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- Best overall: Alpha Skincare Dual Action Skin Lightener
- Best budget: The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
- Best splurge: Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense
- Best for clinical results: Paula’s Choice Discoloration Repair Serum
- Best with SPF: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Dark Spot Sun Defense Sunscreen
- Best vegan: Truly Jelly Booster Pigment Treatment
- Best for darker skin tones: Urban Skin Rx Night Treatment
- Best moisturizer: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Eventone Fade Cream
- Best for oily skin: Ambi Skincare Fade Cream
While some are more prone than others, anyone who has spent time outside during the summer months has likely been bit by a mosquito at some point.
The symptoms of the bite alone can be irritating — itchiness, redness, inflammation — but for some, mosquito bites can also leave behind dark spots known as hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when areas of the skin appear darker than the rest. These dark spots are commonly a result of either melasma, sunspots, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation — the latter of which can happen as a result of bug bites like those from pesky mosquitoes.
“Any inflammation may leave hyperpigmentation,” according to Dr. Ted Lain, Austin-based board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology. “However, it is more probable with longer-lasting inflammation.”
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation happens when the initial symptoms of the bug bite start to subside and your skin is left with a dark spot where the bite occurred. In order to reduce or prevent scarring left behind by bites, it’s important to treat those areas with products that can lighten or fade dark spots.
To treat hyperpigmentation, Lain recommends looking for over-the-counter (OTC) lightening or brightening creams that contain ingredients such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, licorice root extract, azelaic acid, tranexamic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, antioxidants, niacinamide, or a combination of these.
These products can be in the form of serums, creams, or moisturizers. Regardless of the type of product that works best for your routine and skin type, the most important thing to look for are a few of the key ingredients Lain recommends, as they’re effective at treating hyperpigmentation.
To help you determine the best product to use to treat hyperpigmentation, we chose the following lightening products based on expert recommendations, key ingredients, and effectiveness according to reviews.
- $ = under $25
- $$ = $25–$50
- $$$ = over $50
- Price: $
- Pro: inexpensive
- Con: glycolic acid may cause irritation
One of Lain’s top recommendations, this lightening cream is formulated with hydroquinone as well as 10 percent glycolic AHA for a gentle exfoliation. The combination of these ingredients leaves skin brighter and more renewed, which is ideal when you have dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation.
Most reviewers said they noticed their dark spots fade after consistent use. One reviewer even said they noticed an improved appearance for their melasma after using this lightening cream twice a day for a month. Reviewers also like the consistency and say that a little goes a long way, which makes this cream a great value compared to more expensive ones out there.
Some people did say that this cream has a strong scent, however.
- Price: $
- Pro: inexpensive yet effective
- Con: can feel sticky
This lightweight serum from The Ordinary is highly rated and low cost, which makes it a valuable product for treating hyperpigmentation in general. Formulated with pure alpha arbutin and hyaluronic acid, this concentrated serum targets dark spots and helps reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Plus, because of the hyaluronic acid, skin is left feeling hydrated and soft.
Reviewers say that a little goes a long way with this powerful serum. Many people who have used this report significant improvements in their hyperpigmentation and noticed fading of dark spots. Some say the results took longer than they hoped — typically around a couple months — but otherwise, the majority of users are satisfied with the effectiveness of this inexpensive serum.
- Price: $$$
- Pro: easy to layer with other products
- Con: pricey
Suitable for all skin types, this powerful serum targets visible skin discoloration, whether in the form of dark patches or post-acne scars. Key ingredients include niacinamide, which is one of the most effective ingredients that reduces the appearance of skin discoloration, and acids such as kojic acid and tranexamic acid.
Reviewers say they saw a noticeable difference in their skin’s overall brightness, and the dropper is easy to use. Some reviewers say the serum was effective on their melasma, as well as hyperpigmentation caused by acne scars. However, some say it took a long time — up to a few months — to start noticing any improvements.
Best for clinical results
- Price: $$
- Pro: pump bottle is easy to use
- Con: strong formula may cause irritation on sensitive skin
Another highly praised treatment for hyperpigmentation, the clinical repair serum from Paula’s Choice is formulated with tranexamic acid, niacinamide, and bakuchiol, which all work together to fade dark spots and minimize discoloration.
According to reviews, many who used this serum saw significant improvements to melasma, post-acne scars, uneven skin tone, and dark spots with consistent use. Reviewers report having brighter skin overall, and also praise the lightweight consistency of this serum.
However, depending on your skin type, this formula could be too strong and lead to irritation. To avoid overuse, it’s recommended to gradually work this into your routine to see how your skin reacts.
Best with SPF
- Price: $$
- Pro: comes in recyclable packaging and is reef-safe
- Con: leaves a white cast
A versatile product, this sunscreen from Dr. Dennis Gross works to protect skin from damage caused by harmful UVA/UVB rays while also reducing the appearance of dark spots and providing other anti-aging solutions. In addition to SPF 50, this facial sunscreen contains a Mela-C complex — a combination of melatonin and vitamins C and E — that helps to prevent hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
Many reviewers noticed a difference in the appearance of dark spots as well as skin’s overall brightness. Reviewers also love the texture and consistency, saying it’s not too thick, not too thin, and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.
However, this sunscreen does leave a white cast that most say doesn’t blend well. With that in mind, this sunscreen may work best for those with lighter skin tones.
- Price: $$
- Pro: easy-to-use dropper
- Con: has a strong smell
This vegan pigment treatment is specifically formulated to fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation that’s a result of scars, ingrown hairs, and more. Key ingredients include vitamin B2, which helps reduce skin inflammation — a necessity when treating hyperpigmentation — as well as antioxidants like pomegranate extract and witch hazel.
With a near-perfect rating average, this serum is loved by many. One reviewer said they were “blown away” by how quickly this serum reduced the appearance of their dark spots. However, some reviews say it smells like baby powder, which may be a turn-off for some people.
On the plus side, reviewers praise the dropper for being long enough to reach the bottom of the bottle, which helps prevent product waste.
Best for darker skin tones
- Price: $$$
- Pro: can be easily worked into your skin care routine
- Con: pricey
Urban Skin Rx is designed for diverse skin tones, and this cream specifically targets hyperpigmentation. Formulated with two key lightening ingredients recommended by Lain (hydroquinone and kojic acid), this cream is designed to lighten hyperpigmentation, fade discoloration over time, and help create a more even tone overall. This cream — which also has retinol — can be used in your nightly skin care routine or as a spot treatment.
Reviews are mostly positive, with most reviewers claiming to have seen an improvement in their dark spots and uneven discoloration. Not only does it do what it’s supposed to, many say this cream leaves their skin feeling nourished and soft. However, some aren’t a fan of the consistency.
- Price: $
- Pro: budget-friendly
- Con: can be difficult to blend
Nourishing cocoa butter and niacinamide work together to smooth marks and target dark spots and discoloration in this creamy moisturizer. Palmer’s uses its signature cocoa butter as a core ingredient in each of its products to help hydrate and smooth skin. Combined with the niacinamide and retinol, this moisturizer can help create a more even tone.
According to reviews, this moisturizer does a good job at evening out overall skin tone. Some say that because the moisturizer is on the thick side it can be difficult to rub it in well. But for the most part, many agree that this cream leaves skin feeling nourished and hydrated.
Best for oily skin
- Price: $
- Pro: inexpensive
- Con: has a smell
Designed for people of color, this spot cream by Ambi Skincare is highly rated for its effectiveness at fading dark spots. The key ingredient in this cream is the dermatologist-recommended hydroquinone. It also features sunscreen, which helps ensure darkening doesn’t occur again. Plus, because it’s formulated for oily skin, it isn’t overly drying and doesn’t leave a sticky residue.
Reviewers highly praise this fade cream for its visible effectiveness at reducing the appearance of dark marks over time. The only downside is that some reviews suggest this cream has a weird smell to it, which could be a turn off for some.
If you experience hyperpigmentation from mosquito bites, there are several types of skin care products you can use to treat the dark spots and brighten those areas.
When you’re looking for a way to treat dark spots from bug bites, look for brightening creams that target dark spots using a combination of dermatologist-approved ingredients like hydroquinone, kojic acid, or niacinamide, to name a few.
Sam Lauron is a freelance lifestyle writer based in Austin, TX. When she’s not writing about wellness, creativity, or personal development, she spends her time reading, listening to true crime podcasts, and soaking up the sunny Austin weather with her partner and their dog. Connect with her on Instagram or Twitter, or by visiting her website.