Best Whitening Cream

Based on our research and hands-on testing, learn everything you need to decide which whitening cream is best for you.

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Last updated: Dec 29th, 2023
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The five best whitening creams for specific goals

Photo by Innerbody Research

Throughout your life, your skin can go through many changes — hormonal shifts, sun exposure, injuries, diseases, conditions, and more. While it’s part of the human experience to go through many of these, they can leave lasting visible effects, like hyperpigmentation.

These spots or patches can have profound effects on people’s self-esteem. For example, a 2023 study on patients with melasma (an acquired pigmentary condition) found that they presented with “statistically significantly higher anxiety” versus patients without the condition.

Products like skin-whitening creams (also called skin-brightening or skin-lightening creams) contain ingredients that may be able to help reduce the appearance of various forms of hyperpigmentation. But do these products really work? Are they safe? How long do you need to use them to see real results? In this guide, we break down our top picks for the best whitening creams and show you how they stack up against one another.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick look at our recommendations.

Summary of recommendations

Our Top Choice

Meladerm is effective for treating hyperpigmentation and does so without common ingredients that can irritate skin.

Vegan and cruelty-free, Meladerm isn’t the cheapest product of its kind, but the presence of numerous active ingredients with evidence of effectiveness makes it a very good value. And there are certainly ways you can stretch the product to add value. For those with melasma, age spots, acne scarring, and other types of uneven pigmentation, it’s effective and recommendable.

Table of Contents

In this Review

Why you should trust us

Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about maintaining their wellbeing to live healthier lifestyles.

We analyze each product or service we review through extensive research and hands-on testing. All told, we’ve spent over 100 hours gathering up-to-date information on whitening creams and trying them ourselves. For this guide to whitening creams, we examined over 50 scientific journals and studies on common ingredients, their safety, and their effectiveness to ensure our recommendations have strong research backing them.

Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this guide to the best whitening cream was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.

Our top considerations

When judging contenders for our top picks, we considered several factors: safety, efficacy, cost, and the company’s return policy. While a product’s effectiveness may be the first priority for many people looking to try a whitening cream, several common ingredients in some creams were found to be dangerous or even life-threatening, such as hydroquinone and mercury. Effectiveness is a close second in importance, though, followed by cost (which can make or break an option as a potential choice), and return policy (if something doesn’t work out).

Safety

Winner: Meladerm

In 2020, the FDA restricted the popular skin-whitening ingredient hydroquinone from being sold over the counter due to its potential for adverse, or dangerous, side effects. At the same time, mercury, another popular ingredient, was outright banned from being in skincare products.

Thankfully, none of our top picks contain any banned or restricted ingredients. In fact, many of them have ingredients that can all be found in plants or elsewhere in nature.

While Andalou Naturals and Acure are tied for a close second in this category, the clinical research Civant (the makers of Meladerm) conducted on its product’s 15 active ingredients demonstrates a unique level of care for the safety of its customers. Additionally, Civant notes that its formulas, including Meladerm, are free of parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, sulfates, and artificial fragrances.

Similarly, Acure’s formulas are free of parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, petrolatum, and formaldehyde. And all of Andalou Naturals’ products are vegan and gluten-free, with a majority also being “nature-derived.”

Efficacy

Winner: Meladerm

While all of our top picks are made up of effective components, the majority only include about three or four key active ingredients. Meladerm, on the other hand, has 15 — and they all have at least a couple of studies with positive results indicating they can help with hyperpigmentation.

Since many of the ingredients overlap between Meladerm and its competitors, those, too, have research-suggested results. And, on the topic of results, no matter which product you choose for your needs, the time it takes to show visible results may vary based on the shade of the hyperpigmented areas. The darker an area is (like dark brown or gray), the deeper it is in the skin and the longer it can take for cell turnover from whitening creams to reach that depth.

However, with so many active ingredients, you may have a better chance of encountering the one that works best for you in Meladerm. If you’re looking to target specific concerns, though, then a competing product may fit better. For example, if age spots, fine lines, or wrinkles are your main concerns, Neutrogena’s Rapid Tone Repair contains retinol, a popular anti-aging ingredient with a hefty amount of research behind it.

Cost

Winner: Andalou Naturals

With the exception of Meladerm ($64), all of the products in this guide are around the same price for one item, between $20-$31. And you can subscribe to some products, like Hers Fast Fader, for auto-deliveries at a discounted price.

Andalou Naturals is not the least expensive product on our list — that award actually goes to Acure’s Brightening Day Cream ($19.99). However, Andalou’s cream contains ingredients that are more well-researched for skin brightening than Acure’s. And Andalou offers a subscribe and save option for 10% off each shipment of its Brightening Renewal Cream (taking it from $28.99 to $26.09). In our opinion, this makes Andalou’s cream a better deal.

If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, though, you may find it by purchasing Meladerm’s 2-pack on a subscription basis. The initial cost is $93.10, but that makes each bottle only $46.55 compared to the usual $64.

Return policy

Winner: Acure

When you buy a new skincare product without trying it first, there is always a chance that it won’t be what you expected. Especially when skin whitening creams can get expensive, knowing you can return the product may help you to feel more comfortable taking the plunge to try it for yourself. Most of the companies in our top picks offer a money-back guarantee (with the exception of Hers).

Acure is our winner in this category because the company offers a generous 1-year (365-day) money-back guarantee. If your item is unopened, the company will send you a prepaid shipping label; if it’s been opened, you’ll need to cover the shipping. The money you get back from Acure can be refunded, used in an exchange, or applied to a store credit balance, depending on what you’d prefer.

In comparison, Andalou, Neutrogena, and Meladerm all fall under a 30-day money-back policy. (And Meladerm’s policy has some strange conditions, like needing to ship back free gifts.) However, even 30 days is better than the nothing you get from Hers, which doesn’t accept returns and doesn’t offer refunds.

How our top recommendations compare

To make it easier to see the differences between our top picks, we compiled a quick chart to compare and contrast the details of each product, including key ingredients, pricing, refunds, and more.

Meladerm
Neutrogena
Andalou Naturals
Acure
Hers
Key active ingredients
Alpha arbutin, azelaic acid, bearberry extract, emblica fruit extract, hyaluronic acid, kojic acid, lemon extract, licorice root extract, mulberry extract, niacinamide, pomegranate, Sepiwhite, Symwhite 377, tranexamic acid, and vitamin C
Vitamin C, retinol, hyaluronic acid
Fruit stem cells, probiotics, vitamin C
Day Cream — Cica, argan oil, pomegranate, blackberry; Serum — Argan oil, borage oil, cranberry seed oil, pumpkin seed oil
Tranexamic acid, niacinamide, azelaic acid
Hydroquinone
No
No
No
No
No
One-time purchase price
$64.00
$30.99
$28.99
Cream $19.99; Serum $21.99
$25.00
Subscription available?
Yes, 5% off
Yes, but no savings. Only auto-ship.
Yes, 10% off
No
Yes, 10% off
Money-back guarantee
30-day
30-day
30-day
365-day
No, and no returns accepted
Where to buy?
Civant website
Multiple online storefronts (Amazon, etc.) or in-person
Multiple online storefronts (Amazon, etc.) or in-person
Multiple online storefronts (Amazon, etc.) or in-person
Hers website or Amazon

What is whitening cream?

Skin whitening creams (also sometimes referred to as brightening or lightening creams) work to even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation — spots or patches of skin darker than your usual skin tone, due to causes such as melasma, injuries, freckles, sun spots (age spots), eczema, acne, and more.

Along with reducing the severity of hyperpigmentation, many whitening creams also add other ingredients to offer additional skincare benefits, including:

  • Moisturizing and hydrating skin
  • Firming or plumping skin
  • Balancing out skin tone and complexion
  • Reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

Some whitening creams require a prescription (like if they include hydroquinone), but many are available over the counter or online. It’s important to be careful when shopping online for whitening creams, however, as many contain mercury, hydroquinone, or steroids.

All of the products we recommend in this guide are free from the aforementioned harmful ingredients, and most of the companies mentioned rely mainly on natural ingredients.

Who is whitening cream for?

Whitening cream can be used by anyone who wants to lighten up patches or spots of hyperpigmentation on their skin. Whether from acne, melasma, injuries, freckles, or another cause, anyone can use whitening creams (as long as you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients in the product).

Certain conditions, however, such as lichenification (darkening and thickening of the skin due to persistent scratching or rubbing), may be better treated by a prescription product. Ultimately, it’s always ideal to consult with your doctor or dermatologist to see if whitening creams would be beneficial to treat your concern.

The roots of skin lightening

Products that even out a person's complexion or remove dark spots caused by acne serve common and understandable purposes in our society; these are generally as benign as any other cosmetic product. But it's also worth remembering that "skin-whitening" as a practice is deeply rooted in the historically prevalent, colorist belief that white or lighter skin is more desirable or attractive (or even a sign of success). This concept was heavily influenced by Eurocentric beauty standards that were promoted during the European colonial era.

Those colorist beliefs continue to negatively impact individuals from Latinx, Asian, and BIPOC communitieswomen, especially — across the globe. Many people have felt compelled to use skin-whitening products to conform to the "ideal" beauty standard, despite the presence of harmful (or life-threatening) ingredients like hydroquinone, mercury, and steroids.

Is whitening cream safe?

As long as a whitening cream doesn’t contain harmful inclusions, then the main risks are potential irritation or an allergic reaction from one of the ingredients. Make sure to read through the ingredients label to ensure the product doesn’t include dangerous substances in its formulation — like hydroquinone, bleach, steroids, or mercury. And if a whitening cream doesn’t provide ingredient information, then it’s best to avoid it for your safety.

Insider Tip: According to the FDA, mercury may be written on ingredient labels as mercurous chloride, calomel, mercuric, mercurio, or Hg.

Besides ingredients, it’s important to note that whitening creams can increase your skin’s photosensitivity, meaning that it’ll be damaged or burnt more easily by UV rays (both real and artificial). Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and sticking to shaded areas is ideal.

Also, whether you have sensitive skin or not, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends having a trial or testing period with new products to make sure they’re safe for your skin. And if you’re concerned at all about using a product, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor or dermatologist.

How to test a whitening cream

The following steps are recommended by the AAD to test new skincare products (including whitening creams):

  • For 7-10 days, pick a small spot on the underside of your arm or on the inside of your elbow to apply the product. Try to use the same amount you would if putting the product on regularly.
  • If you don’t have a reaction after the 7-10 days of testing, then you should be safe to use the product as you normally would.
  • If you do develop a reaction, carefully wash the product off as soon as possible and refrain from using it again. Using a cool compress or petroleum jelly can help relieve irritation, if necessary. A more severe reaction may require the assistance of a doctor or dermatologist.

It’s important to remember that certain ingredients, like retinol, can irritate your skin. This reaction will lessen and eventually stop over time.

How does whitening cream work?

Most whitening creams work by limiting the amount of melanin produced by the skin. Melanin is a substance produced by your body to pigment your hair, eyes, and skin. When your body produces too much melanin in an area of skin due to a variety of reasons (injury, acne, hormones, and more) it’s known as hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation is a relatively common condition, and these darker patches or spots on your skin can appear anywhere on your body in a range of colors, from pink and red to brown, black, or even gray.

How each whitening cream works depends on its ingredients, but the majority of active ingredients found in these creams work by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which synthesizes melanin. Preventing tyrosinase from doing its job should lower the amount of melanin, thereby reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

While many whitening products can include potentially harmful ingredients like hydroquinone, bleach, mercury, or steroids, none of our top picks contain those. Instead, our recommendations rely on components like alpha arbutin, vitamin C, various plant extracts, and more.

How to use whitening cream

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), there are a few common steps to keep in mind when using a whitening cream. These include:

  • Aim to use the minimum amount necessary, once or twice a day, only on the hyperpigmented area of the skin.
  • Try to avoid getting the cream in your eyes, mouth, or nose.
  • Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after applying whitening cream, and try to avoid touching another person’s skin with the treated area until it’s fully dry.
  • Remember to apply sunscreen, as whitening creams can make your skin extra sensitive to UV rays.

Where on your body can you use whitening cream?

Most whitening creams are designed to be used on the face, but some can also be used on the neck, armpits, elbows, knees, inner thighs, or other areas. Finding a product that’s specifically meant for multiple body parts will likely work better than using a face cream on those areas — the skin of your elbow, for instance, is thicker than that of your face, so those products may not work as effectively.

Of the products mentioned in this guide, Meladerm is the only one designed to be used on both the face and body. But there are plenty of other products on the market designed for use on other body parts, including sensitive areas. If this is the type of skin brightening you’re looking for, one option could be something extra gentle like Nivea’s Extra Whitening Cell Repair Body Lotion.

As with any new addition to your skincare routine, it’s best to test the product first to make sure you aren’t allergic or irritated by any of the ingredients.

How long does it take whitening cream to work?

The answer to this question ultimately depends on your skin type and the kind of hyperpigmentation you’re looking to treat. The darker the hyperpigmentation, the deeper it’s located under your skin, and the longer it will take to see results. Additionally, thinner skin like that of your face may see results faster than the thicker skin on your elbows or knees. The American Academy of Dermatology states that results can take anywhere from 3-12 months, but can take longer.

Ultimately, patience is key for seeing results from whitening creams.

Meladerm

Best for most people, best for melasma

Pros

  • Can be applied to the face or certain other areas of the body
  • Free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and other harsh ingredients
  • Contains 15 active brightening ingredients with supportive research
  • Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free
  • About 1,000 reviews averaging 4.74 stars on Junip
  • 30-day money-back return policy
  • Subscription and multi-pack purchases can save you money

Cons

  • More expensive than many other whitening creams
  • Return policy has some strict conditions
Best Whitening Cream Meladerm Bottle

Photo by Innerbody Research

Created by the skincare company Civant, Meladerm was designed to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation without relying on inclusions like hydroquinone, parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, sulfates, or phthalates.

Unlike most other whitening creams that only have about three or four active ingredients, Melderm contains 15, all of which have at least some positive research backing their status as skin brighteners. And according to Meladerm’s product page, the product can be used on both your face and body. (Based on our research, none of the ingredients appear to be too harsh for use in those areas, but testing out the product first is still recommended.)

With the most active ingredients and the ability to apply the product on the face or body, Meladerm wins our choice as best for most people and best for melasma (which can develop on the face, arms, neck, or elsewhere). Certain ingredients found in Meladerm are also mentioned as treatments for melasma by the American Academy of Dermatology — azelaic acid, koji acid, vitamin C, and tranexamic acid. While vitamin C can also be found in the whitening creams from Neutrogena and Andalou Naturals, and Hers Fast Fader contains tranexamic acid, only Meladerm includes all four of those ingredients.

Best Whitening Cream Meladerm Texture

Photo by Innerbody Research

To see optimal results from Meladerm, it’s recommended that you use it twice per day. Before applying it, it’s ideal to first wash or cleanse your skin thoroughly. Then, you can massage one pump of product into the hyperpigmented area. (In our testing of Meladerm, we found that a half-pump can be enough in some cases, basically doubling the amount of product per bottle.) After applying the cream — which we found in testing to have a very faint, clean, almost citrusy scent — allow it to dry for about ten minutes before using any other products.

Ingredients

Best Whitening Cream Meladerm Ingredients

Photo by Innerbody Research

Meladerm’s ingredient list includes 15 active ingredients that should be safe for most people. They include:

  • Alpha arbutin
  • Azelaic acid
  • Bearberry extract
  • Emblica fruit extract
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Kojic acid
  • Lemon extract
  • Licorice root extract
  • Mulberry extract
  • Niacinamide
  • Pomegranate
  • Sepiwhite
  • Symwhite 377
  • Tranexamic acid
  • Vitamin C

Nearly all of these ingredients act as tyrosinase inhibitors, helping to potentially stop the production of melanin in the areas Meladerm is applied. A couple of the ingredients, such as niacinamide and tranexamic acid, have been tested for their effects on melasma, in particular, and have seen positive outcomes.

For a full breakdown of the product, check out our dedicated review of Meladerm.

Pricing

You can purchase Meladerm (1.7oz) as a single item or as a 2-pack, the latter of which saves you $30. You can also opt to subscribe for recurring deliveries at a 5% discount. The chart below breaks down the costs.

One-time purchaseSubscription (5% off)
Single bottle$64.00$60.80
2-pack$98.00 ($49 per bottle)$93.10 ($46.55 per bottle)

Meladerm offers free shipping (and a free gift) on orders over $100. If you don’t spend that much, you can choose from several shipping options. Our testers chose ground shipping for $5.99 and received the product within five days of placing the order. You’ll receive an email from customer support once you’ve placed the order and a follow-up email once the order ships. Our testers received the shipment email the following business day.

If the product doesn’t suit your needs in the end, Civant offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (the same length of time as Andalou Naturals and Neutrogena). However, the company’s policy has a few strict conditions, such as needing to return any free gifts or not being eligible for a refund if you’ve made more than three orders within that 30-day return window.

Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Correcting Cream

Best for anti-aging

Pros

  • Inclusion of retinol fights aging in addition to brightening complexion
  • Available online and in physical stores
  • 2,000+ customer reviews on the Neutrogena website with an average of 4.4 stars
  • Interactive online ingredients list adds a layer of accessibility and transparency
  • Rapid Tone Repair line also includes moisturizers, spot corrector, and vitamin C capsules
  • Free shipping if you register on the Neutrogena website (or make a purchase of $35+)

Cons

  • Subscription option doesn’t include any savings
  • Retinol can cause skin irritation in those with sensitive skin
  • Contains artificial fragrance
Best Whitening Cream Neutrogena Jar

Photo by Innerbody Research

Neutrogena is a well-known cosmetics brand that offers a wide variety of products you can find online or at your local drugstore. The company also makes a line of products for tone repair, including a night-time moisturizer, a daytime moisturizer with SPF, a spot corrector, and vitamin C capsules.

Neutrogena’s Rapid Tone Repair Correcting Cream is our top pick for anti-aging due to Neutrogena’s inclusion of both retinol and hyaluronic acid — two popular, and seemingly effective, ingredients for combating wrinkles and fine lines.

Best Whitening Cream Neutrogena Texture

Photo by Innerbody Research

Unlike Meladerm, Neutrogena's cream is only designed to be used on your face and neck area. For best results, it should be used twice daily on clean skin. Our testers found the scent of this product to be floral and pleasant, but it definitely smells like a perfume. This might make it less desirable for some people to use, either due to a sensitivity to fragrances or simply not wanting their skincare to have a noticeable scent. If you want a product that’s entirely unscented, then Hers Fast Fader could be a good choice for you.

Ingredients

Best Whitening Cream Neutrogena Ingredients

Photo by Innerbody Research

Rapid Tone Repair Correcting Cream contains a lot of inactive ingredients — you can see the full list of ingredients pictured above. The three active ingredients are:

  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant ingredient has depigmenting properties and may be able to treat uneven skin tone and wrinkles. It does, however, appear to require long-term use to spot noticeable results.
  • Retinol: Part of the vitamin A family, retinol has evidence that it can improve skin thickness, elasticity, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles.
  • Hyaluronic acid: This acid naturally occurs in our skin, and its content decreases as we age. Its use in skincare studies has shown improvements in fine lines, wrinkles, and skin tone.

Unlike Meladerm and the brightening products from Andalou, Acure, and Hers, Rapid Tone Repair Correcting Cream contains several synthetic ingredients, but its formulation is generally safe to use. If you’re concerned, consider reaching out to your doctor first, especially if you have sensitive skin. Retinol (like other retinoids) is well-known for causing red, itchy, irritated skin at first. This often goes away with continued use, but if this happens and it becomes too uncomfortable, then it may be best to stop using the product.

Pricing

At $30.99 per 1.7oz jar, Neutrogena’s Rapid Tone Repair Correcting Cream is the second-most expensive product in our guide behind Meladerm. But, while Neutrogena offers a subscription option, it doesn’t net you any money off of your purchase — this is actually one of the only times we’ve come across a subscription that doesn’t give a percentage off. However, you can get free shipping by registering on the website or spending $35+ on your order. Or, if you shop on Amazon, you can get free shipping there more easily; it’s our recommended path to purchase the product.

As with Andalou Naturals and Meladerm, if you aren’t satisfied with the product, you can return it within 30 days for a full refund.

If you don’t want to wait for the product to ship, this cream is also available in stores, including Walmart, CVS, Target, and Walgreens. Prices in-store may vary depending on sales and availability. Competing brightening products from Acure and Andalou Naturals can also be found in some drugstores or beauty supply chains, such as Ulta.

Andalou Naturals Probiotic + C Renewal Cream

Best for eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Pros

  • Probiotics can be beneficial in reducing the severity of eczema
  • Plant stem cells may be able to reduce hyperpigmentation and improve skin health
  • 4.5-star average rating from 2,900+ Amazon reviews
  • Vegan-friendly, gluten-free, and cruelty-free
  • 30-day money-back return policy
  • Subscribe to save 10% off

Cons

  • May not be as effective as formulas with stronger ingredients
  • Evidence on plant stem cells for skin is promising, but currently limited
Best Whitening Cream Andalou Jar

Photo by Innerbody Research

Andalou Naturals strives to ensure 98% of the ingredients in its products are “nature-derived.” This approach and the inclusion of probiotics make Andalou’s Brightening Renewal Cream a good option for those with eczema (atopic dermatitis). The particular strain of probiotics used, Bacillus coagulans, has shown promise in some research as a potential treatment for inflammatory skin conditions, including eczema.

Insider Tip: While hyperpigmentation can be caused by eczema, some patients may also experience hypopigmentation, or a loss of pigment from the condition, which won’t benefit from a whitening cream. Additionally, lichenification (hard, leathery skin with hyperpigmentation) from eczema scratching may require a prescription treatment instead of an over-the-counter whitening cream.

Eczema can be easily triggered by certain cosmetic ingredients, especially those with heavy fragrances or certain preservatives. This can sometimes make it difficult to find cosmetics or skincare items that won’t trigger a flare-up. And while Andalou’s formula may not be as strong as Meladerm or Neutrogena, it’s a lot less likely to cause a reaction. Plus, topical probiotics are starting to be investigated as an eczema therapy option.

Best Whitening Cream Andalou Texture

Photo by Innerbody Research

Even though the directions state that Andalou’s Brightening Renewal Cream should be applied to a clean face and neck, this orange-scented cream is gentle enough that it should be fine to apply it elsewhere on your body. However, our testers felt that it may actually be too gentle for thicker areas of skin (elbows, knees) or deeper patches of hyperpigmentation.

Ingredients

Best Whitening Cream Andalou Ingredients

Photo by Innerbody Research

Andalou Naturals uses plant-based, cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, and gluten-free ingredients. The three key active ingredients in its Brightening Renewal Cream are:

  • Probiotics: These live bacteria strains have shown positive potential in research for both skin whitening and eczema relief.
  • Apple and grape stem cells: Plant stem cells have some evidence suggesting they might help inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Apple stem cells, in particular, have shown “significant potential” in reducing wrinkles around the eyes. And grape contains resveratrol, which can reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
  • Vitamin C: An ingredient with evidence suggesting positive effects on hyperpigmentation with long-term use.

Pricing

For a one-time purchase, each 1.7oz jar of Andalou’s Renewal Cream costs $28.99 (only about a dollar less than Neutrogena’s). You can subscribe for deliveries every one, three, or six months at a 10% discount, bringing the price down to $26.09 per jar. Additionally, Andalou offers free shipping for orders over $50, and every order directly from the company comes with a “Free Deluxe Sample.”

But Andalou Naturals is one case in which the company’s store on Amazon offers better pricing than its own website. If you prefer or don’t mind shopping there, you can buy the Renewal Cream on Amazon for nearly $10 less per jar than the subscription prices via Andalou Naturals’ website,

If you opt for purchasing from the company’s website, though, the return policy is pretty straightforward, especially compared to Civant’s for Meladerm. If you’re unhappy with your purchase, it can be returned to the company within 30 days for a full refund.

Acure Brightening Day Cream and Serum

Best for sensitive skin

Pros

  • Least likely to cause irritation among our top picks
  • Free of parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, petrolatum, and formaldehyde
  • Cruelty-free and vegan formulas
  • Around 3,000 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.4 stars for both products
  • Generous 365-day (1-year) return policy

Cons

  • Smells a bit medicinal, not as pleasant as competing products
  • Costs can add up if purchasing multiple products to find specific benefits
  • Company isn’t specific on what ingredients do
  • Day cream goes out of stock occasionally
Best Whitening Cream Acure Bottle

Photo by Innerbody Research

Acure’s line of Brightening products is the most extensive of our recommended brands. As of the writing of this guide, there are 12 Acure Brightening products, and many of them have different ingredients that can provide different benefits.

Unfortunately, unlike Neutrogena and Meladerm, Acure’s product pages don’t really help customers enough by going into detail about what the ingredients of each product are meant to achieve — every brightening product just notes “Your Goal: Brighter Appearance” followed by the key active ingredients as the company’s “Solution.” We hope Acure will expand on its product descriptions someday and add more information for customers.

We focused our attention on the Brightening Day Cream and the Brightening Glowing Serum, which are intended to be used together. The serum is meant to be used after the cream, and you can apply both to the face, neck, and décolleté (chest area). Like Andalou’s cream, though, none of the ingredients (especially in Acure) point to needing you to restrict this cream and serum only to your face. They should be safe to apply elsewhere on the body (of course, following a testing period to ensure you aren’t allergic or irritated by the products).

In terms of scents, our testers found them to be a little less pleasant than some other products. The Brightening Serum has a slightly minty, almost menthol smell. It’s not bad, by any means (it doesn’t smell like Vicks or anything like that), but it isn’t as pleasant as the citrusy, fresh scents of Andalou and Meladerm. But you might disagree.

In terms of texture, you may be wondering what to expect from the serum. It is very thin, almost like a water-based cleanser, so it’s far from feeling heavy or sticky on the skin.

Ingredients

Best Whitening Cream Acure Ingredients

Photo by Innerbody Research

Both Acure’s Brightening Day Cream and Brightening Glowing Serum contain four active ingredients. The only one they share is argan oil, which research suggests has therapeutic potential against hyperpigmentation and related conditions. The lists below break down the remaining three ingredients of each.

Brightening Day Cream (1.7oz)

  • Cica: Also known as Centella asiatica, this herb shows potential to improve the condition of wounded skin, including its pigmentation.
  • Pomegranate: Some research suggests dried pomegranate concentrate powder acts as an inhibitor of tyrosinase activity and the production of melanin.
  • Blackberry: More thorough research is needed on this ingredient, but one 2017 study suggests blackberry can decrease skin melanin and erythema (reddening).

Brightening Glowing Serum (1oz)

  • Borage oil: Studies on borage oil are limited, with most being done on those with arthritis, however, this ingredient does show anti-inflammatory potential, which may help certain types of hyperpigmentation.
  • Cranberry seed oil: As with borage oil, cranberry seed oil exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, and researchers in one study note it may be beneficial for certain skin inflammatory disorders.
  • Pumpkin seed oil: Boasting much more research than the other ingredients, pumpkin seed oil studies report that it demonstrates similar tyrosinase inhibition as other whitening ingredients, like kojic acid.

Additionally, Acure’s cream and serum don’t contain vitamin C. While nearly every other product in this guide does contain vitamin C (except for Hers Fast Fader), the ingredient can rarely lead to stinging, redness, and dryness in particularly sensitive skin.

Pricing

Unlike all of the other competitors mentioned in this guide, Acure doesn’t currently offer a subscription or auto-delivery option. And if you’re seeking multiple benefits from your whitening products, then you may have to purchase multiple Acure items. For example, a single jar of Andalou’s Renewal Cream or a bottle of Meladerm will provide you with ingredients that are intended to treat hyperpigmentation from multiple causes. With Acure, you’d need to purchase both the Day Cream (to reduce melanin production) and the Brightening Glowing Serum (to lower inflammation) for the same potential benefits.

As of the writing of this guide, Acure’s Brightening Glowing Serum is $21.99 and the Brightening Day Cream is $19.99. Shipping is free on orders over $50. If you’re unhappy with your purchase, Acure has a generous 365-day return policy. If the item is unopened and in original condition, the company will provide you with a prepaid shipping label; otherwise you’ll need to cover shipping (which is fairly common). Compared to the 30-day policies of Meladerm, Neutrogena, and Andalou — and the no-returns-allowed policy of Hers — Acure’s policy is extremely customer-friendly.

However, if you don’t need this return window, you can save $4 by buying the brightening serum from Acure’s store on Amazon. You can save even more — $5 — by buying the brightening cream on Amazon. These are significant savings, so we’d recommend you purchase there at this time.

Hers Fast Fader Dark Spot Corrector

Best for acne spots

Pros

  • Targeted treatment is ideal for small areas like acne spots or scarring
  • Key ingredients may also help treat acne itself
  • The Hers platform also offers other acne treatments and telehealth visits
  • Gel is unscented
  • Subscription takes 10% off

Cons

  • Hers does not accept returns or offer refunds
  • Pen tip requires a decent amount of pressure, which can hurt
  • Not ideal for large areas of hyperpigmentation
  • All orders tack on a $5 processing fee
Best Whitening Cream Hers Tube

Photo by Innerbody Research

Hers Fast Fader Dark Spot Corrector is a pen-shaped tube with 0.5oz of product. This may seem like very little when compared to the typical 1.7oz of most of the other competitors, but the product is intended for targeted application on small areas — like acne or age spots.

One of the biggest perks of purchasing this product comes with the Hers telehealth platform. If you’re struggling with acne, then you may find it convenient to also take advantage of Hers’ prescription acne treatments and telehealth visits. However, it’s not necessary to partake in any other Hers service in order to purchase Fast Fader since it’s not a prescription product.

Best Whitening Cream Hers Texture

Photo by Innerbody Research

When trying Fast Fader, our testers noted that the pressure required to make the gel come out of the pen was a bit too much — it hurts to press it against your skin hard enough for it to dispense the product. Because of this, we recommend pushing down on the metal tip with your finger, first, before applying it to the spot you wish to treat. Other than that, though, the product is nice, light, and not sticky (even though it looks like it would be).

Ingredients

Best Whitening Cream Hers Ingredients

Photo by Innerbody Research

We’re not sure if this was intentional or not, but the key ingredients in Fast Fader also have the potential to treat acne in one way or another, in addition to hyperpigmentation concerns.

The key active ingredients in Fast Fader include:

  • Tranxamic acid: Performed better than hydroquinone in reducing melasma in a study, and it appears to effectively reduce inflammatory acne.
  • Niacinamide: Also known as vitamin B3, it reduced the appearance of melasma almost as well as hydroquinone, and it led to a “significant reduction” in acne.
  • Azelaic acid: Found in grains such as wheat or barley, this ingredient effectively reduced the appearance of melasma hyperpigmentation in a 2023 study, and it may be able to treat mild-to-moderate acne in some adults.

Pricing

Hers Fast Fader Dark Spot Corrector can be bought as a one-time purchase for $25, or you can subscribe for 10% off (making the price $22.50 per pen). It’s important to note that the subscription option is only for two pens, making the total cost $50, once you include the $5 processing fee. Additionally, you can’t modify how often you receive the pens — you can only opt for two pens every eight months.

Also, Hers does not accept returns or refunds, which we find disappointing. It’s understandable for certain products, like medications (which Hers also offers), but it’d be nice if the company would at least accept a return of an unopened product. Even Meladerm’s strict return policy outshines Hers’.

Alternatives to whitening creams

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are alternative ways to treat melasma and hyperpigmentation that aren’t prescription or over-the-counter whitening creams. The chart below breaks down a few of these alternative treatments.

Chemical peel

This skin-resurfacing procedure removes the top layers of skin. It can be used to treat wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne scarring. There are three different depths: light, medium, and deep. If you have heart, kidney, or liver problems, it’s best to avoid this procedure, as the carbolic acid can damage these organs.

Microneedling

In this procedure, your dermatologist uses thin needles to stimulate your skin’s healing process. It can be used to treat concerns like fine lines, crepey skin, acne scarring, skin discoloration (such as hyperpigmentation), and stretch marks. If you currently have acne or are on medication for it, this procedure should be avoided.

Laser and light treatments

There are a couple of paths you can take for laser resurfacing. The most aggressive approach uses an ablative laser (which removes the outer layer of skin and heats the skin underneath) to promote collagen growth and smooth out skin. If that sounds too aggressive, you could opt for the nonablative or light source approach. However, the gentler methods lead to less noticeable results.

Frequently asked questions about whitening cream

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Innerbody uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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