Not a fan of your dark spots? Know that you don’t have to embrace them if you don’t want to; there are plenty of ways to reduce their appearance and achieve clearer-looking skin. A common skin ailment, particularly for darker complexions, “dark spots are hyperpigmentation that mostly happen following injury or inflammation, resulting in overproduction of melanin and or an irregular dispersion of it in the skin,” explains board-qualified dermatologist and skin of color expert, Dr. Adeline Kikam. “A wide range of conditions such acne breakouts, ingrown hairs, scrapes, insect bites, eczema, contact allergic reactions, and sun exposure can result in hyperpigmentation.” Below, we rounded up the best dark spot correctors that actually work.
“For those with melasma, ingredients that block pigment synthesis — hydroquinone, arbutin, kojic acid, tranexamic acid, soy, licorice — are best,” according to board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Herrmann. Topicals Faded Brightening & Clearing Serum just so happens to have several of those ingredients (tranexamic and kojic acids, as well as licorice root) and then some. Its antioxidant azelaec acid prevents excess melanin, while niacinamide stands in the way of pigment production and cica keeps everything nice and calm.
Bhanusali is also excited about tranexamic acid’s potential for undoing dark spots. “Tranexamic acid is a new topical that’s been shown to help in hyperpigmentation and is found in SkinMedica’s Lytera 2.0,” he tells Allure, noting that it’s also available in oral form by prescription. The brand promises noticeable improvements in as little as two weeks, with significant results at 12 weeks.
“This is a great over-the-counter brightening serum,” says Marchbein, who says the CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum’s ingredients fight more than just hyperpigmentation. “Niacinamide is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant vitamin B3 derivative that has been scientifically shown to help with redness and discoloration in the skin.” Its licorice root also has antioxidant and brightening properties, and as the name suggests, it also contains an encapsulated retinol. That means its slow release makes it more tolerable.
Mad Hippie’s Microdermabrasion Facial takes the exfoliating abilities of a half-dozen AHAs — lactic, glycolic, mandelic, citric, tartaric, and malic — and combines it with physical exfoliation (from mineral-rich volcanic ash, as a matter of fact) for a can’t-fail discoloration-reducing treatment. Another reliable spot-fading ingredient, licorice, boosts the formula’s effects, while vegan squalane and hyaluronic acid ensure skin is as hydrated as it is brightened.
“Hydroquinone is the gold standard for hyperpigmentation, as it works on the cells that make melanin to block further production,” Del Campo tells Allure. “Many people call it a ‘bleaching cream,’ but I consider it a ‘color blender.'” Murad’s Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum contains 2 percent hydroquinone — the highest level available in over-the-counter products — as well as a skin-brightening peptide and glycolic acid, which helps the hydroquinone penetrate more effectively. (It’s worth noting that hydroquinone is currently banned in Europe; however, many dermatologists are comfortable recommending it for limited topical use for areas of discoloration.)
Dr. Kikam is very intentional to clarify that a product doesn’t become a must-have just because of its price tag, but this one is at the top of her list for delivering results. “This is one of my favorite anti-hyperpigmentation serums, clinically proven to treat dark spots across all skin tones,” she says. “It features ingredients such as niacinamide and tranexamic acid, which are very effective anti-hyperpigmentation ingredients.”
This highly concentrated treatment was made with melanin-rich skin in mind, and it combines the age-defying properties of retinol with the brightening qualities of licorice and niacinamide. The results? A texture that is more supple and smooth, and a complexion that is brighter and more even. It also has major soothing properties, with ginger root extract that helps calm skin and prevent future free radical damage.
This exfoliating serum one of the best dark spot correctors which is designed to work at night when the skin enters its reparation mode. The formula exfoliates dead and damaged skin cells to boost cell turnover and reveal a brighter, more youthful complexion upon waking. The powerful combination of glycolic acid and antioxidants restore elasticity and firmness, while the lightweight consistency is quickly absorbed. Reviewers boast that their dark marks faded within a few short weeks.