Differin Dark Spot Corrector Review - The Dermatology Review

Differin Dark Spot Corrector Review



Differin Dark Spot Corrector is a facial serum that is formulated to help gradually fade post-acne marks and hyperpigmentation with 2% hydroquinone, the maximum strength that can be purchased without a prescription. The gel-like formula goes on smoothly and is gentle enough for daily use.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2021?

If you’re interested in trying this serum to fade dark spots, read our Differin Dark Spot Corrector review to learn more about the ingredients in this formulation and the research that supports the use of hydroquinone for treating hyperpigmentation. We’ll also share Differin Dark Spot Corrector reviews so that you can see what customers really think of this product.

face cream

Who is Differin Dark Spot Corrector For?

Differin Dark Spot Corrector is formulated for those who would like to fade hyperpigmentation (dark spots) caused by age, sun exposure, acne, pregnancy, or oral contraceptives. It can also be used by those with uneven skin tone or blotches to improve overall tone and clarity.

However, as you’ll learn in the next section, individuals with dark skin may want to avoid Differin Dark Spot Corrector due to the risk of an adverse reaction to hydroquinone.

What Are The Key Ingredients in Differin Dark Spot Corrector?

The key ingredient in Differin Dark Spot Corrector is hydroquinone, the gold standard treatment for hyperpigmentation. But how does hydroquinone work? And are there any side effects you should look out for? Read on to find out!

According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology,hydroquinone produces reversible lightening of the skin by interfering with melanin production by the melanocytes. Specifically, inhibition of the enzymatic conversion of tyrosine to DOPA (dihydroxyphenylalanine) results in the desired chemical reduction of pigment. Ultimately, this causes a decrease in the number of melanocytes and decreased transfer of melanin leading to lighter skin.

There are numerous studies that have demonstrated that hydroquinone is an effective treatment for hyperpigmentation. For example, in a 2003 study published in The International Journal of Dermatology, hydroquinone was found to reduce signs of hyperpigmentation associated with melasma by 76.9%, beating another skin whitening complex at 66.7%.

Normally hydroquinone is very well tolerated, however, there is still a potential for side effects. Common side effects include dryness, redness, irritation, and itching.

transparent gel

One thing to know before using Differin Dark Spot Corrector (or any product that contains hydroquinone) is that there is a potential for exogenous ochronosis to occur, especially if you have dark skin. Ochronosis is a reaction where the skin darkens in areas where the hydroquinone was applied; the exact opposite of what it is intended to do!

Interestingly, this phenomenon has only been documented in darker-skinned patients. However, ochronosis is extremely rare and usually occurs with long term use of hydroquinone (especially in high concentrations or from adulterated products).

If you’re concerned about this risk, you may want to perform a patch test with Differin Dark Spot Corrector on a small area of skin before applying this product to a larger area. If you see any amount of skin darkening, stop using the product immediately and consult your physician.

Sea buckthorn oil is another key ingredient in the Differin Dark Spot Corrector formula. Sea buckthorn oil contains unique unsaturated fatty acids, such as palmitoleic acid (omega-7) and gamma-linolenic acid (omega-6), which give this oil skin regeneration and repair properties. In addition, sea buckthorn oil easily penetrates through the epidermis, where it improves blood circulation and facilitates oxygenation of the skin.

Lastly, we’d like to point out that Differin Dark Spot Corrector contains a synthetic fragrance blend. This is problematic for several reasons. First, many of the Differin Dark Spot Corrector reviews mention that the product is so heavily fragranced that it was unusable.

Another problem is the fact that the brand can use a proprietary blend of chemicals to create the fragrance, and they do not have to disclose which chemicals they use on the label. They are allowed to list this blend as “Fragrance (Parfum)” on the ingredient list.

A 2018 study by Women’s Voices for the Earth discovered that in over 3,000 chemicals reportedly used for fragrances, 1,242 were chemicals of concern – and that included at least 7 possible carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agents. Fragrance ingredients also have the potential to cause skin irritation and sensitivity.

How to Use Differin Dark Spot Corrector?

After cleansing, use a cotton swab to target the areas you’d like to treat and apply Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum there, gently massaging it into the skin.

Where to Buy Differin Dark Spot Corrector?

Differin Dark Spot Corrector is not sold on the brand’s website. You must buy Differin Dark Spot Corrector from a third party online retailer, such as Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc.

Differin Dark Spot Corrector is also sold in physical retail locations throughout the United States, such as Target, Walgreens, Walmart, and other drug stores. The brand has a store locator on their website so you can find a location near you that sells Differin Dark Spot Corrector.

differin gel product review

How Much Does Differin Dark Spot Corrector Cost?

The price of Differin Dark Spot Corrector will vary depending on where you buy this product from. On Ulta.com, Differin Dark Spot Corrector costs $21.99 USD for 1 ounce, and on Amazon.com it costs $18.97 for the same size.

What is The Differin Return Policy?

Differin does not have a return policy on their website since they do not sell products on their website and, therefore, don’t accept returns.

Is Differin Cruelty Free?

Differin is not cruelty free.

Differin Dark Spot Corrector Reviews

Differin Dark Spot Corrector reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive, with the product receiving an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars after more than 100 customer reviews.

There are many 5-star Differin Dark Spot Corrector reviews from customers raving about how well this product helps to fade dark spots and even out skin tone. For example, one review says, “After applying this on my face for a few days, my dark spots have started to match closer to my skin tone. I will keep using it for maximum results. It’s easy to apply it spot on. I don’t see anything wrong with this product. I would definitely recommend it.”

The negative Differin Dark Spot Corrector reviews are most from customers who found the fragrance in the formulation to be too overwhelming. For example, one review says, “Somehow I missed the fragrance i.n the ingredients list when I purchased. Upon first impression the scent is very strong. I decided to try it one night on my face. 30 minutes later I can still it and it is now giving me a headache. Has a very artificial floral/ powder scent. Will be returning.”

Another customer shares how not only is the fragrance awful, but how Differin Dark Spot Corrector did not work to fade her dark spots. Her review says, “The smell is awful! I’ve been using this a month and a half for freckles. My freckles aren’t super dark. They haven’t lightened at all!”

Our Verdict

Overall, we think that Differin Dark Spot Corrector is a good option for treating hyperpigmentation, although we wish the brand would formulate a fragrance-free version of this product.


  • Numerous studies have shown that hydroquinone is an effective treatment for hyperpigmentation
  • Contains the maximum strength hydroquinone (2%) that you can get without a prescription
  • Many positive Differin Dark Spot Corrector reviews


  • Contains synthetic fragrance blend
  • Potential for exogenous ochronosis to occur, especially if you have dark skin

What Are Some Alternatives to Differin Dark Spot Corrector?

While we do think Differin Dark Spot Corrector is a good option for those with hyperpigmentation, keep in mind that there are many other ingredients that can help to fade those pesky dark spots. If you’re struggling with hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, we’d like to recommend Formulyst’s Dark Spot Solutions.

Dark Spot Solutions is formulated with HyWhite – an alpha linolenic acid (ALA) that helps to lighten the appearance of dark spots and visibly improve the uniformity of the skin color. This serum also contains a lightweight molecular hyaluronic acid, which instantly helps to improve skin hydration. If you’ve tried a vitamin C serum in the past without any improvement, we’d definitely recommend considering Formulyst Dark Spot Solutions.

Another brand that balances the power of plants with cutting edge science is Carrot & Stick. Not only is Carrot & Stick good for your skin, it is also good for the environment as the formulas skip harmful chemicals commonly found in skin care products.

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology “Hydroquinone”
Int J Dermatol. 2003 Feb;42(2):153-6.
Women’s Voices for the Earth “Unpacking The Fragrance Industry” 2018




Remove, reduce and keep only what’s essential. Pared down beauty products are good for your skin, your health and the planet-- as well as your wallet.Read More

Carrot & Stick

Carrot & Stick takes a tough love approach to skincare. What does this mean? It perfectly balances the power of plants with innovative science, offering the best of both worlds.Read More


The philosophy of Formulyst is long-term and effective skincare, rather than covering up any imperfections. The comprehensive line of products tackles everything from wrinkles to dark spots and dry skin. While some brands rely on unnecessary fillers and scents, Formulyst focuses on ingredients that help create results, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.Read More

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