and dark spots on the face are the remains of acne.

Now you can easily cover up the discoloration and unevenness using a foundation for textured skin. But then instead why not prevent hyperpigmentation from the very beginning itself by making sure that your skincare products (facial cleansers, serums, and moisturizers) are formulated with anti-inflammatory ingredients. For example, niacinamide, tea tree oil, azelaic acid, etc.

Wrapping It Up…

What’s for certain is that acne-fighting and hyperpigmentation-reducing ingredients such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, Vitamin C, etc. are both effective and skin-friendly to use. They’re also pH-balanced, hence they protect your sensitive and already troubled skin from potential allergens, bacteria, and pollution.

And if that wasn’t enough, then the formulations reviewed here are also enriched with other natural botanicals for skin nourishment and hydration with soothing/calming properties.

So pick a facial cleanser based on your skin type. And don’t forget to put on that sunscreen, whether you’re going out or staying indoors.

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