Shopping for Dark Spot Correctors

When shopping for dark spot correcting treatments, which can include serums, moisturizers, and exfoliators like peels, our experts suggest look for terms directly addressing dark spots or "brightening" and “skin tone-evening" on the packaging. 

Vitamin C, an antioxidant that brightens skin. Niacinamide (a.k.a. vitamin B3), slows pigment production. Hydroquinone, which inhibits an enzyme that produces melanin. Retinol and alpha or beta hydroxy acids (like glycolic and salicylic acids), which increase skin cell turnover to get rid of hyperpigmented cells. Tranexamic acid, kojic acid, alpha-arbutin, cysteamine, azelaic acid, resorcinol, soy, and licorice root extract can also lessen hyperpigmentation, Dr. Turegano says.

What is the best way to use a dark spot corrector?

When applying a dark spot corrector, generally, "if it's a serum or liquid form, it should be the first product that touches your skin after cleansing," Dr. Turegano advises. "If the dark spot corrector is in a lotion or cream form, it can be applied after a serum." Note that "the sun is one of the biggest contributors to developing and accentuating dark marks," she says, so applying a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen daily is a must in order to see a reduction in dark spots.

Most importantly, use a dark spot corrector according to the instructions on the product packaging, especially regarding frequency, which can vary from once to twice daily or one or two times per week for products like peels.