Dark Spot Correctors to Treat Hyperpigmentation

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Whether you're dealing with a dark mark left behind by a blemish, spots that indicate sun damage, or hormone-induced melasma, these typically unwanted changes in the skin all fall under the umbrella of hyperpigmentation. Caused by the cells responsible for your skin's color, melanocytes, depositing excess pigment into deeper levels of the skin, these forms of discoloration can be incredibly frustrating for those who strive for an even-toned complexion especially since it can be tough to reverse.

'In general, hyperpigmentation is tough to treat and a chronic condition', New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali tells ishonest, noting that he explains to his patients that it must be taken seriously because it's so easy for it to recur. Although some patients choose to undergo laser treatments for their dark spots to address their hyperpigmentation with customized prescription compounds Bhanusali often blends a high dose of hydroquinone with kojic acid and vitamin C for his patients there are ways to combat discoloration without often-expensive in-office procedures and medications.

That's where these over-the-counter options come in. Often made with the same active ingredients that dermatologists use in prescription compounds, these serums and creams contribute to more even-toned skin and reduced hyperpigmentation with consistent use. 'When targeting hyperpigmentation, you want to use multiple ingredients that have different functions', New York City- based board-certified dermatologist David Kim tells us. 'For example, you want to use a vitamin A derivative to increase cell turnover, alpha hydroxy acids to enzymatically exfoliate, and incorporate azelaic acid, kojic acid, or arbutin to reduce melanin production', Kim explains, adding that tranexamic acid is particularly beneficial for melasma.

Got your sunscreen checked off? Good. Here are some of the best dark spot correctors and hyperpigmentation-fading products to pair with it. Just ensure that you're consistent with using these products every day, folks and you'll see amazing (but gradual) results in as little as a month.

Drunk Elephant Protini Powerpeptide Resurf Serum

Drunk Elephant's Protini Powerpeptide Resurf Serum includes a harmonious mixture of 10 percent lactic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliant, and hydrating peptides. This powerful combination makes it tough enough to tackle dark spots and hyperpigmentation without causing irritation to more sensitive skin types. Don't be surprised if your skin sees improvement in texture, tone, radiance, and bounce.

Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum

Glow Recipe's Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum is no run-of-the-mill vitamin C treatment. Much like the brand's hydration-focused Plum Plump serum, Guava has an enticing, silky-to-the-touch gel-serum texture that absorbs into skin without an ounce of greasiness or heaviness. Wave goodbye to hyperpigmentation because this serum isn't playing around. Its vitamin C complex is made up of five dual- encapsulated derivatives of the brightening ingredient, which is further boosted by guava seed oil and fruit extract (which the brand says contains four times more vitamin C than oranges), tranexamic acid, ferulic acid, and vitamin E.

'Compounding vitamin C with another antioxidant [like vitamin E] helps preserve the stability and boost the effectiveness of the serum', Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, previously explained. Additionally, ferulic acid doubles down on your skin's defensive barrier against the effects of photodamage. All in all, expect to see a more even-toned, glowy- as-heck complexion soon.

Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum

Formulated for people of color by women of color, Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum targets all aspects of hyperpigmentation with a potent, just-right dose of brightening ingredients amber algae, encapsulated vitamin C (ethyl ascorbic acid), licorice, and niacinamide. This fragrance-free, milky-gel formula sinks into skin immediately and boosts hydration levels with crambe abyssinica and glycerin. If that wasn't enough, pineapple and papaya enzymes provide gentle exfoliation so all of the pigment-evening ingredients absorb more quickly and efficiently. Call up Black Widow because this product is, in a nutshell, a marvel.

BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector

If you've noticed teeny spots of hyperpigmentation near your undereyes, or if you just need to address dark circles, then the BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector should do just the trick. Its main ingredient is 5 percent stabilized vitamin C, which brightens the delicate skin around your eyes. It also includes green tea extract and anti-inflammatory hemp oil, which work together to calm and hydrate skin.

Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Kim recommends Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster for a plethora of reasons. The star of the formula, azelaic acid 'blocks tyrosinase, an essential enzyme for melanin production, and therefore reduces melanin production', he explains, adding that it's one of the few acne-fighting ingredients that are safe to use during pregnancy.

'Azelaic acid has been shown to be bactericidal against p. Acnes, the bacteria on the skin that is one of the causes of acne', Ava Shamban, a Beverly Hills- based board-certified dermatologist, previously explained to ishonest. She also pointed out that azelaic acid loosens dead, pore-clogging skin cells and reduces instances of inflammation caused by acne. So, the better question is what can't this ingredient do?

Hyper Skin Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum

Hyper Skin's Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum is no stranger to selling out its entire inventory because the results are just that, well, clear. This potent but lightweight formula is ripe with a 15 percent concentration of vitamin C that minimizes the appearance of dark spots left behind from breakouts. Furthering this weightless gel's brightening and smoothing agenda is a team of kojic acid, vitamin E, and fruit enzymes (including apple and papaya).

Take note of the soothing vitamin E in particular, since Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama previously explained that kojic acid can result in contact dermatitis for reactive skin. The good news is that vitamin E and other calming components, like aloe and glycerin, should prevent any harsh side effects.

Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex

Caroline Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist based in Chicago and founder of Tone Dermatology, tells ishonest that Revision Skincare C+ Correcting Complex is 'one of the most advanced vitamin C products on the market.' How so? It's formulated with 30 percent pure tetrahexydecyl ascorbate (a very stable form of vitamin C) and 'patent-pending MelaPATH technology to visibly brighten and even skin tone', Robinson points out. In layman's terms, this milky serum is chock- full of powerful antioxidants that combat free radicals, including goji fruit extract and squalane, and support your body's natural production of vitamins C and E.

SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum

The SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum is undoubtedly an investment, but definitely, a worthwhile one if you're trying to address more intensive hyperpigmentation issues. This ishonest Best of Beauty Award winner is infused with Spanish marine extract and French flax seed to help your skin heal and repair itself. This combination leaves you with a more even tone and firmness to your skin.

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

Kim is a fan of mandelic acid in general because its gentler nature means it's likely tolerated by most patients in a nutshell, it has larger molecules, so it doesn't penetrate the skin as deeply or as quickly as other acids. One of the most affordable versions of the star ingredient is The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA, which clocks in at just $7 and infuses a decent dose of hyaluronic acid into the skin for that sweet hydration. Another bonus? 'Because mandelic acid is oil-soluble, it works at both the surface of the skin and deeper down in the pores', Sejal Shah, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist previously divulged to ishonest.

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment

The Inkey List is proving that overnight treatments do not have to feel heavy on the skin especially when it comes to the gel-based Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Treatment. All you need is a small dollop of this lightweight mask, and you'll watch all of your dark spots disappear in about a month's time. Those results, which will cost you a mere $15, are thanks to two percent concentrations of tranexamic acid, aai berry, and ascorbyl glucoside (a stable derivative of vitamin C) to promote a brighter, more even-toned complexion.

Neutrogena Stubborn Marks PM Treatment

Take care of acne scars while you snooze with the retinol SA-powered Neutrogena Stubborn Marks PM Treatment. Ideal for acne-prone skin, this fragrance-free treatment is in for the long haul when it comes to correcting and brightening your complexion. If you have particularly sensitive skin, try applying a calming moisturizer before this treatment and afterward, too, if you want extra assurance. We'll also point out that this fiery-red bottle is formulated with soothing glycerin and hyaluronic acid (sodium hyaluronate, to be exact) to deeply hydrate skin.

L'Oral Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 0.3% Pure Retinol Serum

Want high-quality results without the luxury price tag? Then allow us to introduce you to the L'Oral Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 0.3% Pure Retinol Serum, a powerful retinol-infused serum that won't set you back more than $30. This nightly treatment is made with a higher percentage of the vitamin A derivative to address fine lines, blemishes, and hyperpigmentation as hyaluronic acid and glycerin provide much-needed hydration.

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum

If you're in the market for a lightweight serum that fights dark spots day and night, First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum is a great buy. Robinson calls out a team of star ingredients, including niacinamide, licorice root, golden kiwifruit (a source of vitamin C), and undecylenoyl phenylalanine (an amino acid-derived molecule that reduces the effects of hyperpigmentation and melasma). They 'work synergistically at multiple steps in the pigment production pathway to promote a more even, healthy-looking, and radiant complexion', she explains.

Dermalogica Powerbright Dark Spot Serum

Diminishing hyperpigmentation doesn't seem like an impossible chore when it involves Dermalogica's PowerBright Dark Spot Serum. Powerhouse ingredients like hexylresorcinol (a molecule with the melanin-inhibiting tyrosinase we discussed earlier), niacinamide, and shiitake mushroom start fading stubborn dark spots from the very first moment they hit skin. As an added bonus, this luxurious serum is formulated with light-diffusing technology to balance the appearance of uneven pigmentation. It's enough to convince you to skip the concealer.

Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum

To negate any potential irritation associated with some vitamin C serums, Biossance formulated its Squalane + Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum with licorice root extract for skin-calming benefits, along with white shiitake mushroom in order to further boost the quick-absorbing serum's brightening powers. It's gentle enough to wear day (with sunscreen) and night and helps prevent new dark spots from popping up as well.

Mighty Patch Micropoint for Dark Spots

Go on the offense in the match against post-breakout dark spots with Mighty Patch's Micropoint for Dark Spots. Each box contains six patches designed with 173 dissolving needles (which don't hurt, we promise) each that deliver tranexamic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin C straight to the source of the pigmentation. Apply to clean skin and leave on for up to six hours and repeat twice a week until the blemish's existence is erased. Need more proof? Digital beauty editor Devon Abelman shared the patches 'visibly diminishes angry red splotches' brought to life by her cystic pimples.

Peter Thomas Roth Pro Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment

Peter Thomas Roth's Pro Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment is one of board-certified dermatologist Adeline Kikam's favorite over-the-counter products for fighting tough hyperpigmentation because it 'combines four highly effective skin-brightening agents, along with antioxidant properties, such as alpha arbutin, kojic acid, niacinamide, and tranexamic acid. In case you need a refresher, niacinamide works wonders for improving overall skin texture and mitigating inflammation. As a result, this lightweight cream is perfect for those whose skin might react to harsher formulas laced with acids as the main, discoloration-fighting ingredients.

Ustawi Skincare Niacinamide Dark Spot Corrector

As a bonafide international supermodel, Natacha Paugam knows a few things about maintaining the health and integrity of her skin. Her brand, Ustawi Skincare, has an impressive lineup that includes the Niacinamide Dark Spot Corrector. Inspired by her upbringing in the Congo, this gentle cream-gel formula features moisture-boosting African superfruit baobab at its heart in addition to pigmentation-reducing niacinamide and licorice root. This invisible formula disappears into the skin, leaving behind a clear layer of anti-pollution protection.

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Multi-Phase Serum

In addition to kojic acid and niacinamide, the dermatologist-celebrated SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Multi-Phase Serum contains tranexamic acid. 'This ingredient is known to help not only lighten [hyperpigmentation] but decrease recurrence, which is crucial', Miami-based board-certified dermatologist Roberta Del Campo tells ishonest.

Topicals Faded Brightening & Clearing Gel

'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. Joining the chorus of excess melanin prevention is antioxidant-rich azelaic acid, while cica keeps your skin feeling calm as a cucumber.

Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum

'Hydroquinone is the gold standard for hyperpigmentation, as it works on the cells that make melanin to block further production', Del Campo tells ishonest. 'Many people call it a 'bleaching cream', but I consider it a 'color blender.'' Murad's Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum contains two 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 and a handful of other countries like Japan and Rwanda. However, many dermatologists are comfortable recommending it for short-term topical use around three months' time, or once your hyperpigmentation fades for areas of discoloration.

SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum

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 [Pigment Correcting Serum]', he tells ishonest, noting that it's also available in oral form by prescription. SkinMedica promises noticeable improvements in as little as two weeks, with significant results revealing themsevles at around 12 weeks.

Mel Even Dark Spot Control Serum

Mel's products are made with darker skin tones in mind and the brand's Even Dark Spot Control Serum takes special care to thoughtfully address discoloration in melanin-rich complexions. The bi-phase formula contains three percent niacinamide, one percent vitamin E, and 0.3 percent pro-retinol. Despite seemingly lower percentages, Hermann confirms it's quite an effective combination. 'Percentage is important, but higher doesn't always mean better', she tells ishonest. 'Concentrations that are too high can cause irritation, which can paradoxically lead to additional hyperpigmentation', she adds.

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