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It happened. Years ago, you laid out in the sun and got burned, and now the results are starting to show all over your face and body. Sun damage is real, and one of its most visible consequences are dark spots, areas of hyperpigmentation that crop up on hands, face, and decolletage (where your skin is thinnest and most prone to damage) and interrupt the smooth, even skin texture. Luckily, there are solutions to remove age spots. Some are only available via a dermatologist, like prescription creams and laser treatments, but if you’ve decided to try an at-home treatment first, try one of our top picks below.
Best Overall: Murad Rapid Age Spot Pigment Lightening Serum
If you’re not looking for a prescription product, this serum is the next best thing. Formulated with two percent hydroquinone, the pigment lightener that doctors often prescribe for age spots, Murad has the highest concentration available without a prescription. Hydroquinone fades the look of dark spots, sun spots, age spots, and uneven skin tones, and this serum combines it with hexapeptide-2, a skin-brightening peptide that helps to further lighten spots and prevent the appearance of future damage.
It also has glycolic acid to exfoliate away the dead skin cells and allows active ingredients to penetrate more quickly, so you see spots fade faster and more radiant skin sooner. Even the most potent skin lightening treatments can be counteracted by UV light, a proven dark spot trigger, so when you’re using this, apply it twice daily over your face, neck, and chest and follow immediately with sunscreen.
Best Budget: Paula’s Choice RESIST Triple-Action Dark Spot Eraser
This super-targeted treatment exfoliates to fade dark spots and smooth the texture of age spots on face and hands. Hydroquinone and glycolic acid work together to repair spots and revitalize your complexion by revealing the beautiful new skin beneath. It’s enriched with vitamin E and rosehip oil that makes it safe to use on dry skin (thought it’s fine for all skin types) and replenishes moisture to improve the texture of your skin.
You don’t have to treat it like a spot treatment—just spread a thin layer twice daily over areas with brown skin discoloration and the active ingredients will lift color from spots and smooth out skin in 8-12 weeks. Alpha hydroxy acid is a great exfoliator generally, so you should expect to see improvement in your overall skin texture as well.
Best Spot Treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Targeted Spot Brightener
This dark spot treatment is powered by a who’s-who of beauty editor favorite ingredients, including vitamin E, ferulic acid, and vitamin C in the form of THD ascorbate, a lab-derived form that’s 50 times more powerful than traditional vitamin C. Gwennis (an active algae extract) and angelys help reduce and brighten the look of dark spots by up to 75 percent, while aloe and allantoin help soothe the appearance of skin.
Reviewers love how fast it works—most say they noticed a difference in the first couple of weeks, even though the recommended time to see results is around 12 weeks—and that they only have to apply it to the affected areas, letting them treat other skin concerns at the same time. It’s effective on any kind of discoloration, including acne scarring and other dark marks.
Best Sunscreen: Fresh Peony Brightening UV Shield Sunscreen
If you’re investing in improving your skin’s texture and repairing past sun damage, you certainly don’t want to prolong the problem by not wearing sunscreen during and after treatment. Fresh Beauty created a 3-in-1 formula that brightens skin overall, reduces the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmented skin, and shields your skin from UV rays with an SPF of 50.
The cream is lightweight and super-hydrating, and works fine under makeup or on its own as a moisturizing primer. The brightening effect comes from peony and licorice root extracts and vitamin C glucoside, while shea extract offers antioxidant protection against damage caused by pollution and helps to soothe the skin from daily stresses.
Best Serum: Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense
SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense underwent a 12-week clinical study to prove that it really reduces the appearance of dark spots and discoloration on the face. Powered by kojic acid, tranexamic acid and vitamin B3, this advanced formula is a hydroquinone-free skin brightening serum. Other key ingredients like niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) has been shown to help reduce the appearance of skin discoloration.
While it can be intense at first, most reviewers found that was from using too much product, as you only need to apply three to five drops twice a day to your face to see results, although some reviewers suggested starting with once a day to let your skin get used to the formula.
Best Moisturizer: Sunday Riley TIDAL
In addition to an overall brightening effect, TIDAL is beloved for its deep moisturizing properties, using powerful ingredients like hyaluronic acid and tamarind extract to bring you back to a fully youthful appearance in a surprisingly short amount of time. Arbutin (a key ingredient in the dark-spot-fighting arsenal) is generally more effective when applied twice a day, so the sunscreen rule still applies every morning, but TIDAL also works well over makeup for a late-in-the-day boost of moisture.
Best Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads
You’ll find this daily peel in every serious beauty girl’s arsenal, since ultimately great-looking skin starts with stripping down the dead cells. As you’re treating dark spots and other signs of aging, an overall exfoliation treatment like this one will ensure that the treatments you’re using are penetrating your problem areas, so start with a clean slate. The patented two-step formula contains seven acids, including glycolic, salicylic, mandelic, lactic and citric acid, applied on two separate pads one after the other.
Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular age spot removers on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 60 different age spot removers overall, screened options from 30 different brands and manufacturers, read over 50 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 2 of the age spot removers themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.