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14 Best Dark Spot Correctors, According to Skin Experts

Updated: May 30, 2024

Frustrated with hyperpigmentation? These expert-approved dark spot correctors can help you get rid of those bothersome patches once and for all.

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There’s likely little you wouldn’t do or try to fade dark spots on your skin, be it using foundation and concealer or trying unusual skin care tactics like slugging. Hyperpigmentation—also known as dark spots, age spots or liver spots—may be caused by acne scars, excessive sun exposure or hormonal changes. They occur when your skin revs up its production of melanin, the pigment that controls skin color.

When melanin production is in overdrive, you may develop dark patches of skin. There are lots of products out there that promise to help you fade dark spots, but which is the best dark spot corrector for you? The key is knowing what ingredients to look for, says board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Marcus.

There are many gentle, effective ingredients that can help fade your dark spots—alone and in combination, says Dr. Marcus.  These include: tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide and vitamin C. To sift through all the options on the market, we turned to the experts. Read on for the best best dark spot correctors, recommended by top dermatologists, aestheticians and plastic surgeons.

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Best for melasma

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense

Pros:

  • Hydroquinone-free
  • Especially effective against newer spots

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Takes time and consistency to see results

This hydroquinone-free serum includes three of Dr. Marcus’s favorite ingredients for fading dark spots: tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide. One reviewer was very satisfied: “This has been a game changer! I have had terrible melasma, and this has been the only serum that has completely faded it!” Characterized by brown or blue-gray patches or freckle-like spots, melasma is also known as the “mask of pregnancy” because it often occurs with hormonal changes during pregnancy.

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Best for acne scars

Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum

Pros:

  • Great for dark acne marks
  • Won’t clog pores

Cons:

  • Takes time to work

This serum contains 4 percent niacinamide, which has been shown in several studies to help with the appearance of hyperpigmentation, says dermatologist Camille Howard, MD. “This serum paired with a good sunscreen is chef’s kiss,” she says. If you still struggle with acne, try these foundations for acne-prone skin.

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Best for quick results

SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum

Pros:

  • Results in as little as two weeks
  • Also helps to prevent future discoloration

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • More effective against hyperpigmentation than melasma

This hydroquinone-free serum is packed with tranexamic acid, phytic acid, niacinamide, and many more powerful brightening and lightening ingredients, says Taylor Worden, celebrity aesthetician and founder of Taylor Worden Skin. “You will see results in as little as two weeks,” she says. Until then, learn the right way to apply concealer.

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Best for vitamin C

Maya Chia Super Lift Vitamin C-More Treatment

Pros:

  • Three types of vitamin C
  • Smooths fine lines and wrinkles

Cons:

  • Expensive

This product has all the key ingredients, including three types of vitamin C, niacinamide, tranexamic acid, the antioxidant ferulic acid, and peptides to help brighten the skin, says dermatologist Hadley King, MD. “It diminishes the look of fine lines and wrinkles, immediately (with a temporary tightening/smoothing effect) and in the long-term.” Try it with this vitamin C serum for even more effect.

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Best budget pick

Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Dark Spot Corrector

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Improves hydration
  • Reduces file lines and wrinkles

Cons:

  • Improvements take longer than other brands

This cream contains a stable form of vitamin C plus Neutrogena’s Accelerated Retinol SA (sustained action), a combination of retinol, glucose complex (a retinol booster), and moisturizing hyaluronic acid, says dermatologist Vivian Bucay, MD. “With consistent daily use as well as daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen, people can expect to see skin that looks smoother, brighter, and more hydrated, with a reduction in the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles, thanks to retinol,” she says.

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Best splurge

Bioeffect EGF Power Cream

Pros:

  • Non-irritating
  • Nourishing

Cons:

  • Very expensive

This cream contains barley EGF, a powerful growth factor known for its role in skin health, plus niacinamide and other potent plant-based ingredients, says dermatologist Anetta Reszko, MD, PhD. “In a three-month product efficacy study, findings showed a clear improvement of skin pigmentation following application twice a day of Bioeffect EGF Power Cream for 90 days,” she says. Looking for other skin-soothing products? Check out these foundations for dry skin.

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Best for stubborn dark spots

Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer

Pros:

  • Fragrance-free
  • Penetrates deep
  • Budget-friendly

Cons:

  • Some users report malfunctions with the dispenser

Dark spots don’t stand a chance against Clinique’s Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector & Optimizer. As one verified Amazon reviewer puts it: “After using hundreds of creams and treatments, this serum is the only thing that took away the stains.” Powered by the CL302 Brightening Complex plus vitamin C, this serum penetrates 21 layers into the skin’s surface, stopping dark spots in their tracks while a green tea extract soothes skin.

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Best for evening skin tone

Image Skincare Vital C Hydrating Anti-Aging Serum

Pros:

  • Improves overall skin tone and texture
  • Hydrating
  • Good for sensitive skin

Cons:

  • Reviewers report price increases

Powered by vitamin C, moisturizing hyaluronic acid, and soothing green tea extract, Vital C Hydrating Anti-Aging Serum brightens and improves uneven skin tone, says dermatologist Jenny Liu, MD. “Expect improvement in overall skin radiance, skin tone, texture, and hydration within four weeks,” she says. Another important step in your skin care routine is exfoliating regularly with a quality face scrub.

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Best for targeted dark spot reduction

iS Clinical Brightening Serum

Pros:

  • Targeted treatment
  • Suitable for all skin types

Cons:

  • Expensive

Some acne treatments zero in on blemishes—this serum takes that same super-targeted approach for dark marks, Dr. Marcus says. It contains a blend of Norwegian sea kelp extracts and other botanical acids that work together to lighten and brighten age spots.

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Best for the body

Spot Fade Dark Spot Body Correcting Serum

Pros:

  • Comes in a larger quantity than other dark spot correctors for allover use
  • Quick-acting

Cons:

  • Expensive unless it’s on sale

This serum evens out skin tone and fades dark spots anywhere on the body, says dermatologist Susan Van Dyke, MD. It contains a cocktail of ingredients, including kojic acid, retinol, tranexamic acid, and niacinamide. “These four extraordinary ingredients reduce hyperpigmentation on their own, but when combined, produce even better results,” she says. Improvements are noticeable in as little as two weeks. Another important product for your body? Hand cream.

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Best for all skin types

Isdinceutics Melaclear Dark Spot Correcting Serum

Pros:

  • Safe for all skin types
  • Includes vitamin C

Cons:

  • Takes some time to see results
  • Some users feel it leaves a residue

This hydroquinone-free serum is packed with phytic acid, vitamin C, green tea leaf extract, and grape seed extract, which all work together to brighten, even, and correct discoloration on your skin, says Worden. “It can be used all year, and all skin types can use it.” Don’t forget to follow it with moisturizer, another year-round product.

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Best tinted dark spot corrector

PÜR 4-in-1 Correcting Primer Dark Spot Corrector

Pros:

  • Double duty as a primer or concealer
  • A little goes a long way, so the product lasts
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Tint is too orange for some skin tones

This peach-toned dark spot corrector contains an encapsulated blend of retinol, lactic acid, shea butter, and a ceramide that all work together to fade dark spots and blur fine lines and wrinkles. Because it’s tinted, it also functions as a primer or concealer.

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Best stick dark spot corrector

Olay Skin Brightening Serum Stick with Vitamin C and Vitamin B3

Pros:

  • Stick form makes it convenient to carry and easy to apply
  • Great for under-eye circles
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Has a fragrance

This serum comes in stick form, making it super easy to apply, and includes both vitamin B3 and vitamin C to brighten skin tone. Amazon reviewer Pensters says, “This serum is awesome—my face looks so bright after applying! Plus, it works well with moisturizer and other face products!” Try it with one of these foundations for mature skin.

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Best for redness reduction

Sente Dermal Repair Cream

Pros:

  • Reduces redness
  • Soothes irritated skin

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Can be too thick for daytime use

This dark spot corrector actually bills itself as a repair cream, but is powered by heparan sulfate analog, which cools inflammation and reduces redness, along with dark-spot fighting niacinamide, says dermatologist Eva Simmons-O’Brien, MD. “Some dark spots may have vascularity running through the brown pigment, so anything that can reduce redness can improve pigment.”

What to look for when buying the best dark spot correctors

There are many gentle, effective ingredients that can help fade your dark spots—alone and in combination, says Dr. Marcus. Ingredients to look for include: tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide and vitamin C.

Tranexamic acid blocks the interaction between the melanocytes and the skin cells on your skin’s surface called keratinocytes. Kojic acid and vitamin C inhibit the enzyme tyrosinase, which is instrumental in the synthesis of melanin, explains Dr. Marcus. “Once melanin is no longer being formed in excess, the skin has a chance to return to a more even coloration,” she says. Another effective dark spot corrector, niacinamide works by interrupting the cell pigmentation process. Retinol speeds up cell turnover to peel away dark spots.

Why you should trust us

I am an award-winning health-science writer with a wealth of experience, having published articles on Reader’s Digest, WebMD, healthday.com and cnn.com. My work has covered various skincare topics, including anti-aging eye creams, LED masks, vitamin C serums and face washes. Through my research and writing, I’ve consulted with numerous dermatologists and doctors, giving me a deep understanding of the skincare industry.

For this article, I interviewed a variety of reputable sources to delve into the science behind dark spots and to identify the best options to treat them. Our panel of experts included:

  • Rebecca Marcus, MD, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology
  • Hadley King, a dermatologist and clinical instructor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University
  • Vivian Bucay, MD, a dermatologist and owner of Bucay Center for Dermatology and Aesthetics
  • Camille Howard, MD, a dermatologist in New York City
  • Anetta Reszko MD, PhD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and assistant attending dermatologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital
  • Eva Simmons-O’Brien, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Taylor Worden, an aesthetician and founder of Taylor Worden Skin
  • Jenny Liu, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School
  • Susan Van Dyke, MD, a dermatologist in Paradise Valley, Arizona

How we found the best dark spot correctors

Our picks for the best dark spot correctors are based on expert recommendations from top dermatologists, aestheticians and plastic surgeons. We combined their know-how with user reviews and ratings to develop a comprehensive list of the best dark spot correctors for every skin type at every price point.

FAQ

What is the most effective dark spot corrector?

While creams and face serums are great, sometimes bigger guns like chemical peels, intense pulsed light (IPL) or lasers may be needed for full correction. Hydroquinone—the bleaching agent used to lighten dark patches of skin—is another option, and it works really well…until it doesn’t. “This popular skin lightening ingredient is very effective, but if overused, it can cause darkening of the skin,” notes Dr. Marcus. For this reason, it’s important to only use hydroquinone under a doctor’s close supervision and instruction, for limited periods of time.

How long do dark spot correctors take to work?

Any over-the-counter topical lightening product takes time to work. Be patient, says Dr. Marcus. “The effects usually start to appear after about two weeks of consistent use and continue to improve over time,” she says. Sun exposure makes dark spots worse and can undo all the benefits of your lightening product, she adds. “Even a tiny bit of sun exposure can erase all your hard work and cause dark spots to recur,” she adds. Remember to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen every single day. (Try these expert-approved face sunscreens.)