Beauty + Skincare

The Cure for Hyperpigmentation

One of the unfortunate side-effects of having acne for 24 years is hyperpigmentation.  But how do you treat those terrible dark spots?

On the recommendation of a friend, I started using Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution ($55).  After two weeks, I started noticing results.  But the price, oh the price.  A solution isn’t a solution if keeping it up costs an arm and a leg.

So when I spotted Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA from The Ordinary, at $9 a bottle, I had to try it.

First off, this stuff works.  I saw results on the second day.  Scars were lighter.  Redness was lessened.  And with the reductions in darkness, uneven texture and raised scars appeared less noticeable.

I was impressed.  But things at Deciem, The Ordinary’s parent company look a bit shaky.  Let’s just say their CEO seems less than stable.  So I bought three more bottles on Amazon.  You know, in case.

Second, while this product is effective, you need to be wary of how serious it is.  This formulation is stronger than the 1% solutions usually offered for sale.  It also contains hyaluronic acid.  This means that you must wear sunscreen every day.

If you’re in the market for a good sunscreen, I like this Suntegrity moisturizing sunscreen with primer.  It doesn’t bleach your skin out in photos or cause your makeup to go on chalky.

When I found the Alpha Arbutin serum, I wasn’t looking to add anything to my skincare regimen.  But when a product this affordable delivers these kind of results, you find room.

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  1. kELSI says:

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but the HA I believe is hyaluronic acid, which is not a retinoid but is actually a moisturizing molecule. You’re getting the lightening most likely from the alpha-arbutin and the lactic acid potentially.

    I’ve been using this for a while now and definitely don’t find it drying as one might with a retinoid. I’d also say it works well but takes time and prolonged use in my personal experience.

    Ingredients listed are:
    Aqua (Water), Alpha-Arbutin, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Propanediol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

    Check out the ingredients analysis at CosDNA

    October 24, 2018/Reply
    • Maria says:

      I came here to say the same thing. HA is indeed hyaluronic acid (found here in the form of hydrolyzed sodium hyaluronate), which is a humectant.

      October 24, 2018/Reply
      • STeph S says:

        Exactly this – it’s hyaluronic acid, not a retinoid, and you CAN use it with a retinoid, according to The Ordinary’s Regimen page.

        And for those who find the Alpha Arbutin + HA to be drying, I personally recommend pairing it with rosehip oil (I like Grown Alchemist’s Antioxidant+ Facial Oil), and (at night) layering The Ordinary’s plant-derived squalane over top once it has soaked in. This sequence has drastically reduced my hyperpigmentation, as well as my acne – to the point where I don’t feel like I need to wear foundation every day anymore.

        October 24, 2018/Reply
  2. kate says:

    Have you tried turmeric? It might not the instant fix but over the time, it enhances your skin’s brightness.The homemade mask I tried is 1 tea spoon of tumeric powder, 1/2 table spoon of milk and 1.5 table spoon of honey.

    It is a little bit messy so I only do this mask over the weekend.

    October 24, 2018/Reply
  3. Kendra says:

    FYI, you can order The Ordinary direct from Deciem. Shipping is free on orders over $25, and there’s no Amazon markup ($15 for a serum that costs $9?!…sheesh).

    October 24, 2018/Reply
  4. Jenna says:

    If it is within your budget, I strongly recommend chemical peels for dealing with hyperpigmentation. I had horrible hyperpigmentation that did not go away with anything, including retinol. I now get the PCA chemical peel done every other month, excluding summer months, and the dark spots are all but gone. My upper lip area is the most stubborn, but even that is almost untraceable.

    October 24, 2018/Reply
    • Kendra says:


      Tell me more. Where are you located? Do you have a medical provider do it? Or a general aesthetician? Is your skin fair or darker?

      I’m looking for a new provider in the D.C. area, but man-oh-man am I having a hard time finding a provider that has adequate experience with dark skin.

      October 24, 2018/Reply
  5. Megan says:

    I had really great results using rose hip oil on my (moderately bad) acne scars. It wasn’t instantaneous, but after maybe a couple months I noticed they had faded a lot. I also always thought that “glowing” skin was a ridiculous descriptor, until I realized that when I woke up in the morning after using rose hip oil, my skin was glowy (a friend commented on it as well, so I wasn’t just imagining it lol).

    October 24, 2018/Reply
    • Jessica says:

      I’m not even positive I know what “glowing” skin looks like!

      October 24, 2018/Reply
    • Jennifer says:

      Here to second rose hip oil! I switched to after noticing that it was the primary ingredient in Ole Henrikson’s activating serum that I loved. A bottle of the Acure 100% rose hip oil runs me $8 at Whole Foods and is my everyday moisturizer of choice.

      October 25, 2018/Reply
  6. Susan says:

    Sidebar: on the “chalky” sunblock problem (it is REAL!) I recommend dermalogica age smart moisturizer w spf 50. Great sunblock, great moisturizer, not a trace of that terrible chalky white sunscreen mess in real life or in flash photos. Not cheap, but if you are serious about sunscreen daily (I drive for a living, so I am serious about windshield exposure) it’s a dream come true.

    October 24, 2018/Reply
  7. Jules says:

    Another great mineral sunscreen is EltaMD. It works well under make up (for the most part), and has Niacinamide, which also helps with skin brightness.
    it’s $33, so on the pricey side.

    October 24, 2018/Reply
  8. claire says:

    Would sunscreen in makeup be sufficient?

    October 25, 2018/Reply
    • Natalie says:

      No! You should always wear real sunscreen under makeup. In order to get the spf listed on makeup you would need to put on way more foundation than anyone would ever wear.

      October 25, 2018/Reply
  9. Seventh Sister says:

    I bought this in London and it seems to be helping with my fairly light/noticeable-only-to-me dark spots.

    October 25, 2018/Reply
  10. Lisa says:

    I heard the ordinary was closing down?


    October 27, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      They keep saying that, I don’t think I buy it. Estee Lauder has a minority share, I think they want to keep it going.

      October 28, 2018/Reply