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Reading the Label: the Ingredients to Know to Defeat Hyperpigmentation

By: Melissa Federico, LE and Beauty and Fashion Writer

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Do you find yourself using a filter to get an even complexion? Hyperpigmentation is a top skincare issue that plagues clear complexions. If you are having a hard time dropping that Valencia filter to achieve an even tone, it may not be due to your skin type or age. “I see hyperpigmentation starting in much younger people these days,” says Cari Gillespie, LE, of Vintage Rose Salon in Auburn. With over 14 years in the field, Cari believes that pigmentation issues seen in a variety of ages are usually the result of sunbathing, acne or the side effects of medication and can be a difficult issue to treat. Success with lifting pigmentation is more likely to come from paying attention to the ingredient list of products, rather than relying on a specific brand or miracle treatment.

Image | @SkinByCari

You may recognize some of the following buzzworthy ingredients, others may be lesser known. Either way, they are all outstanding choices for conquering lightening concerns. You’ll find these ingredients available in many products from multiple brands. They may even be used together to treat a multitude of skin concerns at once. From fighting pigmentation in their own unique ways, to working in combination with other powerful ingredients, be sure to peek at the label for the ingredients below to achieve an overall tone that is selfie-approved #nofilter.


This is a natural skin brightener derived from berries. Arbutin brightens skin because it contains a natural tyrosinase inhibitor. Tyrosinase is a key enzyme for melanin production, and by down-regulating this enzyme it has become the best way to stop the formation of melanin. If you’re looking for something that is safer than hydroquinone, as well as effective for lightening your overall complexion, this may be your best bet. It will help stop the formation of more pigmentation, dark spots, and lifting post inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne.

Pro Lite by Lira Clinical is often referred to as “liquid gold,” because it has a thoughtful mixture of antioxidants, plant extracts, stem cells and vitamin c merged with arbutin making it a potent daily serum in your routine for lighting and brightening.

Garden Cress Sprout Extract

Also known by its Latin name, Lepidium Sativum Sprout extract is rich in Sulforaphane and known for its capacity to neutralize oxidants. This powerful antioxidant phytonutrient lightens skin and lessens the differences in pigmentation, while it inhibits a-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (a-MSH), a natural hormone to help create a more uniform complexion.

Dr. Barbara Sturm offers a Brightening lotion and a serum, that are rich in cress sprout extracts and help to diminish the look of brown and yellow spots. Both products work great together, and feature Ginseng extract to support protection against free radicals and environmental stress, that lead to further aging and pigmentation issues.

Kojic Acid

 This ingredient provides gradual and continual skin brightening, and is produced from fermented rice. Like arbutin, it is also a tyrosinase inhibitor and this ingredient will be a great addition to any preventative skincare routine. It can be found in Lira Clinical’s Pro Anti Aging Pads. This at-home treatment delivers a brightening mix of glycolic, lactic, salicylic and kojic acids mixed with peptides, antioxidants and probiotics to exfoliate, lighten and enhance the health of skin. As a bonus, this product also features bearberry which has natural arbutin.


Derived from a legume, you may commonly see this on the back of your ingredient label listed as Glycyrrhiza root extract. This ingredient soothes and stimulates to produce an immune response (that heals skin), as well as containing anti-microbial and antioxidant properties. Another tyrosinase inhibitor that reduces the appearance of pigmentations and discolorations. Eminence Organics bright skin licorice root booster serum is infused with additional vitamins and lactic acid to defend against free radical damage and rejuvenate your complexion daily.


This organic compound works to inhibit melanin production to brighten skin. This anti-microbial agent protects skin from pigmentation by stimulating glutathione, an antioxidant naturally found in cells that helps fight oxidation damage to DNA. This is important because as glutathione works to neutralize free radicals, it helps skin to lift pigmentation by converting melanin to a lighter color and deactivating tyrosinase. Comparable to a 2% hydroquinone, hexylresourcinol is combined with retinol, lactic acid, vitamin c BV-OSC and shea butter in Lira Clinical’s Pro Retinol Crème. With regular use, you’ll start to see smoother and brighter skin with an overall radiant tone.

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Ultimately understanding ingredients is a key part of treating any specific problem with your skin. Following up with Cari, she tells me that’s why she makes sure to share a few more vital points when it comes to seeing results. “You must protect skin with a mineral sunscreen above all else, or you will never achieve results. It took years of damage to get the pigmentation, so it will not be an easy quick fix. Slow and steady wins the race.”

For more information about the treatments and services that Cari offers and the Lira Clinical products mentioned above you can check her Instagram @skinbycari or the spa website for bookings!


Walker, Linda. The Skin Care Ingredient Handbook. Alluredbooks, 2013.

Winter, Ruth. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients: Complete Information about the Harmful and Desirable Ingredients Found in Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals. Three Rivers Press, 2009.