According to Derms, These 11 Products Fade Dark Spots in Record Time


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Honestly, if you're a person of color and have sensitive, acne-prone skin, then you probably also struggle with dark spots. I wish I could say that post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a thing of the past for me, but it's definitely not. I still struggle with it on a weekly basis.

Believe me, I know how frustrating it is to deal with. As soon as my older dark spots start to fade, I'll have a particularly bad hormonal breakout and three or four new ones take their place. Ugh. If this is also your issue or you just have some stubborn sun or age spots you'd like to get rid of, fear not. I asked three dermatologists for all their advice in this department. They've selected options for every skin type and have a few pointers on how to treat dark spots quickly. Keep scrolling for all they had to share.

What to Look for in a Dark Spot Corrector


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If you're struggling with discoloration, there are a few key ingredients derms say work wonders. The best part is there is a wide variety of ingredients out there that can help, so there's something for every skin type. Board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, says, "Key ingredients to look for in products for hyperpigmentation include antioxidants like vitamin C, hydroquinone, kojic acid, retinol, or other retinoids," she shares. "Niacinamide, exfoliating acids like glycolic acid, licorice root extract, tranexamic acid, azelaic acid, sunscreen, and more."

Board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD, also says these ingredients are winners along with a few others. "Look for products formulated with natural skin lighteners such as kojic acid, arbutin, emblica, vitamin C, and niacinamide. Clinical ingredients such as retinols, azelaic acid, hydroquinone, glycolic acid, and tranexamic acid are also very effective in reducing hyperpigmentation and lightening dark spots."

How to Use a Dark Spot Corrector


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With so much conflicting information and so many products out there, it can be tough to know where a treatment for dark spots even belongs in your skincare routine. Derms are here to help in that department.

Board-certified dermatologist Lauren Penzi, MD, weighs in. "I recommend applying the dark spot corrector as the first step after cleansing," she says. "Apply a thin layer to the dark spot/area. Then you can apply your serums, moisturizer, and SPF on top (in that order). At night, same thing—cleanser followed by dark spot corrector, followed by retinol/retinoid (if you use one) and then moisturizer."

Shirazi also has some advice for those with sensitive skin. If you do have sensitive skin, you'll want to proceed with caution when using dark spot correctors. She says, "They are best applied to dry skin to reduce the risk of irritation. Be cautious of the number of products you are using with dark-spot-correcting ingredients in order to avoid irritation, which in turn can lead to worsening hyperpigmentation. It's best to use one to two products designed to lighten dark spots that are comprehensive, meaning there are multiple ingredients in a single product to maximize benefits and reduce side effects. The most important product [you can use] to fight hyperpigmentation is sunscreen. Oftentimes, people focus on using products designed to lighten hyperpigmentation without protecting their skin from factors that play a major role in stimulating melanin—UV rays and visible light.

"I love azelaic acid for dark spots for those with sensitive skin. It's one of the gentlest ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation. It gets along well with others and also treats breakouts, which are often the cause of dark spots."

Garshick also stresses that those with sensitive skin who are also dealing with acne should be careful not to overdo it in this department since breakouts are another leading cause of dark spots. "Some ingredients like retinoids and exfoliating acids may be harsh or irritating on the skin, so when treating hyperpigmentation, it is often best to incorporate one new product at a time," she says. "Importantly, for those who may be susceptible to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, it is especially important to avoid irritating the skin when treating hyperpigmentation, as this can actually lead to more discoloration." 

Keep scrolling for all the best dark spot correctors that derms recommend.

The Best Dark Spot Correctors

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.