As if it’s not enough to deal with wrinkles, dark spots are another factor of aging that can make us look older than our years. They often make a complexion look dull and mottled, robbing it of its radiance.
The Cause of Dark Spots
The main culprit in the battle against dark spots is tyrosinase, a key enzyme in the production of melanin. As you may already know, melanin is the pigment that gives our hair and skin its color and its role is to protect the skin. It is often heightened in the skin by tanning and general sun exposure. Though it’s necessary, too much melanin is basically what causes dark spots and discoloration on the face and body.
Dark spots can be a result of hyperpigmentation due to acne scarring, or a product of spending too much time in the sun. Other causes include hormonal issues, liver damage, genetics and various skin disorders.
Where Dark Spots Occur
Dark spots can occur anywhere on the body, though they’re mostly found on the cheeks, forehead and upper lip, or around the mouth. They can also appear on the neck, hands and legs. But keep in mind: dark spots can pretty much happen anywhere, especially areas of your body that are more often exposed to the sun.
Popular Ingredients in the Best Dark Spot Correctors Thank nature (and science!) for all of the ingredients available to halt or inhibit tyrosinase. Ingredients like hydroquinone, vitamin C, niacinamide and mulberry root all have the power to stop tyrosinase in its tracks. Other ingredients you’ll encounter on this list are exfoliators like glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Both of these acids work hard to “unglue” the skin cells that bind together and cause dullness. Once those offending cells are sloughed away, radiant, glowing and even-toned skin can emerge.
Let’s dive in and look at some of the best dark spot correctors on the market, all of which are full of effective and oftentimes very potent ingredients to give you back the youthful, even-toned, glowing complexion of your youth.
The Best Dark Spot Correctors
Loaded with skin lightening ingredients, SkinMedica’s Lytera Skin Brightening Complex targets dark spots on the face and other areas with precision. The reason it works so well is because it’s got a large variety of dark spot lightening ingredients including tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (vitamin C), niacinamide (vitamin B3), ethyl linoleate, retinol (vitamin A), dunaliella salina extract, hexylresorcinol and licorice root extract. Rounding out the list are tetrapeptide-30 and 4-ethoxybenzaldehyde.
Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is a very stable form of vitamin C. Vitamin C in general has been proven effective against dark spots in studies. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate has also been studied, with findings that it improved overall signs of photoaging and stimulated collagen production. Niacinamide is in this formula because it helps to achieve a more even skin tone, as does ethyl linoleate, an essential fatty acid. Retinol helps with exfoliation, increasing cell turnover so that older cells can shed and new cells can replace them. Dunaliella salina extract is a colorless carotenoid (vitamin A derivative) extracted from algae that brightens the skin by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals do significant damage to skin, degrading collagen and elastin, and harming skin barrier function. Hexylresorcinol and licorice root extract are both skin brighteners. Tetrapeptide-30 is a peptide that lightens dark spots by inhibiting the action of the enzyme tyrosinase, which assists in melanin production. Lastly, 4-ethoxybenzaldehyde allows for a more even skin tone to reduce the signs of blotchiness.
Vichy ProEven Daily Dark Spot Corrector
Dark spots, though harmless, can be embarrassing. They often mar a once even complexion, making it look dull and blotchy. Makeup can help, but it doesn’t always cover up all of the discoloration, and sometimes you want to go makeup free without worrying about the hyperpigmentation signs all over your face. But achieving the even-toned skin of your youth is possible with Vichy’s ProEven Daily Dark Spot Corrector. This formulation’s main ingredient is LHA, or lipohydroxy acid, which is a derivative of salicylic acid, a popular beta hydroxy acid used in many anti-acne medications. It works by exfoliating and removing surface layers of skin, allowing newer, healthier layers to emerge. It is quite effective at treating acne, and has also shown the ability to increase collagen and elastin in the dermis. Organic acids like LHA are often used as treatment for dark spots from acne. Another ingredient that can help remove dark spots is eperua falcata bark extract, which is an anti-inflammatory and a skin protecting agent. Inflammation causes redness and acne, which can lead to discoloration. This ingredient can potentially block this from happening. It has been shown to also improve elasticity, firmness and tone.
Clinique Dark Spot Corrector
Clinique’s Dark Spot Corrector contains a variety of plant extracts that combine to combat dark spots. Turmeric root, rice, mulberry root, cucumber, grapefruit peel, barley, birch and wheat form a powerful team that can effectively treat a variety of skin conditions as well. Mulberry root has been shown effective in skin whitening, while also having antioxidant properties that can help scavenge free radicals. Turmeric root, of which curcumin is an active component, has shown the ability to inhibit tyrosinase. Rice has also exhibited anti-melanogenic effects, essentially curbing melanin production to reduce the formation of dark spots and treat existing ones. Cucumber, which contains vitamin C, has shown the ability to inhibit tyrosinase as well. Grapefruit peel also contains high amounts of vitamin C, making it a promising ingredient in the fight against dark spots. Birch contains salicylic acid, an exfoliant that can encourage cell turnover. Barley contains azelaic acid, which inhibits tyrosinase. Wheat contains hydroquinone, a very powerful anti-pigmenting agent present in many dark spot reducing creams and available via prescription as well. With almost all of these plant extracts being able to inhibit the key enzyme in melanin production, it’s no wonder this cream works so well.
Murad Rapid Age Spot And Pigment Lightening Serum
Murad Rapid Age Spot And Pigment Lightening Serum contains 2% hydroquinone, the highest percentage available without a prescription. Hydroquinone is a very effective skin lightening agent that can remove dark spots, even skin tone and lighten age spots. Hydroquinone works by interrupting the production of excess melanin. This formulation also contains vitamin C, which we’ve already established can significantly lighten skin, and glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, similar to salicylic acid, which exfoliates and protects against sun damage. Glycolic acid has even been shown to reduce irritation in sunburned skin by a significant amount. Glycolic acid has been used in the treatment of photodamaged skin (which often also includes dark spots) with great success. It works to reduce dullness by attaching to the dead skin cells on the surface of skin and breaking them apart to allow newer skin to flourish. Newer skin is often brighter and lighter than the dead skin that was exfoliated. Glycolic acid further allows for other skincare ingredients to absorb deeper and essentially be more effective.
Proactiv Dark Spot Corrector
This formulation also contains hydroquinone at 2%, in addition to glycolic acid and retinyl palmitate. Hydroquinone is simply excellent at lightening and fading dark spots, post-acne spots and age spots. Glycolic acid is great at its job of exfoliating to reveal radiant, beautiful skin. It unbinds dead skin cells and sloughs them away to reveal newer cells. It can help treat acne blemishes, fade scars and lighten dark spots. Retnyl palmitate is the ester of retinol (vitamin A), which has been combined with a saturated fatty acid called palmitic acid, and is considered to be much more gentle than pure vitamin A, which can be irritating. Retinyl palmitate is also an antioxidant that can be found in some sunscreens. It, like glycolic acid, exfoliates skin to improve dullness and blotchiness or mottled texture. In combination, all of these ingredients together can be a powerful trio against dark spots.
Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Dark Spot Corrector
Neutrogena’s Rapid Tone Repair Dark Spot Corrector contains two powerful ingredients: ascorbyl glucoside and retinol. Ascorbyl glucoside is a stable form of vitamin C that has been combined with glucose. Vitamin C is a very potent skin lightener that has been studied extensively. When applied to the skin, ascorbyl glucoside converts to L-ascorbic acid. Why bother with ascorbyl glucoside when you can just use a product that contains L-ascorbic acid? Well, ascorbyl glucoside is much more stable. In the long run, it will last for a longer period of time and won’t degrade as quickly. L-ascorbic acid has a tendency to degrade quickly when exposed to air and light. It usually turns yellow, orange or brown once degraded. Retinol is basically vitamin A, which is used in many acne medications because of its ability to expertly and effectively exfoliate. It has also shown to provide “consistent” improvement in treating hyperpigmented skin whether due to acne scarring, sun exposure or simple aging. Different types of vitamin A, like retinoic acid, have also showed marked improvement in treating discoloration and hyperpigmentation. This ingredient duo can certainly help remove dark spots from the face and other parts of the body.
Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution
The active ingredients in this formulation are vitamin C, white birch extract and peony extract. We’ve already determined that vitamin C is a tyrosinase inhibitor that can halt the production of melanin, thereby effectively reducing the appearance of dark spots for a brighter, clearer complexion. Then let’s look deeper into white birch extract and peony extract. According to Kiehl’s, both white birch extract and peony extract work with vitamin C to enhance its potency. White birch itself contains vitamin C and niacinamide (vitamin B3), which are especially effective when paired. Both lead to a more even complexion, lightening darker spots to have them match the natural lighter skin tone of the surrounding area. White birch extract is also hydrating. Peony extract is a great antioxidant that can protect from UV and free radical damage. As UV exposure can often lead to dark spots, peony extract can potentially help to prevent this from happening in the first place. Peony extract also works with the vitamin C in this formula to provide a greater skin brightening effect. In clinical studies, topically applied peony extract has also exhibited skin lightening properties.
Olay Prox Even Skin Tone Spot Fading Treatment
Olay’s spot fading treatment works thanks to the power of niacinamide (vitamin B3), Undecylenoyl phenylalanine and glycerin to remove dark spots and uneven patches of discoloration while also hydrating and fortifying the skin barrier. Uneven skin tone is usually caused by UV exposure, but can be exacerbated by lack of exfoliation and a weakened skin barrier. Regular exfoliation can help in accelerating cell turnover. which in turn allows for a more glowing look. The skin barrier acts like a wall of brick and mortar to keep out pollutants and irritants. When it’s compromised, it can lead to problems like flakiness, redness, itching, and it can make it more possible for the skin to develop dark spots. In studies, topical niacinamide has provided a wealth of positive results, including reduction in wrinkles, improvement in elasticity and reduction in hyperpigmentation. It even proved effective in reducing redness and yellowing of the skin. Undecylenoyl phenylalanine works against dark spots by inhibiting melanotropin, which controls tyrosinase which in turn promotes melanin in the skin. In studies, it “significantly” reduced discoloration caused by melasma (a discoloration disorder) within four weeks. The glycerin in this formula is mainly there to provide hydration and reinforce the skin barrier. Glycerin is a humectant that draws moisture into the skin and plumps it up. Overall it also makes skin softer, more younger-looking, stronger and keeps it protected from outside irritants.
Estee Lauder Enlighten Dark Spot Correcting Night Serum
Several plant extracts in the Estee Lauder Enlighten Dark Spot Correcting Night Serum make this a powerhouse against hyperpigmentation. Similar to Clinique’s Dark Spot Corrector, this formulation contains turmeric root, mulberry root, cucumber fruit, barley, grapefruit peel and rice. Many of these ingredients, like turmeric root, mulberry root and cucumber have shown the ability to halt tyrosinase from producing more melanin. Grapefruit peel in this formula helps because it contains a lot of vitamin C, another de-pigmentation agent. Barley contains azelaic acid, an ingredient often found in many anti-dark spot serums because of its ability to stop tyrosinase activity. Rice has been shown to “down-regulate melanin synthesis” in animal studies. Furthermore, this serum allows for exfoliation with its inclusion of salicylic acid. Often used in acne medications to encourage cell turnover, this ingredient breaks down the “glue” that holds cells together. This helps it to dry up pimples and remove blackheads. When it comes to treating discoloration, salicylic acid works by fading pigmentation as it sloughs off the very top layers of skin.
Elemis White Brightening Dark Spot Corrector
The main active ingredients in this dark spot corrector are vitamin C, garden cress and daisy extract. Because vitamin C is rather unstable, the company uses encapsulated vitamin C to make sure it doesn’t degrade. Vitamin C is a well-researched antioxidant that helps fight and reduce sun damage and all of its symptoms, of which discoloration is one. It interrupts the action of melanin-producing tyrosinase. Garden cress is believed to remove dark spots by neutralizing free radicals (which can cause the discoloration in the first place) and by inhibiting a hormone called alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH). As its name suggests, this hormone stimulates melanin production — something you definitely don’t want as you’re valiantly fighting to get rid of excess melanin in the skin. Daisy extract is a safe and still powerful alternative to hydroquinone. There is some controversy regarding hydroquinone, in that it is potentially carcinogenic. With daisy extract, this worry can be alleviated. It lightens skin well, without causing any fear that it can possibly be cancerous.
Shiseido White Lucent Microtargeting Spot Corrector
Restoring radiance can go a long way in making us look more youthful. Shiseido’s White Lucent Microtargeting Spot Corrector promises to do just that with laser speed and precision thanks to some innovative technology. MicroTarget Technology allows each dark spot to be targeted directly, including very dark ones or blurred ones that are more light-brown or brown in color. SakuraRESIST Technology harnesses the power of cherry blossoms to brighten while also making skin more resistant to future formation of dark spots. Other plant extracts like peony extract also help to lighten by stopping melanin activity. Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes, has further shown the ability to remove and fade pigmentation in animal studies. Moreover, resveratrol is an antioxidant that can help prevent spots from forming by reducing free radical damage.
Verso Dark Spot Fix
Three potent ingredients combine to give Verso Dark Spot Fix its dark spot fading abilities. Retinol 8, turmeric and niacinamide are the dark spot enemies promising to banish discoloration regardless of its cause. Retinol 8 is a less irritating but eight times stronger form of retinol. Unlike retinol, it can be used during the daytime without fear of any adverse reactions. Retinol 8 exfoliates to fade away excess melanin and reveal a more even-toned, brighter complexion. Turmeric and niacinamide have proved their ability to light dark spots time and again, and, in combination with retinol 8, they work even better. These time-tested ingredients can be trusted to help you fade dark spots from both the face and body.
La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Dark Spot Serum
La Roche-Posay‘s Pigmentclar Dark Spot Serum combines the forces of Phe-Resorcinol, ferulic acid and LHA to break down dark spots and make them disappear. Phe-Resorcinol, according to the company, is 100 times more skin lightening than kojic acid, one of the best skin lightening ingredients. This is quite remarkable in and of itself, but ferulic acid and LHA also play key roles in this formulation. Ferulic acid is an antioxidant found naturally in the seeds of apples and oranges as well as some other vegetation. As an antioxidant, it fights common signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging by targeting free radicals. In studies, it has shown to be effective against melasma, which is often stubborn and hard to get rid of. LHA is an exfoliator much like glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Its mechanism involves removing dead skin cells and revealing newer cells that also make skin look more radiant.
The Absolute Best
Formulyst Luminous Skin Serum
For brighter and smoother looking skin, pick up a bottle of Formulyst’s Luminous Skin Serum. This lightweight serum tackles dark spots and hyperpigmentation using natural ingredients, including Alpha Arbutin, an extract of the bearberry plant that prevents the formation of melanin; Rumex extract, derived from the dockberry plant; and a biomimetic peptide which helps accelerate cell regeneration.