11 Best Skin Lightening Creams for Black Skin (2022) Top Picks

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Skin discoloration can affect anyone, no matter their skin tone. However, people of color tend to be more prone to hyperpigmentation – not only do dark patches appear more intense, but they can also take longer to fade [1].

Even worse, many of the skin lightening products available on the market are designed for lighter skin – use them on black skin and they could make your hyperpigmentation even worse.

Now that we’ve got the bad news out of the way, let’s move on to the good: there are several lightening creams out there that are not only safe to be used on darker skin tones, but they’re incredibly effective. Some provide an instant whitening effect, while others take a little longer to work yet offer up multiple benefits that make them worth the wait.

Ready to get started? Read on to discover the 11 best skin lightening creams for black skin.

RELATED: Top 5 Skin Whitening Creams

Editor's Choice#2nd Best Choice#3rd Best Choice
Editor's Choice
11 Best Skin Lightening Creams for Black Skin ([year]) Top Picks 1
Meladerm by Civant Skincare
Rating: 5 Stars
#2nd Best Choice
11 Best Skin Lightening Creams for Black Skin ([year]) Top Picks 2
Scientis Cyspera Cysteamine Cream
Rating: 4 Stars
#3rd Best Choice
11 Best Skin Lightening Creams for Black Skin ([year]) Top Picks 3
Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin-Brightening Light Day Cream
Rating: 4 Stars

What is the Best Skin Lightening Cream for Black Skin?

Out of the hundreds of lightening and whitening products on the market, we’ve managed to narrow the list down to just 11. Each one works in its own unique way, meaning that, so long as the ingredients are compatible, you could even pick ‘n’ mix from our list to put together your own super-intense hyperpigmentation treatment that’s perfectly safe for black skin.

Best Overall Cream: Meladerm by Civant Skin Care

civant meladerm

There are so many reasons why we love Meladerm, making it a no-brainer as our top pick for black skin. 

This is a hydroquinone-free formula, which is always the safer route to go down when you have a darker skin tone. Instead, it’s infused with more than 10 advanced brightening ingredients that tackle everything from acne marks to sun spots to melasma.

There are a few skin lightening classics in this blend, such as kojic acid, vitamin C, and licorice root extract. These are common go-to’s that just about every dermatologist would recommend.

However, you’ll also notice a few patented ingredients in this formula that can’t be found elsewhere – Sepiwhite™ comes from an amino acid and helps to brighten all skin types and tones, while SymWhite® 377 comes from a pine-derived molecule and brings with it some highly potent lightening properties.

Add to this some extracts from mulberry, bearberry, and Indian gooseberry, and you have yourself a formula that’s capable of producing a visible improvement in dark spots in just a few days, with these effects continuing to escalate until those marks have completely disappeared.

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Best Lightening & Toning Cream Without Hydroquinone: Scientis Cyspera Cysteamine Cream

Cyspera cysteamine cream

Let’s start our list with an ingredient that’s a little out-there; cysteamine. It may not be one of the more common go-to ingredients for treating hyperpigmentation, but, in our opinion, it should be.

Cysteamine is a natural component of cells that also happens to function as a skin lightening agent.

It’s effective, safe to be used on dark skin, has antioxidant properties, and can be used to lighten overall skin tone as well as dark spots [2].

You’re probably ready to get your hands on some cysteamine now, which is where the Cyspera Cysteamine Cream comes in. It’s the only cysteamine skin whitening cream available, but, fortunately, it’s a good one.

It takes a few months for results to really become apparent, but the brighter skin that you’ll experience makes the wait worthwhile.

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Best Skin Lightening Cream with Natural Ingredients: Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin-Brightening Light Day Cream

Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin-Brightening Light Day Cream

Prefer to go natural with your skincare? This is often a good choice, especially for those with sensitive skin, which is why we had to feature the Manuka Honey Skin-Brightening Light Day Cream from Antipodes in our top 3. This cream is composed entirely of natural ingredients, and each one contributes to transforming discolored skin.

From manuka honey and bee venom to kiwi, grape, and skullcap extracts, this is a one-of-a-kind blend that you won’t find elsewhere. It has been clinically proven to produce results in just eight weeks, which isn’t too long to wait.

What makes this product even better is that it doesn’t contain any nasty ingredients, even GMO plant extracts, and all of the packaging is 100% sustainable and recyclable.

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Best Retinoid-Based Cream for Dark Skin Tones: Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Gel

Retinoids (aka various forms of vitamin A) are a must when dealing with an uneven skin tone. Not only do they block excess melanin production, which then prevents dark spots from forming, but they also lighten existing age spots while encouraging the skin to faster shed any discolored dead skin cells from its surface.

Even better, retinoids boost natural collagen and elastin production, meaning an improved skin texture with fewer fine lines and wrinkles.

Retinoids are available in many forms, and therefore strengths. Adapalene is a form that you’ve probably not heard of because, although studies have proven this one to be perfectly safe for black skin [3], it used to only be available with a prescription. However, it can now be purchased over-the-counter, with your best option being the Differin Gel.

Not only can this product be used to lighten skin discoloration, but it’s also a great formula for treating and preventing acne breakouts.

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Best Hyperpigmentation Serum for Black People: SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum

SkinMedica Lytera

Double up on the results that you experience from your lightening creams by adding a skin whitening serum into the mix too. Which one? Our top choice is the Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum from SkinMedica. Why? Because not only has it been clinically proven to work well on African American skin, but it also contains a number of powerful skin lighteners.

In this serum, you’ll find tranexamic acid, phytic acid, phenylethyl resorcinol, niacinamide, and an exclusive marine extract blend – all of these ingredients are capable of effectively balancing out melanin production while lightening hyperpigmentation. If your skin reacts to retinol-infused products, this is a great alternative to try.

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Best Whitening Full Body Lotion: ASDM Beverly Hills Natural Maximum Strength Skin Lightening Body Lotion

ASDM Beverly Hills Natural Maximum Strength Skin Lotion

If dark spots on the face weren’t enough to deal with, hyperpigmentation can appear on the body too. If you’ve found a whitening cream that works well on your face, then there’s nothing wrong with using it on your body as well. However, facial skincare products are designed for delicate skin – the skin on your body is much more robust.

So, for best results, look for a cream designed for this area, such as the ASDM Beverly Hills Natural Maximum Strength Skin Lightening Body Lotion.

This lightweight cream contains a high concentration of some of the best skin lighteners out there, including 4% alpha and beta arbutin and 2% kojic acid, all of which have a lightening effect on dark spots. You’ll also find a few exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acids in this lotion, including glycolic acid and lactic acid.

These will exfoliate discolored and dull skin cells to leave you with glowing skin from head to toe.

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Best Bleaching Cream for Intimate Areas: Divine Derriere Intimate Brightening Gel with Peptide

Divine Derriere Intimate Brightening Gel with Peptide

You should always be very careful with the products that you use around your intimate areas. The skin here is very delicate and highly susceptible to sensitivities. This is why, even though we love the body lotion featured above, we wouldn’t recommend it for intimate areas due to the fragrance in its formula. Instead, go with the Intimate Brightening Gel with Peptide from Divine Derriere.

With a thick gel-like texture, this product is all about keeping things as gentle and as natural as possible. It features cutting-edge plant-based ingredients, including a 10% active brightening complex that consists of kojic acid, b-white peptide, mulberry extract, licorice root extract, and more.

These ingredients have fast-acting lightening properties, so you can expect to see results in just four weeks.

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Best Skin Lightening Cream for Black Skin with Acne Scars: Skinfix Correct+ Dark Spot Corrector

Skinfix Correct+ Dark Spot Corrector

Let’s talk about acne scars. While those with oily skin are most susceptible to them, anyone can develop acne, and therefore the accompanying marks and scars. Of course, not only do these discolor your skin, but acne scars can also interfere with your skin’s texture.

This means that you need a product with both lightening and exfoliating ingredients, which is where the Correct+ Dark Spot Corrector from Skinfix comes in.

In addition to concentrated turmeric, which the brand claims has been clinically proven to be just as effective as 4% hydroquinone, this product also contains a cocktail of other brightening ingredients combined with exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acids, including glycolic acid, lactic acid, and fruit enzymes.

Use it once a day, to begin with, but bump this up to twice daily if your skin is tolerating it well.

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Best Skin Lightening & Sun Damage Treatment Products: Zeta White

zeta white night cream - best skin lightening cream for black skin

If your hyperpigmentation has been caused by sun damage, then Zeta White is worth looking into. A trio of skin lightening products consisting of a face wash, a moisturizer, and a night cream, this system promises results in just three weeks.

In addition to containing 100% natural ingredients, all three of these products are safe to be used anywhere on the face and body. They’re packed with powerhouse lightening compounds, as well as a huge array of antioxidants that’ll treat sun damage, reduce fine lines, and improve overall skin health.

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Best Alpha Hydroxy Acid/Beta Hydroxy Acid Skin Whitening Treatment: Drunk Elephant T.L.C Sukari Baby Facial

Drunk Elephant T.L.C Sukari Baby Facial

We’ve covered a few products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids, but we haven’t yet mentioned one that combines these with beta-hydroxy acids, which is why the Drunk Elephant T.L.C Sukari Babyfacial has made it onto our list. This product focuses on resurfacing the skin to balance out an uneven skin tone while also improving texture.

Its efficacy comes from its potency – a 25% AHA blend combined with a 2% BHA concentration enables this product to multi-task. It’ll clear away discoloration while also smoothing out rough skin and wrinkles and boosting elasticity. If you’re looking for a product that’ll offer both skin brightening and anti-aging results, this is it.

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Best & Strongest Hydroquinone Cream for African American Skin: SkinPro Ultra Brightening Skin Lightener

SkinPro Ultra Brightening Skin Lightener products

We’ll be straight with you – if you have black skin, don’t immediately turn to hydroquinone skin bleaching creams. Hydroquinone may be an effective skin lightener, but it can also cause skin issues in darker skin tones, sometimes making hyperpigmentation appear worse.

That said, if all else fails and you’ve gotten the all-clear from your dermatologist, then go ahead and give hydroquinone a try. The maximum over-the-counter concentration available is 2%, which is what you’ll find in the SkinPro Ultra Brightening Skin Lightener.

While there are several other hydroquinone skin bleaching creams out there, we love this one because it also contains a number of soothing and hydrating ingredients, from sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid) to apricot oil.

These help the skin to better tolerate hydroquinone, meaning fewer chances of side effects, making this one of the best skin bleaching creams out there.

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Best K-Beauty Lightening Cream (According to Reviews): SecretKey Snow White Cream

SecretKey Snow White Cream

K-beauty often seems to be way ahead of the game, which is why we also had to check out some of the latest K-beauty product reviews for the best lightening cream. One of the most raved about is the SecretKey Snow White Cream, which contains a blend of ingredients that’s perfectly safe to be used on dark skin tones.

Unlike the other products we’ve featured on this list that take at least a few weeks to kick into action, this whitening cream offers instant, albeit temporary, results. How? Because its formula contains compounds that have light-reflecting properties, such as mica and pearl powder.

Apply these to your dark spots and they’ll bounce light away from your face in a way that gives you the illusion of brighter and lighter skin color.

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FAQs

How can I lighten my dark African skin naturally?

There are a number of natural ingredients out there that have lightening properties, including licorice root, citrus fruits, mulberry extract, shea butter, and bearberry extract.

Read our article and learn how to lighten skin naturally in some other interesting ways.

Smiling African American Woman doing her skincare routine

Do skin lightening creams really work?

Yes, skin lightening creams really do work well if you’re trying to lighten dark spots and even out your skin tone. However, make sure that you’re also using an SPF product to protect your skin from UV rays – these will negate the effects of even the best skin bleaching cream out there.

How can I lighten my skin without using hydroquinone? 

There are a number of hydroquinone alternatives out there that are great for lightening the skin. Some of our favorites are kojic acid, tranexamic acid, and retinoids. A vitamin C serum would also be beneficial.

What’s another name for hydroquinone? 

Hydroquinone is also known as benzene-1,4-diol or quinol.

Can hydroquinone make dark spots and hyperpigmentation worse? 

Yes, the skin irritation that hydroquinone often causes can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Since this will occur over your existing dark spots, it’ll make those discolored marks appear even darker.

Read our guide for the best lightening creams for hyperpigmentation. Find out why they are so special and how to get them.

Are the effects of a skin lightening cream permanent?

Yes, when a skin lightening cream lightens a dark spot on your skin, those effects are permanent.

Is it possible to bleach dark skin?

Yes, skin bleaching is possible on dark skin. However, even the best skin bleaching cream will make use of strong and harsh chemicals that might not be safe.

Is it safe to use a skin bleaching cream? 

Most skin bleaching creams will come with a number of side effects, making them unsafe for many.

What happens when you stop using a skin bleaching cream?

If you’ve been using a skin bleaching cream to alter your natural skin color, it will return back to its normal color once you stop using the cream. However, if you’ve been using a skin lightening cream to lighten hyperpigmentation, those dark patches won’t reappear once you stop using the cream.

Summary

So, what’s the best skin lightening cream for black skin? No matter your skin type or the type of hyperpigmentation you’re dealing with, these 11 skin brightening products will all help to even out those dark spots to leave you with a clearer and brighter complexion.

No matter which product/s you end up choosing, make sure that you use them consistently – your skin needs to be exposed to those lightening ingredients on a regular basis in order for that much-awaited transformation to take place.

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Editors Choice
11 Best Skin Lightening Creams for Black Skin ([year]) Top Picks 4

Meladerm

Our #1 Recommendation

  • Proven to be an excellent facial skin care product
  • Brightens dark spots almost anywhere on your body
  • Best active and base ingredients to make skin shine
  • Cruelty-free, easy application, and non-harmful ingredients

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11 Best Skin Lightening Creams for Black Skin ([year]) Top Picks 5

References

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/skin/hyperpigmentation-on-black-skin
[2] https://dermnetnz.org/topics/cysteamine-cream
[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11843232/

Avatar for Alina Jumabhoy
About Alina Jumabhoy

With almost 10 years of experience writing for the skincare industry, Alina brings her unique perspective into all of the in-depth reviews and articles she writes.