Whether you call them dark spots, sun spots, melasma, or any of the other myriad ways of describing this frustrating skin concern, they’re all components of hyperpigmentation—an especially common yet stubborn skin issue.

Given that traditional hyperpigmentation treatments are toxic, we’ve always advocated for treating it with skin-brightening antioxidants. But we before we get into how to prevent and fade it, let’s cover what exactly hyperpigmentation is.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Simply put, hyperpigmentation refers to an overproduction of melanin. It’s primarily caused by UV exposure, a.k.a.: too much sun, not enough SPF. Melasma is a particular form of hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal sensitivity to sun exposure. Women who are pregnant, using hormonal birth control, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy are all susceptible to it, as are people with darker complexions.

Is hyperpigmentation dangerous?

Hyperpigmentation itself is not dangerous, but, with the exception of melasma, it reveals having gotten too much sun exposure, which is of course damaging to the skin. And once it’s there, it’s hard (but not impossible) to reverse. So prevention is key.

How do you prevent hyperpigmentation?

Avoiding sun exposure is the best way to prevent hyperpigmentation, but that’s not always realistic. Wearing SPF, hats, and applying topical antioxidants can help keep hyperpigmentation at bay.

The problem with conventional hyperpigmentation treatments

One of the main treatments used to address hyperpigmentation is highly toxic. Hydroquinone scores a 9 (out of 10, with 10 being the highest) on EWG’s ingredient toxicity scale, and is listed as a known human respiratory toxicant and a possible carcinogen (meaning cancer-causing). That’s why it’s been banned in places like Europe, Japan, and Australia. The good news is that treating and preventing hyperpigmentation can be done effectively without compromising your health by applying topical antioxidants. Below, the very best ones.

The best antioxidants for hyperpigmentation

Vitamin C

It’s one of the most researched-backed skincare ingredients, but vitamin C can be very tricky to formulate. The moment it’s introduced into a liquid, it naturally begins to oxidize and lose potency. Until scientists discover how to prevent that from happening, fresh vitamin C powder is the most effective way to derive the antioxidant benefits you need. Buffering it with ferulic acid increases its efficacy by making it more stable.

Retinol

Retinol is a powerful antioxidant. And it is one of this ingredients that can address multiple skin concerns: from skin-ageing, to acne over to hyperpigmentation. Retinol accelerate the collagen in our skin and stimulate the production of new and healthy skin cells.

Niacinamide

Also known as Vitamin B3, niacinamide prevents melanin from reaching the surface of the skin and protects from additional UV damage. Studies have shown that not only can it help prevent hyperpigmentation and the onset of sun damage, but it is also an effective skin lightener.

Resveratrol

This powerful antioxidant is a naturally occurring compound found in plants like grapes. And while its anti-aging properties have been widely discussed, scientists are now confident that resveratrol can also significantly decrease melanin production.