The Ultimate Guide to Getting Rid of Dark Spots, According to Dermatologists

Clear, glowy, porcelain-like skin san dark spots is always the goal, right? But like every other journey in life, you can't have a success story without jumping through a few hoops. Skin is a process, and sometimes dark spots feel impossible to avoid, so we tapped experts to fill us in on what they are and how to get rid of them.

"Hyperpigmentation is a term used to describe areas of skin that have more pigmentation than intended by nature. These areas visibly contrast with the surrounding unaffected skin, leading to unevenness of color and/or tone" dermatologist Craig Kraffert, MD, explains. And there are a few different kinds of dark spots that are important to ID on your face before moving forward with products or procedures to banish them.

Vic Narurkar, MD, of Bay Area Laser Institute confirms. "Photodamage induced by chronic UV exposure can lead to the appearance of lentigos, often called sunspots, and a condition known as actinic bronzing where sun-exposed areas are darker and blotchy," says Narurkar. There's also melasma. "Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation more common in women and often induced by birth control pills and pregnancy and exacerbated by both sun and heat," he explains. "Another type of hyperpigmentation is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH. This is more common in darker skin tones. We see this after acne where dark spots are left after the acne lesions resolve and after any kind of trauma to the skin such as scars."

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Depending on your skin tone, you can be more prone to certain types of hyperpigmentation. "Lighter skin tones are more susceptible to lentigos and actinic bronzing," says Narukar. "Darker skin tones more susceptible to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, especially Asian skin. Melasma is more common in women and darker skin tones." According to Kraffert, melasma is the most common form of hyperpigmentation. "Hyperpigmented patches develop primarily on the cheekbones, forehead, and upper lip and can also be on the nose, chin, lower cheeks, and lateral neck," Kraffert points out. "Your tendency to develop melasma is based in both genetic and hormonal components and is also frequently exacerbated by sun exposure." 

Now that we have a clear understanding of what hyperpigmentation is and the different types of dark spots, this is what experts say the key is to successfully zapping them. "The absolute best way to treat hyperpigmentation is first identify the cause and see if any exacerbating factors can be reduced," says Narurkar. "For example, with melasma, going off the pill can help. For sun damage, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Then, a combination approach using topicals, lasers, and peels is best." 

The most tried-and-true way to keep your dark spots from worsening is by protecting them from the sun. "There is one key component necessary for successful at-home treatment of hyperpigmentation: Strict and obsessively consistent avoidance of sun exposure is mandatory," Kraffert reiterates. "Just one day of unprotected sun exposure can disrupt and even destroy the benefit from months of meticulously applied brightening creams. Effective broad-spectrum sun protection, sun avoidance, and sun protective clothing are essential for lasting results." 

Now that you're also an expert on hyperpigmentation, keep reading for the products dermatologist recommend for nipping these in the bud.