Hyperpigmentation is caused by many things; sun damage, acne, menopause, pregnancy,trauma, age, products, peels, etc. The bad thing is once you have it, it's a pain to remove it!
The epidermis (skin) contains cells that are called melonocytes. These cells form the pigment called melanin which are one of the pigments that give color to your skin, hair and eyes. When these cells are damaged or over stimulated they will send out more melanin than usual causing hyperpigmentation.
Best treatment is to avoid sun exposure and wear serious SPF when heading outdoors, you don't want to aggravate and accelerate the damage that is already present ?
Hydroquinone works by blocking melanin production and is available in various percentages, up to 2%(DDF, Obagi,and Murad) over the counter and up to 4% through prescription( lustra, claripel, and triluma).
possible side effects include redness, burning. In percentages from 6-10% it can cause skin caner and ochronosis (permanent darkening of the skin) with prolonged use or when one does not use sun protection. Products that use resorcinol in combination with hydroquinone can cause ochronosis in darker skin types.
My picks: DDF Fade Gel 4, Murad Age spot and pigment lightening gel.
Retinol and it's derivatives (vitamin A)
This powerful exfoliant will even help wrinkles by plumping the skin and promoting collagen production. Another plus is that it's a great antioxidant. Prescription Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac.
Side effects include redness, burning.
My picks: Philosophy Save Me and Help Me, Dermadoctor poetry in lotion
Glycolic Acid is another exfoliant that can be gentle or harsh depending on it's percentage. Up to 20% over the counter and up to 70% in a doctor's office (ouch) The cool thing about glycolic acid is that it is found in lotions, pads, toners, everything !
Mendelic Acid derived from almonds is super mild and is also antibacterial which is great if you get hyperpigmentation from acne because it'll keep the acne at bay. Some good choices are MaMa lotion :)
Vitamin C this exfoliant is very gentle. Also stimulates the production of collagen. best one is Magnesium L Ascorbyl 2 phosphate (MAP) which is very stable, lightens and is also a great antioxidant. My picks: L'occitane Immortelle Brightening Renewing Serum.
Kojic Acid is naturally derived from mushrooms (originally in Japan) It works like hydroquinone by blocking melanin production. Another great feature of Kojic acid is that it's a great ROC scavenger (super antioxidant). One down side is that it has a higher tendency to cause contact dermatitis and toxicity. Maximum concentration allowed is 2% and best when combined with glycolic acid. My picks DDF intensive holistic lightener, SkinCeuticals Phyto +, Philosophy pigment of your immagination.
Arbutin is plant derived (bearberry) and inhibits tyrosinase which inhibits the process through which melanin is produced. This one is the least effective on it's own but is non toxic and non irritating. My pics include Shiseido Whitening line.
Mulberry Extract another naturally derived product that inhibits tyrosinase. This one causes the least irritation.
Fresh Appleseed Brightening Essence a potent mix of Vitamin C and mulberry extract. Ole Hendrickson Enlighten me pigment lightening serum.
Licorice extract (glabridin) is the least toxic to melanocytes. Best for melasma because it inhibits tyrosinase and inflammation. My pics: Dermadoctor Immaculate Correction.
Azelaic Acid inhibits tyrosinase and therefore can be used to treat hyperpigmentation. Best when combined with glycolic acid. Tends to cause more sensitivity than hydroquinone.
Laser treatments needs to be done by a qualified doctor only otherwise the risks outweighs it's success. The most sucessful laser treatments are with Fraxel lasers which uses a series of tiny closely spaced laser beams resulting in least irritation and redness.
Soy which is said to help inhibit the protein that activates the melanocytes so they don't produce as much melanin. Most importantly it helps strengthen the skin.
Niacinamide or vitamin b3 helps to stop the transfer of the melanosome (melanin color) from the melanocytes to the cells of the epidermis and produces even skin tone and reduces lines/wrinkles by stimulating collagen. Try Nia24 line
Alpha Hydroxy Acids- light peels will exfoliate the skin and remove a lot of the discoloration, any remaining discoloration will be easier to treat. Best ones, Glycolic, Mandelic. Try MD skincare they have exfoliating pads that mix glycolic, salicylic and lactic.
In the end, you should be careful not to bleach your skin too much. Once the pigmentation is significantly reduced or removed you should stop the treatment. Abusing these skin lighteners can strip your skin leaving it vulnerable to environmental damage since melanin is your natural skin defense against UV damage. Which in turn and make the skin fragile.