How To: Get Rid of Dark Spots

Dark spots don’t discriminate. Pale or olive, freckled or dark-toned, all complexions are susceptible to these beauty bummers that can stick around for months—if not years. Luckily, proven remedies don’t differentiate between skin tones and types either. Whether you suffer from summer freckling or post-pimple hyperpigmentation, this dermatologist-recommended three-step regimen will even things out.

Morning Must-Haves

Vitamin C isn’t just good for preventing colds. Topical vitamin C can also speed up the fading of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and lentigos (aka freckles). Each morning, apply a vitamin C gel, serum, or cream, depending on your skin type. Or try a product like Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, which is pumped with grape-derived viniferine, a super antioxidant that helps fade dark spots. Just as important: Never leave the house without SPF. Ever. We mean it. “The sun's rays—even those you capture through windows in your car or at school—worsen dark spots,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine. “Even light coming from lightbulbs can darken facial spots!” Kill two birds with one stone by applying a vitamin C product that also contains SPF, like Likewise Facial Moisturizer with SPF 50.

P.M. Pigment Protectors

For nighttime, stock up on products that contain retinol or hydroquinone. Vitamin A derivative retinol is a supreme skin exfoliator that helps to correct blotchy, uneven complexions, while hydroquinone lightens skin. (Although there has been some controversy recently regarding the safety of hydroquinone, the American Academy of Dermatology and many physicians agree that the skin-lightening ingredient doesn’t pose a health risk when used in small quantities.) “Hydroquinone has the ability to stop melanin from forming in problem areas,” says Dr. Gohara. “To avoid irritation, apply only a pea-size amount to the affected area of the face.” Skin-lightening creams can work on either dark or light skin, but you need to be careful about targeting only the individual spots to prevent lightening of the skin in general, cautions Joshua Zeichner, MD, dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Try Vitivia’s Pro: Vitamin A15 Capsules, which have a high concentration of pure retinol, and Ambi Fade Cream for a measured dose of hydroquinone. We’re also fans of Kiehl’s gentle but effective Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Corrector.

DIY Peels

“Mild, at-home chemical peels exfoliate deeper than scrubs, increasing skin cell turnover and helping to lighten dark spots,” says Dr. Zeichner. To avoid dryness, redness, or unintended dark spot intensification, Dr. Gohara says to use a peel no more than once every two weeks. Try Philosophy’s Microdelivery Multi-Use Peel Pads or Juice Beauty’s all-natural Green Apple Peel.

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