30% OFF $40+ PURCHASE!
Inclusive Clinical Skincare
Inclusive Clinical Skincare
FREE SHIPPING on U.S. orders $50+   Learn More

How to Use Cysteamine to Lighten Pigmentation & Dark Spots

woman washing her face with facial cleanser

Your skin’s color comes from a pigment called melanin, produced in some of your skin cells. The amount of melanin or pigment in your skin affects your skin tone. If you have a gorgeous, dark complexion, your skin is likely much richer in melanin than somebody who’s fair, and obviously, there is a super long spectrum when it comes to skin tone and color.

Wherever your skin tone exists on this spectrum, sometimes things can get in the way of your cells’ melanin production to make those cells unhealthy so that they over — or under — produce the pigment that colors your skin. This causes blemishes and dark spots; everybody’s least favorite thing to see in the mirror in the morning.

There’s a crazy long list of options when it comes to ways to treat hyperpigmentation! The important part of the process is finding the treatment that works best for you and your skin. One of the ingredients that can help improve the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation is Cysteamine.

So whether you’re just starting your search for a hyperpigmentation hero or you’re looking to try something new after other methods failed you, let’s talk about how Cysteamine works and what problems it works on.

What Causes Dark Spots?

The first step in figuring out how to treat a problem is to get to the bottom of it!

Hyperpigmentation has several different causes and types. Still, in general, it’s just an excess of melanin forming in certain areas of your skin, making bits of your face or other body parts appear darker. It’s more common in skin tones already rich in melanin, but anybody can get hyperpigmentation.

Luckily, although it is a nightmare for your selfie game, hyperpigmentation is very rarely dangerous. It’s usually just a benign skin affliction that you’ll want to get rid of because it’s disrupting your glow, not because it’s posing other health issues.

Even though hyperpigmentation probably isn’t a danger to you, it’s always worth speaking to a dermatologist or doctor if you are concerned about your health. Sudden changes in the color or texture of your skin can be alarming, and it’s always good to have someone put your worries to rest. A professional can also make good recommendations for treatment, so it’s not a bad place to start!

Some of the more common types of hyperpigmentation include…

Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Post-Inflammatory hyperpigmentation is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a type of discoloration that occurs in your skin after being damaged or irritated, resulting in inflammation. This inflammation can leave a build-up of pigment behind once it heals. So even if you’ve just recovered from a gruesome sunburn or another annoying skin affliction… it may just reveal a new one, which is just the worst.


Melasma is a super common source of dark spots or hyperpigmentation. Although we, unfortunately, don’t know what actually causes melasma, we do know that there are certain triggers. Things like a change in hormones (we’re talking puberty, pregnancy and birth control) can bring on an outbreak of melasma, as can sun exposure or even certain cosmetics.

Melasma will mostly appear on your face, although you can get it pretty much anywhere the sun shines. Melasma isn’t dangerous, nor is it particularly connected to any conditions that might negatively impact your health. It shouldn’t hurt or itch, so much like most types of hyperpigmentation, melasma most likely isn’t going to do you any harm. It’s just going to be pretty annoying if you have even skin otherwise.

Sun Exposure

Sunspots usually start cropping up over the age of forty, so when we say sun exposure, we don’t just mean “that one day you were at the beach a bit too long.” It’s years and years of fun in the sun, and it’s more likely if you aren’t religious with your sunscreen use.

Sunspots should be harmless, but if you notice a new spot that looks more like a mole, or the spot itches or even bleeds and doesn’t seem to heal, it’s worth speaking to a doctor, as it could be something more serious.

What Is Cysteamine?

Cysteamine is a skin-lightening agent that’s meant to treat the dark marks or blemishes that might be driving you crazy. Cysteamine is generally used in cream form, and it’s actually made up of Cysteamine Hydrochloride — yeah, yeah, we know. Gesundheit.

Cysteamine Hydrochloride is actually a natural component, even though it is a mouthful, and it’s great for treating dark spots because it works to inhibit melanin. This helps to lessen the amount of pigment your skin is pushing to the surface and will help to calm down any areas where the pigment has built up or has been overproduced.

Some of the most commonly recommended products for treating dark spots are Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs, like Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. AHAs can be effective, but they mainly work by chemically exfoliating the surface level of your skin to give your skin cells a refresh.

This can definitely help improve the appearance of any blemishes on your skin. But Cysteamine works on your hyperpigmentation at a cellular level, which makes it feel like a bit more of a heavy hitter than other skin-lightening options out there.

You may be wondering how Cysteamine compares to other skin lightening agents you’ve heard of, like Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone has long been one of the more heavy-duty and popular skin-lightening ingredients on the market. Luckily, there’s recently been a study done to evaluate how the two ingredients compare when treating hyperpigmentation in several patients.

Cysteamine was shown to be essentially just as effective as Hydroquinone! Well, to get into the finer details, Hydroquinone was seen to be a bit more effective, but not so much that it made a difference statistically. Just saying so you have the full picture. Especially since Hydroquinone has come under some scrutiny lately for potentially having carcinogenic qualities, Cysteamine is a great alternative to be aware of if you’d like to steer clear of Hydroquinone.

What’s the Down Side?

If you’re used to Hydroquinone or AHAs that you can apply in the morning and wear throughout the day or even as a night serum, Cysteamine is slightly higher maintenance. It usually comes in cream form, but you’ll need to wash the cream off after about fifteen minutes. It’s not a huge difference in time, but it can be a bit of a pain if you’re more of a slather-and-go type of girl.

On the other hand, Cysteamine is similar to many comparable products in that using it can cause some dryness or irritation in your skin when you first start. It’s best to patch test any new product before you apply it all over — especially when we’re talking about a sensitive area like your face.

But even if your skin doesn’t negatively react to Cysteamine, it’s probably best to ease into usage. Try it a couple of times a week to start, and increase the frequency as long as your skin tolerates it until you’re comfortable using it daily.

If you start using Cysteamine and love the results, but it leaves your skin dry as a desert, just get on a consistent moisturizing routine. Something light but effective for the day, and something more luscious and heavy-duty for sleeping after you’ve washed your face.

The other minor downside of Cysteamine cream, as opposed to other treatments, is that it’s said to smell a bit like sulfur. This may or may not be a big deal to you depending on how sensitive you are to smells, but if you’ve got a sensitive sniffer, Cysteamine cream may not be for you after all.

How Do You Use Cysteamine Cream?

We’ve covered this a bit in other sections, but using Cysteamine cream is actually pretty easy and not dissimilar to using any other skin product already in your repertoire. You’ll want to make sure you trust the cream you're using, first and foremost, and be sure that you get it from a source within your own country.

Skin lightening ingredients are regulated differently from place to place, so you just want to be careful that you’re not accidentally ordering something harmful from Amazon.

Then you’ll want to patch test it — try it on the inside of your forearm first, leave it covered for twenty-four hours, and make sure your skin doesn’t have a negative reaction. Then you’re safe to start using it! Make sure to wash off the Cysteamine cream completely after about fifteen minutes. We recommend using it in the evening so that you can follow up with a rich moisturizer to avoid irritating your skin.


Cysteamine cream is a great option for lightening frustrating dark spots and getting your glow back. It’s easy to use, has relatively few side effects, and — as long as you can stand the smell of sulfur — might be the solution you’re looking for.

By: Tiesha Bridges Licensed Aesthetician & Customer
Service Representative