As we age, our skin begins to change in ways we never had to deal with previously. For some, that includes dark spots—discoloration that can stem from sun damage, irritating products, and even hormone fluctuations. "Hyperpigmentation, melasma, and sun spots are the 'warning flags' created by your body to inform you that it is injured or under attack," says NYC-based dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD. "They're a deposit of melanin (which is a protein manufactured by the skin) that goes into the skin like globules and gives way to dark spots, stains, and unsightly discoloration." So what to do? First, we researched the best creams for dark spots, and, now, we're bringing that list right to you. Each one has been recommended by another editor, a dermatologist, or scored great reviews on the internet.
Below, find the formula right for you.
Formulated with vitamin C Ester and alpha lipoic acid (meant to brighten your skin and smooth surface imperfections), Perricone MD's oil-free formula works just as hard to plump and protect your skin as it does to fade dark spots. Its hero ingredient is astaxanthin, an antioxidant that may protect against the most common environmental skin aggressors.
Try this gentle yet effective treatment, a Byrdie favorite. It promises to deliver hyperpigmentation correction and anti-aging benefits, as well as reduce melanin production and early signs of aging. The cream uses a potent cocktail of medical grade ingredients, yes, including retinol, meant to clear out any clogged pores, smooth skin, and lighten dark spots.
Use this formula to effectively reduce the appearance of any minor unwanted dark spots, as it lightens age spots, sun damage, and any redness left behind from cleared up blemishes. It works courtesy of retinol 8—a stable form of vitamin A—a powerhouse ingredient that is recommended by dermatologists and estheticians alike. The best part? You can use it on sensitive skin and during the day. Just do a patch test first to make sure your skin doesn't get irritated.
This is perhaps one of the most highly recommended products on the market today—it's clarifying, smoothing, and plumping all at the same time. The secret is in the purified grade lactic acid, an active ingredient meant to exfoliate dull, dead skin cells and, with continued use, actually remove dark spots and hyperpigmentation (as well as keeps breakouts and wrinkles at bay). It's pricey, but it's worth it.
If you live in a driving city, more than likely you've started to notice (or soon will) the damaging effects the sun can have on your hands. We know to protect our faces from UVA and UVB rays, but our hands and chest often go untreated—especially on sun-drenched car rides. Stop sun damage and hyperpigmentation in their tracks with this daily treatment moisturizer formulated to smooth, protect, and treat your skin for a more even tone and texture.
Brightening vitamin C promises to reduce the appearance of discoloration and brighten your overall skin tone as part of this powerful, travel-friendly treatment.
Try applying serums or treatments after exfoliating for even more visible results.
A blend of Caudalie's highest concentration of ingredients makes this luxe cream unparalleled when it comes to anti-aging and brightening power. It uses resveratrol for lifting and firming, viniferine for brightening, and antioxidant-rich grape seed polyphenols meant to protect your skin from any further damage.
This pick is a rich, emollient moisturizer that encourages collagen and elastin production in order to strengthen your skin. It features a medley of vitamin C, lemon bioflavonoids, and white tea (ingredients that promise to neutralize free radicals, increase cell turnover, and banish discoloration).
Cleveland Clinic. Pigmentation: abnormal pigmentation. Updated March 29, 2016.
Davinelli S, Nielsen ME, Scapagnini G. Astaxanthin in skin health, repair, and disease: a comprehensive review. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):522. doi:10.3390/nu10040522