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14 Best Dark Spot Correctors, According to Skin Experts

Reader's Digest Logo By Denise Mann, MS of Reader's Digest | Slide 1 of 15: There's likely little you wouldn't do or try to fade dark spots on your skin, be it using foundation and concealer or trying unusual skin care tactics like slugging. Hyperpigmentation—also known as dark spots, age spots, or liver spots—may be caused by acne scars, excessive sun exposure, or hormonal changes. They occur when your skin revs up its production of melanin, the pigment that controls skin color. When melanin production is in overdrive, you may develop dark patches of skin. There are lots of products out there that promise to help you fade dark spots, but which is the best dark spot corrector for you? The key is knowing what ingredients to look for, says dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, MD. Any over-the-counter topical lightening product takes time to work. Be patient, according to Dr. Marcus. "The effects usually start to appear after about two weeks of consistent use and continue to improve over time," she says. Sun exposure makes dark spots worse and can undo all the benefits of your lightening product, she adds. "Even a tiny bit of sun exposure can erase all your hard work and cause dark spots to recur," she says. Remember to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen every single day. (Try these expert-approved face sunscreens.) While creams and face serums are great, sometimes bigger guns like chemical peels, intense pulsed light (IPL), or lasers may be needed for full correction. Hydroquinone —the bleaching agent used to lighten dark patches of skin—is another option, and it works really well…until it doesn't. "This popular skin lightening ingredient is very effective, but if overused, it can cause darkening of the skin," says Dr. Marcus. For this reason, it's important to only use hydroquinone under a doctor's close supervision and instruction, for limited periods of time. What do dermatologists recommend for dark spots? There are many gentle, effective ingredients that can help fade your dark spots—alone and in combination, Dr. Marcus says. Ingredients to look for include: tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin C. Tranexamic acid blocks the interaction between the melanocytes and the skin cells on your skin's surface called keratinocytes. Kojic acid and vitamin C inhibit the enzyme tyrosinase, which is instrumental in the synthesis of melanin, Dr. Marcus explains. "Once melanin is no longer being formed in excess, the skin has a chance to return to a more even coloration." Another effective dark spot corrector, niacinamide works by interrupting the cell pigmentation process. Retinol speeds up cell turnover to peel away dark spots. How we chose the best dark spot correctors Our picks for best dark spot correctors are based on expert recommendations from top dermatologists, aestheticians, and plastic surgeons. We combined their know-how with user reviews and ratings to develop a comprehensive list of the best dark spot correctors for every skin type at every price point.

What is the most effective dark spot corrector?

There's likely little you wouldn't do or try to fade dark spots on your skin, be it using foundation and concealer or trying unusual skin care tactics like slugging. Hyperpigmentation—also known as dark spots, age spots, or liver spots—may be caused by acne scars, excessive sun exposure, or hormonal changes. They occur when your skin revs up its production of melanin, the pigment that controls skin color. When melanin production is in overdrive, you may develop dark patches of skin. There are lots of products out there that promise to help you fade dark spots, but which is the best dark spot corrector for you? The key is knowing what ingredients to look for, says dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, MD.

Any over-the-counter topical lightening product takes time to work. Be patient, according to Dr. Marcus. "The effects usually start to appear after about two weeks of consistent use and continue to improve over time," she says. Sun exposure makes dark spots worse and can undo all the benefits of your lightening product, she adds. "Even a tiny bit of sun exposure can erase all your hard work and cause dark spots to recur," she says. Remember to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen every single day. (Try these expert-approved face sunscreens.)

While creams and face serums are great, sometimes bigger guns like chemical peels, intense pulsed light (IPL), or lasers may be needed for full correction. Hydroquinone —the bleaching agent used to lighten dark patches of skin—is another option, and it works really well…until it doesn't.

"This popular skin lightening ingredient is very effective, but if overused, it can cause darkening of the skin," says Dr. Marcus. For this reason, it's important to only use hydroquinone under a doctor's close supervision and instruction, for limited periods of time.

What do dermatologists recommend for dark spots?

There are many gentle, effective ingredients that can help fade your dark spots—alone and in combination, Dr. Marcus says. Ingredients to look for include: tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin C.

Tranexamic acid blocks the interaction between the melanocytes and the skin cells on your skin's surface called keratinocytes. Kojic acid and vitamin C inhibit the enzyme tyrosinase, which is instrumental in the synthesis of melanin, Dr. Marcus explains. "Once melanin is no longer being formed in excess, the skin has a chance to return to a more even coloration." Another effective dark spot corrector, niacinamide works by interrupting the cell pigmentation process. Retinol speeds up cell turnover to peel away dark spots.

How we chose the best dark spot correctors

Our picks for best dark spot correctors are based on expert recommendations from top dermatologists, aestheticians, and plastic surgeons. We combined their know-how with user reviews and ratings to develop a comprehensive list of the best dark spot correctors for every skin type at every price point.

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