As we head into the home stretch of summer, are you noticing a few more dark spots on your skin than when the season began? Dark spots on the face or hands can pop up as a result of UV exposure, hormone changes and age. Even some prescription drugs or skin irritation such as acne can be the culprit.
Also known as hyperpigmentation, these dark spots or patches are caused by the overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Professional treatments such as lasers, microdermabrasion and chemical peels can go a long way to lighten dark spots on the face; however, for at-home use, serums are your best bet.
Hydroquinone and retinol are two popular ingredients in dark spot correctors; however, they can cause irritation for some skin types. For this list, products will be retinol-free and may only contain hydroquinone alternatives. However, if you want a board-certified dermatologist’s best retinol recommendations, we've got you covered as well.
The Seven Best Serums for Treating Dark Spots
This layerable serum is designed to be used after SkinCeuticals vitamin C serum and before slathering on sunscreen for the day. It treats dark spots caused by sun damage or acne scars with a combination of tranexamic acid and kojic acid. In a 12-week-long clinical study, SkinCeuticals found that 81 percent of users reported seeing the appearance of their acne scars improve.
Arbutin, derived from the bearberry plant, is the powerhouse active ingredient in this serum by Obagi. While arbutin fades dark spots, vitamin C targets your skin’s discolored areas while also preventing further damage and minimizing wrinkles too.
By balancing the inflated melanin levels that cause hyperpigmentation, this serum helps prevent dark spots and fade existing spots. Niacinamide, phenylethyl resorcinol (an antioxidant derived from pine) and peptides work together to control melanin production while tranexamic acid and marine extract team up to correct dark spots and patches.
This dark spot corrector can be used as a spot treatment anywhere on your body, including the hands. A part of board-certified dermatologist and LovelySkin CEO Dr. Joel Schlessinger’s own LovelySkin LUXE product line, it includes asafetida (a botanical extract) and afaLUXE, a patented blend of amino acid-based antioxidants, to improve hyperpigmentation. “Though technically a gel, it works similarly to a serum in that it’s highly concentrated and gently exfoliates the skin to improve discoloration. What truly sets the Brightening Gel apart, however, is that it not only corrects existing hyperpigmentation but also prevents future dark spots from appearing,” Dr. Schlessinger says.
If you’re looking to simplify your skin care routine with a dark spot corrector that also multitasks, look no further than this powerful serum. Defensins—a synthetic version of the body’s natural alpha defensins, which produce new skin—brighten hyperpigmentation and acne scars while also smoothing fine lines and firming the skin. Niacinamide also boosts circulation and reduces inflammation.
This dark spot corrector contains nymphaea alba flower (a white water lily) and licorice root, which do double duty by fading the dark spots you have while defending against further sun damage. The formula targets the source of the damage that causes hyperpigmentation and helps reverse its course.
A whole host of botanical extracts—willow bark, sugar cane, mushroom and more—team up in this serum to exfoliate skin, lighten dark spots and inhibit melanin production, which prevents new spots from forming. It also contains kelp extract to heal the skin and bilberry fruit extract, which helps protect against free radicals.
Because spending time in the sun can cause dark spots, applying sunscreen every day can help prevent hyperpigmentation from happening in the first place. For help picking the right one for you, check out this blog post about the best sunscreens for different skin types.