Dark spots and pigmentation are one of our top skin concerns, especially as we grow older. People with darker skin can run a higher risk of developing dark spots and uneven skin tone because they’re more sensitive to factors that can cause or further develop hyperpigmentation, such as sun exposure.

Considering that many of us in Singapore are not as fair as our Caucasian counterparts and are often exposed to the sun, we are at a fairly high risk of getting dark spots and pigmentation even earlier than we expect.

While most hyperpigmentation can be covered up with makeup, nothing beats solving the problem so that you can confidently go out with bare skin.

Hence, we have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to treat dark spots or skin pigmentation.

What is skin pigmentation, and what causes it?

Dark Spots Pigmentation Issues

Although most of us view it as a skin problem, hyperpigmentation is actually a very common condition that affects people of all skin types.

Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin produces more melanin (the pigment that gives skin its colour). This makes spots or patches of your skin appear darker than surrounding areas.

Some forms of hyperpigmentation, including melasma and sunspots, are more likely to affect areas of skin that face sun exposure, including the face, arms, and legs. Other types of hyperpigmentation form after an injury or skin inflammation, such as cuts, burns, acne, or lupus – these can occur anywhere on the body.

On that note, you may be wondering what are some common causes of dark spots and pigmentation that you should take note of. While some may be avoidable, others are caused by changes in the body that we do not have much control over:

  • Sun damage: People can develop dark spots on their skin after being exposed to the sun or tanning beds.
  • Hormonal changes: Melasma is a skin condition that leads to small patches of skin discolouration. The condition is more common in women, especially during pregnancy. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hormones may trigger melasma.
  • Inflammation: Dark spots can develop after a bout of inflammation on the skin. Inflammation may be caused by other underlying skin problems, including eczema, psoriasis, injury to the skin, and acne.
  • Wound healing: Dark spots may remain after an insect bite, burn, or cut heals, and these tend to fade faster in time.
  • Irritation: Especially common in those with sensitive skin, cosmetic or hair products can irritate the skin, causing dark patches to form.

How to treat dark spots and pigmentation?

Preventing dark spots and pigmentation with basic skincare

Skincare Myths Sunscreen

The first thing that should be on your list of treating dark spots and pigmentation is to prevent dark spots and pigmentation from occurring at all, especially if it’s within your control.

One of the most common causes of hyperpigmentation in the skin is sun exposure, and if you’re looking to prevent dark spots and pigmentation, you should limit the amount of UV exposure you get a day.

We know it can be difficult since it is sunny all year round, but you can still do so by crafting a skincare routine that avoids or lessens the damaging impact of UV light through timely prevention and cure:

  • Apply sun protection daily: Never skip out on your sunscreen – not even at home! This helps you to avoid activating your melanin production system.
  • Use anti-inflammatory skincare actives regularly: Chronic inflammation from acne or eczema can become unhealthy and cause hyperpigmentation.
  • Use brightening actives after skin damage: Most of us are so occupied with trying to get rid of acne that we forget that a breakout is the exact moment we should implement a brightening active in our routine. Use it before hyperpigmentation develops, and you may avoid the darkening of your skin altogether!

Cosmetic procedures to treat dark spots and pigmentation

Cosmetic Procedures

For those of you who want to find a fast and effective solution to treat dark spots and pigmentation, you’ll be glad to know that many aesthetic clinics in Singapore offer cosmetic procedures that can help you lighten areas of skin to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

Some examples of procedures to treat dark spots and pigmentation include:

  • Laser therapy: This is the most common procedure done to treat dark spots and pigmentation. Lasers deliver an intense beam of light that is absorbed and converted into heat, which either disperses the group of melanin cells or destroys the skin cells carrying the pigment molecule.
  • Intense pulsed light: A safer, broad-spectrum light that heats and destroys brown spots, melasma, broken capillaries, and sunspots.
  • Chemical peel: This removes the top layers of skin, allowing it to regenerate, effectively helping to treat dark spots and pigmentation.
  • Microdermabrasion: You can think of this as physical exfoliation (in contrast to chemical peels) that uses tiny particles to sand away dead skin.

Topical products to treat dark spots and pigmentation

Topical Products

If you are not keen on doing aesthetic procedures, you also have the option of buying over-the-counter or dermatologist-prescribed products to try and treat dark spots and pigmentation.

Lightening creams and gels are common products that work with select ingredients to help decrease pigmentation. These are usually sold over-the-counter in your typical drugstores and beauty retailers but are also available in stronger prescription forms. Lightening creams or gels work best for flat spots, such as melasma or age spots, and are effective for patches of discolouration on most skin types.

Face acids, or skin acids, are like chemical peels that you can do at home – some examples include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid. Face acids work well for mild hyperpigmentation on fairer skin tones.

Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are among some of the oldest OTC skincare ingredients used. They can come in either a prescription or over-the-counter formula, but take note that the latter tends to be weaker. If you don’t see any results after a couple of months, you may have to get a prescription from your derm for retinoid tretinoin (Retin-A).

Best products to treat dark spots or pigmentation

b.glen QuSome White Essence

how to treat dark spots skin pigmentation Singapore - b.glen (1)

Vitamin C is the ingredient that enjoys the spotlight when it comes to skin brightening, but because of its acidic properties, it might cause slight irritation on sensitive skin.

The gentler alternative? Arbutin. It releases its active components slowly, proving to be less irritating to sensitive skin.

Similar to vitamin C, it also works effectively to prevent dark spots and fade reddish-purplish acne scars for a brighter complexion.

The hero active in b.glen’s QuSome White Essence, arbutin works alongside other radiance-enhancing ingredients, such as barrier-boosting nicotinamide and hydrating fermented rose honey, to reduce visible hyperpigmentation.

Since arbutin brightens by inhibiting the production of melanin (responsible for pigmentation) in the skin, the QuSome White Essence protects your complexion from forming dark spots whilst you’re up and about during the day.

Not just that, the brand’s QuSome® technology delivers the ingredients deeper into the skin, so the glow that your complexion wears after will come from within.

Super comfy on the skin, this rich gel serum is one you’ll love for a ramped-up radiance boost!

b.glen QuSome White Essence retails for S$79 on b.glen.

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First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum

Dark Spot Treatments First Aid Beauty

First Aid Beauty’s Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum is here to leave your skin flawless. Powered by niacinamide, this advanced formula reduces the appearance of dark spots and refines your skin texture.

There’s licorice root in the formula to give it an anti-inflammatory benefit, reducing any redness and soothing any irritation. Licorice also works to brighten your skin! As if that weren’t enough, the serum is also infused with kiwi fruit to deliver a shot of antioxidant protection to safeguard your skin.

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum is available at Sephora.

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Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid

How To Treat Dark Spots And Pigmentation Paulas Choice Skin Perfecting 2 Bha Liquid

If you have skin pigmentation caused by previous bouts of acne, Paula’s Choice best-selling exfoliator is your best shot at getting a clear and even skin tone.

This is a gentle, leave-on product (optimal pH range of 3.2 to 3.8) with salicylic acid that mimics the natural exfoliation process of younger skin by helping it shed extra layers while unclogging and clearing pores. It also helps to hydrate your skin so that it doesn’t get too dry from all that shedding of dead skin.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid retails at SGD45 on Paula’s Choice website.

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Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine

How To Treat Dark Spots And Pigmentation Neogen Bio Peel Gauze Peeling Wine

Combining the best of both worlds, Neogen’s peeling pads are a holy grail for people struggling with sensitive, pigmented skin.

A swipe of this on the skin effectively removes dead skin cells and impurities using the unique 3 layer pad technology, where lactic acid also penetrates deep into your pores to clean out pore-clogging debris.

Its star ingredient, Resveratrol, also helps to prevent free radicals from pigmenting or forming wrinkles on your skin so that you don’t have to worry about the formation of new dark spots even after you have treated the current ones – sweet!

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine retails at SGD26.20 on Shopee.

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Cyspera Intensive System™

Cyspera Intensive System™

Persistent brown patches and spots are tough to get rid of. That is, until the science-based and Swiss-made Cyspera Intensive System™ came along.

This three-step pigment correction system is clinically proven to target hyperpigmentation without the harsh side effects of corticosteroids, retinoic acid, and hydroquinone, making it suitable for long-term use.

Formulated with the novel Cysteamine Isobionic-Amide Complex, it provides potent effects to lighten discolouration. Cysteamine, a naturally occurring molecule, slows down the process of melanin synthesis, while Isobionic-Amide boosts the pigment correction abilities of Cysteamine by further inhibiting the darker melanosomes reaching the skin surface that form visible hyperpigmentation and dark spots.

Meanwhile, AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) stabilises Cysteamine to allow it to penetrate better into the skin and Isobionic-Amide reacts immediately with AHA to produce an instant pigment-lightening effect for smoother, more radiant, luminous skin.

Together, the trio significantly and rapidly reduces the appearance of discolouration. In fact, a study against a gold standard triple combination product (i.e. products containing hydroquinone, tretinoin and corticosteroid) observed a 10% improvement in the evening out of the skin tone within four weeks of use. The system is noted to be four times better tolerated for long-term use too.

For optimal results, you’re recommended to start with an intensive phase where you use the Cyspera Intensive System™ once per day, every day, for 16 weeks or until you’ve achieved your desired results.

You can then switch to a maintenance phase and use the system once a day, twice a week. However, if you wish to use the system on a daily basis during the maintenance phase, you can do so as well.

Unlike your regular exfoliant or dark spot corrector, Cyspera Intensive System™ must be applied on rested skin; that means you shouldn’t cleanse your skin before application. If you absolutely need a cleanse, wait one hour before using the system.

Here’s how you should use Cyspera Intensive System™:

  • Step 1 (Intensive): Dispense one pump and apply a thin layer on the skin. Leave on for five minutes in the first week of use – this will help your skin adapt to the product. After one week, leave it on for 15 minutes. You may experience a warming sensation or mild tingling that can last up to 30 minutes.
  • Step 2 (Neutralize): Apply two pumps on the skin and gently massage it in circular motions. Rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry.
  • Step 3 (Boost): Apply a thin layer on your skin. Do not rinse.

You can choose to use the system in the morning or evening – it’s all up to you! For optimal results, remember to apply a generous amount of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.

Cyspera Intensive System™ retails for S$399 (GST included) only in authorised clinics. Click here to find out where it’s available.

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Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum

Dark Spot Treatments Biossance

If vitamin C serums irritate your sensitive skin, Biossance’s new Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum may just be your new brightening BFF. It blends a unique derivative of vitamin C with a proprietary white shiitake mushroom extract to deliver faster, longer-lasting results.

It starts reduces dark spots right away and keeps working hard every day to prevent new ones from forming. Plus, the ingredients are precisely calibrated to prevent any potential irritation.

Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum is available at Sephora for SGD91.

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Glamglow Flashmud Brightening Treatment

How To Treat Dark Spots And Pigmentation Glamglow Flashmud Brightening Treatment

True to its name, Glamglow’s Flashmud is a brightening treatment that instantly reveals glowing, luminous skin. It offers multiple levels of physical and chemical exfoliation, thanks to a formula that includes lactic acid, salicylic acid, white clay, and diamonds.

P.S. For best results, you are encouraged to use this mask three days in a row!

Glamglow Flashmud Brightening Treatment retails at SGD39 for 15g, SGD89 for 50g, and SGD123 for 100g on Sephora.

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The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Overnight Treatment

Dark Spot Treatments The Inkey List

You’re probably familiar with vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol, and glycolic acid as ingredients to lighten dark spots. But here’s another underrated active to add to that list: tranexamic acid.

Found in The Inkey List’s Tranexamic Acid Overnight Treatment, this ingredient works to lighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation while you snooze, so you can wake up to brighter, more even skin. The formula is also bolstered by 2% of a vitamin C derivative and antioxidant-rich acai berry to help improve skin clarity.

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Overnight Treatment retails for £14.99 (S$27.98) at Cult Beauty

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How To Treat Dark Spots And Pigmentation Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

Don’t want to deal with the downtime after chemical peels? This over-the-counter renewing peel is an easy and safe at-home alternative that guarantees you the same refreshed and glowing skin you get in cosmetic procedures!

The formula contains a combination of five acids, ideal for first-time peel users and those of all skin types. The first step is to use the powerful yet gentle exfoliating acids to clear dead skin cells, followed by delivering anti-ageing actives into the skin to rebalance it.

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How To Treat Dark Spots And Pigmentation Sunday Riley Good Genes All In One Lactic Acid Treatment

Beauty junkies worth their salt would surely have heard about this acid treatment that is said to work wonders on pigmented skin.

Using high potency, purified grade lactic acid that immediately exfoliates dull, pore-clogging dead skin cells, your skin cycle is sped up so that smooth, spotless skin is revealed. It is also enhanced with liquorice and Lemongrass to boost radiance, as well as Aloe to soothe the skin.

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment retails at SGD150 for 30ml and SGD227 for 50ml on Sephora.

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Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

How To Treat Dark Spots And Pigmentation Drunk Elephant Tlc Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

This is a cult-favourite high-tech gel from Drunk Elephant that resurfaces dull skin and lifts dead skin cells away by gently dissolving the glue that holds them to the surface.

Formulated with a unique AHA/BHA blend including glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric and salicylic acids, and blended with raspberry extract, it sinks in easily and delivers the results of a chemical exfoliation without harsh side effects like dryness or sensitisation.

Using too many acids on your face can sound terrifying, but not to fear – this product also includes ingredients such as Horse chestnut, bearberry, and white tea help to calm and soothe your skin.

Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum retails at SGD128 for 30ml and SGD190 for 50ml on Sephora.

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