In This Article
First: Not all dark spots are the same
“As a dermatologist, when patients come to us for the treatment of dark spots or hyperpigmentation, the first step is to understand that not all dark spots are the same,” explains Dr. Paul. “Dark spots can be caused due to several reasons (melasma or drug reactions or chronic sun exposure). However, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is the appearance of dark spots after skin inflammation from another rash or most commonly acne/eczema.”
Types of dark spot treatments
“The treatment for dark spots can be categorized under three different groups: topical over-the-counter products, topical prescription products and in-office treatments,” says Dr. Paul. “In general, a combination therapy with multiple topical creams may be more effective than a single treatment therapy. But it’s also important to be patient with the treatment of dark spots and understand that it takes at least 8-12 weeks to see results.”
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be talking solely about over-the counter topical products available specifically on Amazon. But Dr. Mikailov advises that even before determining what product is right for you, “first you want to determine the cause of the new dark spot. Any new growth that looks unlike anything else on your body should be evaluated by your dermatologist. And, always make sure you’re using a broad spectrum sunscreen, daily, of at least 30 SPF or higher.”
Now, on to the Amazon-available dark spot correctors these experts in their fields recommend.
Best dark spot products and correctors on Amazon, according to derms
“The best way to prevent and treat dark spots is to use broad-spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB coverage with SPF 30 or higher,” explains Dr. Paul. “Tinted sunscreens also have iron oxide which protects from visible light, which is known to cause hyperpigmentation in those with darker skin. This French drugstore option checks all the boxes—and we love that it’s oil-free (meaning, it won’t help cause further breakouts and/or irritation). La Roche-Posay creates some of the best sensitive skin-friendly products in the biz, and while it’s a little bit more expensive (for a drugstore option), the results are always impressive.
Another La Roche-Posay option, this serum is meant to be applied both day and night, a few drops each time. It’s formulated to not only reduce the appearance of dark spots, but also smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. “This serum has a high concentration of niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) with resorcinol (a vitamin A derivative) and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients combined have high impact and it’s great if you have sensitive skin,” recommends Dr. Mikailov.
This new dark spot correcting serum from Thrive just launched earlier this month. “If you’re looking for more natural alternatives, this serum uses microalgae extracts, which in some studies have been found to inhibit tyrosinase, an enzyme important for melanin production,” explains Dr. Mikailov. “And the natural and low-dose AHAs from tropical fruits also help with cell turnover.”
“I love Murad’s dark spot correcting serum,” recommends Dr. Paul. “Tranexamic acid is effective in brightening skin complexion and for minimizing dark spots caused from hormonal changes, such as melasma, explains Dr. Paul. “Another product from the Murad line that’s excellent is their Retinol Youth Renewal Serum.”
“Retinol and retinoids are a form of vitamin A that promote skin renewal resulting in even skin tone and texture,” explains Dr. Paul. “Retinols are usually weaker than retinoids, albeit with lesser side effects of skin redness, dryness and peeling. They also help treat wrinkles/fine lines, mild acne and improve overall skin quality and texture.”
“This rich, gentle moisturizer pairs vitamin C (for its antioxidant and brightening properties) with a blend of AHAs (malic acid, tartaric acid, glycolic acid) to help improve cell turnover,” explains Dr. Mikailov. “It also has anti-inflammatory ingredients that soothe the skin, like sea buckthorn berry extract and willow bark extract.”
This nighttime cream is the sister product to Skintensive’s AM moisturizer. It contains both retinol and bakuchiol (a plant-based alternative to retinol). “Designed for dry and sensitive skin, this cream contains bakuchiol and a non-irritating form of retinol to improve cell turnover to help reduce dark spots,” explains Dr. Mikailov.
At $175 this dark spot corrector is a bit pricier, but Isdinceutics (ISDIN) is known for its line of powerful pigment-correcting serums. And this particular dark spot corrector is excellent if your skin is easily irritated. “This blend of tranexamic acid, niacinamide, licorice root extract and PHAs (gentle versions of AHAs) work well together to brighten dark spots without irritating the skin,” says Dr. Mikailov.
It helps to have a good cleanser to start with, too. “Alpha Hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid exfoliate and remove dead skin cells on the surface, giving you an overall brightening effect on the skin and visibly reducing dark spots,” explains Dr. Paul. “If you’re new to AHAs, I’d try Glytone’s mild cleanser.”
“This serum is formulated with tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide that all work together to treat dark spots,” explains Dr. Mikailov. “And this formula also has an encapsulation delivery to keep the ingredients stable.” Encapsulation basically refers to a technique that forms a protective shell around the ingredients so that they don’t leach out before they make contact with your skin, so that they’re at their most potent.”
“This mix of AHAs (mandelic, lactic, malic, and tartaric acid, specifically) and PHA along with niacinamide all work together to gently exfoliate the skin and improve dark spots,” says Dr. Mikailov. “This one is particularly good for people with oily skin and/or deeper skin tones, since the mandelic acid (an AHA derived from bitter almonds) is ideal for both,” he explains.