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Our top pick is the Hyper Skin Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum
When it comes to a more even-looking complexion, dark spots are one of the most stubborn blemishes to deal with, as they can often take some time to fade. And while age is commonly connected to this skincare woe, there are several reasons our skin experiences dark spots — and several ways (including in-office laser treatments, at-home light therapy devices, and topical skincare formulas) to get rid of them, too.
“Dark spots are scars caused by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or discoloration of the skin due to damage such as acne scars or sun exposure,” Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic, tells PEOPLE. While many types of dark spots are common and harmless, Dr. Engelman notes that people choose to fade them for cosmetic reasons in pursuit of a more even skin tone.
Before using dark spot correctors, it’s always best to consult with a dermatologist to find out if your specific concerns can be treated with over-the-counter formulas. That being said, Libby Rhee, DO, FAAD, dermatology advisor for Ro, says hyperpigmentation spots on the face and body that are flat, round, or oval-shaped and have a history of frequent direct sun exposure can likely be treated with a correcting formula.
Dark spot correctors are one of the best skincare formulas for reducing the appearance of these blemishes at home, as they promote cellular turnover and use ingredients that help fade hyperpigmentation over time. Though, due to their persistent nature, you can’t just use any dark spot corrector to get the results you want. With this in mind, we researched dozens of dark spot correctors before ultimately testing over a dozen formulas to find the best dark spot correctors. After several weeks of trying them out in real life, these 11 are worth the buy.
Here are the best dark spot correctors for every budget and skin type, recommended by PEOPLE Tested.
Best Overall: Hyper Skin Hyper Even Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum
Our dark spots faded significantly after just one month of regular use.
It’s formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid, which supports skin health and creates a better environment for regeneration.
It also features turmeric and salicylic acid to prevent future breakouts.
We simply loved everything about this dark spot corrector!
Our top pick for the best dark spot corrector overall is the Hyper Skin Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum. Formulated with a mix of vitamin C, kojic acid, and hyaluronic acid, this skincare formula is designed to target stubborn blemishes caused by acne scarring and sun damage. On top of that, it also features turmeric and salicylic acid for their anti-inflammatory benefits and ability to keep future breakouts at bay, making it a good choice for oily and acne-prone skin, too.
When testing this formula, we were most impressed by how gentle it is, especially for everyday use. Despite several potent superstar ingredients, it didn’t cause any irritation and was highly effective at brightening the complexion. After just one month of regular use, we noticed significant changes to our dark spots without it stripping our skin (and, instead, keeping it well-nourished). Keep in mind that this is not a spot treatment; the product should be applied all over the face.
Price at time of publish: $58
Size: 0.5 oz., 1 oz. | Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, kojic acid, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: All
Best Budget: Versed Out of Sight Dark Spot Gel
We found this spot treatment formula easy to use and fast-absorbing.
Since it's incredibly lightweight and quickly absorbs, it layers very nicely with other skincare.
Highly effective at fading blemishes in our testing.
It takes a couple of months to notice significant changes.
Because of their potency, dark spot correctors aren’t always the most budget-friendly formulas. However, if you’re looking for a cheaper solution that works really well, we recommend Versed Out of Sight Dark Spot Gel. This dark spot corrector is designed to work as a spot treatment and is formulated with tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, and licorice root extract to reduce the appearance of dark spots over time.
While testing this formula, we found that it took around two months to notice any significant changes to our dark spots, but it was still highly effective at fading blemishes. We also love that this formula is so lightweight and fast absorbing, which makes it super easy to use daily and layer under skincare and makeup formulas.
Price at time of publish: $16.99
Size: 0.5 oz. | Key Ingredients: Tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, licorice root extract | Skin Type: All
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: PCA Skin Dark Spot Corrector
It improved some of our dark spots after just two weeks of use (and, after three months, most of our spots were completely gone).
It is also potent enough to keep breakouts at bay.
While pricey, a little bit of this formula goes a long way.
It has an acquired scent that some people may find off-putting.
For those with acne-prone or oily skin, we recommend the PCA Skin Hydroquinone-Free Pigment Gel Face Serum, which is formulated with several quality ingredients that are effective at fading dark spots, including phenylethyl resorcinol, azelaic acid, and kojic acid. While this dark spot corrector is pricier compared to others we tested, a little goes a long way.
After testing for just two weeks, we saw a noticeable difference in our complexion’s clarity and, after three months, most of our dark spots were completely gone. Additionally, we found that this formula helps keep breakouts at bay as our skin not only looked even in tone but remained blemish-free during testing. One small drawback is the scent, which is an acquired taste and might not appeal to everyone.
Price at time of publish: $64
Size: 1 oz. | Key Ingredients: Phenylethyl resorcinol, azelaic acid, kojic acid | Skin Type: All, especially acne-prone skin
Best for Body: CITYGOO Dark Spot Remover for Face and Bod
It boasts a super gentle and non-irritating formula.
Featuring niacinamide, this can help fade dark spots while also supporting anti-aging efforts.
It took nearly all three months to see a change in our skin.
When it comes to dark spot correctors, we often find formulas specifically for the face. However, if you want something that can also be used on the body, we love the CITYGOO Dark Spot Remover for Face and Body. Formulated with niacinamide and vitamin B5, this multifunctional skincare formula can improve the look of sun damage on the face and the body.
Although the formula took almost the entire three-month testing period to notice any changes, it was fast-absorbing and easy to apply as a spot treatment to concerns on the body — plus, it works well for maintenance. It also has a budget-friendly price tag and its formula is gentle enough to use daily without causing any irritation, making it well worth the try if you're committed to using it for the long haul.
Price at time of publish: $17.98 (orig. $19.98)
Size: 1.7 oz. | Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin B5 | Skin Type: All
Best Lightweight: Fenty Skin Watch Ya Tone 5% Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum with Vitamin C
It’s fragrance-free, so it’s safe for sensitive skin.
The formula is lightweight and absorbs easily.
It made our complexion more even-looking over time.
It helped fade dark spots — but didn’t get rid of them completely.
Dark spot correctors might not seem like a sensitive skin-friendly skincare product, but you can totally maintain an even-looking skin tone without risking irritation, thanks to the Fenty Skin Watch Ya Tone 5% Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum with Vitamin C. This formula is fragrance-free, making it an excellent option for sensitive skin types, plus it features lots of nourishing ingredients, including natural botanicals like licorice root, vitamin C, camu camu, and Barbados cherry, which work together to increase skin radiance.
When testing this formula, we were most impressed by its lightweight texture which absorbs easily into the complexion and makes it easy to layer other products, including makeup). While it didn’t get rid of our dark spots completely, it helped fade them with regular use and worked well for maintaining a more even-looking complexion.
Price at time of publish: $42
Size: 1 oz. | Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, licorice root extract, camu camu, Barbados cherry | Skin Type: All
Best for Dark Circles: Hero Cosmetics Lightning Wand Dark Spot Brightening Serum
A little goes a long way, so this will last you a long time.
The convenient pen dispenser makes it easy to use.
It can also be used on acne blemishes in addition to dark circles.
It takes almost three months to see a difference, so be patient!
Some dark spot correctors are also highly effective at fading dark pigmentation around the eyes. After testing several formulas, we found the Hero Cosmetics Lightning Wand Dark Spot Brightening Serum is the best for targeting this skincare woe.
While it did take almost all three months for us to see a big change in our under-eye circles, we love how convenient the formula is — it’s a pen! — and that it includes potent ingredients such as vitamin C, licorice root, and tranexamic acid to fade hyperpigmentation. Additionally, it only takes a little bit of formula to achieve results, and it can be used in a multitude of ways, including on sun damage and acne blemishes, so it’s excellent value.
Price at time of publish: $19.99
Size: 0.16 oz., 0.34 oz. | Key Ingredients: Tranexamic acid, acetyl glucosamine, vitamin C, licorice root | Skin Type: All, especially acne-prone
Best for Sensitive Skin: SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense
We didn't notice any irritation or tingling sensation on the complexion.
It only took around two months to see a significant difference.
It effectively improves dark under-eye circles and tones of the complexion in addition to getting rid of dark spots and acne blemishes.
It has a slightly sticky feel after application (but absorbs after a couple of minutes).
It’s the most expensive option we tested.
If you have sensitive skin and are looking for a formula that is still effective at reducing hyperpigmentation, consider the Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense. While it is on the pricier side, we love this formula because it doesn’t cause irritation (including that weird tingling sensation you can experience with dark spot correctors) and only took around two months to see a significant difference, which is fairly quick for a more gentle formula.
Additionally, the skincare serum can target hyperpigmentation under the eyes, sun damage, and acne blemishes while toning and evening the complexion. After the testing period, we also noticed that our skin looked more glowy, too. You may notice a slightly sticky feeling right after applying this product, but it goes away and absorbs after just a couple of minutes.
Price at time of publish: $108
Size: 1 oz. | Key Ingredients: Tranexamic acid, ionic acid, niacinamide, sulfuric acid | Skin Type: All
Best Anti-Aging: Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector
This formula provides additional anti-aging benefits thanks to the addition of retinol.
It’s extremely lightweight and easy to layer with other formulas.
Can be used as a spot corrector or applied all over the face.
Since it has retinol, you need to avoid applying in the morning and use SPF during the day.
If you’re looking for a formula that can reduce dark spots while also supporting anti-aging efforts, the Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector is our top pick. As its name suggests, this product includes retinol, which gives it a multitasking advantage and helps target fine lines and wrinkles while also fading the look of dark spots. In addition to using it as a spot corrector, this lightweight formula can be applied all over the face and is easy to layer with other skincare products.
Additionally, the drugstore dark spot corrector features hyaluronic acid to nourish and moisturize the skin, helping to reverse the dryness that often comes with age. While testing this formula, we were most impressed by how well it faded our dark spots after around six weeks of regular use, as well as the firming effect it provided. Since this product includes retinol, which makes the skin more sensitive to the sun, it’s best to apply this at night versus the morning (and be sure to use SPF!).
Price at time of publish: $21.99
Size: 1 oz. | Key Ingredients: Retinol, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: All
Best Blue Light Protection: Veracity Brightening Support
This formula features ascorbyl glucoside, which is the most stable form of vitamin C.
It protects against damage caused by blue light and the sun.
It faded dark spots but didn’t get rid of them completely.
Since the formula is applied all over, the 0.5-oz. size doesn’t last very long.
The Versacity Brightening Support is our top pick for the best brightening formula as it features ascorbyl glucoside, which is the most stable form of vitamin C and absorbs really well into the complexion for effective results. This formula also features nourishing hyaluronic acid, garland lily extract, and gallic acid with a blend of ferulic acid and vitamin E to support UV and blue light protection.
With regular use, we noticed that this formula helps fade dark spots and blemishes (though it didn’t get rid of them altogether) while also improving and toning the complexion. We wish the product came in a larger container since it is intended to be used on the entire face.
Price at time of publish: $55
Size: 0.5 oz. | Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, garland lily extract, advanced hyaluronic acid, gallic acid, ferulic acid, vitamin E | Skin Type: All
Best for Blemishes: Dr. Barbara Sturm Untinted Clarifying Spot Treatment
It targets dark spots while also preventing current breakouts from becoming future dark spots.
It features a collection of potent ingredients that fade dark spots with regular use.
It layers well under other skincare formulas.
It’s a spot treatment so it might not be ideal for all-over breakouts.
If you have specific blemishes you want to target with a dark spot corrector, reach for the Dr. Barbara Sturm Clarifying Spot Treatment. Formulated with acne-prone skin in mind, this spot treatment helps not only fade dark spots caused by acne blemishes but also helps prevent breakouts from turning into dark spots, too.
While testing this formula, we found that the spot treatment helped fade and prevent dark spots effectively enough to support a more even skin tone, and it was easy to layer under other skincare products. We also love how well this formula works at targeting and treating blemishes and even noticed a difference after just a few weeks. Since it’s intended as a spot treatment, it may not be ideal for all-over breakouts. (If you're wanting something to treat the latter, we recommend PCA Skin Hydroquinone-Free Pigment Gel Face Serum.)
Price at time of publish: $55
Size: 0.5 oz. | Key Ingredients: Zinc, vitamin B3, jojoba oil, Panthenol, beeswax, vitamin E, tea tree oil, bioflavonoids | Skin Type: Acne-prone skin
Related: The 14 Best Acne Products of 2023
Best for Glow: Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Treatment Serum
With regular use, our skin looks super hydrated and healthy.
It has anti-aging ingredients that firm the complexion.
It’s a very gentle formula that feels super nourishing upon application.
It took some time to provide a subtle reduction in dark spots.
For a more even-looking complexion and a glow-up, reach for the Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum, which is formulated with all kinds of skincare superstars, including vitamin C which promotes a radiant complexion, plus guava seed, fruit extract, and tranexamic acid.
This gentle formula is soothing and refreshing on the complexion, providing a subtle fading effect on dark spots over time, while also delivering tons of nourishing hydration for healthy skin and an improved glow. Plus, it comes with a side of anti-aging benefits — outside of helping with dark spots — and can firm up the skin.
Price at time of publish: $45
Size: 1 oz. | Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, guava seed, fruit extract, tranexamic acid | Skin Type: All
What to Look for When Buying Dark Spot Correctors
To ensure a dark spot corrector is potent enough to fade blemishes, Dr. Engelman says to first look at the ingredients list and consider a formula with gentle AHAs, vitamin C, and azelaic acid, key ingredients for fading dark spots. “Using retinol at night can also help speed the process along, in addition to providing a number of other excellent skin-fortifying and anti-aging benefits,” says Dr. Engelman.
Our top pick for the best investment dark spot corrector, the PCA Skin Hydroquinone-Free Pigment Gel Face Serum, features azelaic acid and kojic acid to make the complexion more radiant. For a dark spot corrector with vitamin C and retinol, consider the Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector, which is our top pick for anti-aging.
As with most skincare products, it’s also important to consider your skin type and its compatibility with a formula. “Opt for products formulated to suit your skin, whether it’s oily, dry, or sensitive, to minimize the risk of irritation,” says Dr. Pearl Grimes, the chief dermatologist at Mother Science.
Generally speaking, most dark spot correctors on our list are formulated with all skin types in mind. However, if you have sensitive skin, it’s important to pay close attention to certain formulas — like the Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector, which has retinol — as it may include ingredients that cause irritation.
While it’s not exactly something to look for in a dark spot corrector, Dr. Engelman says it’s super important to consider your skincare routine and support the process through SPF and moisturizer. “Keeping the skin properly protected with a broad spectrum SPF helps prevent new dark spots from forming,” she explains. For this reason, Dr. Engelman recommends adding SPF to your routine along with the dark spot corrector.
In addition to sunscreen, moisturizer is essential for someone with dark spots. “The more moisturized and pliable your skin is, the better the healing process,” says Dr. Engelman. “Adding moisture back into the skin can help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and prevent new spots from forming.”
How We Tested
To find the best dark spot correctors, our PEOPLE Tested team began by researching top formulas before selecting 13 formulas to take out for a spin in the real world for a 12-week testing period. Throughout this time, testers checked in regularly, taking careful and extensive notes on their experiences, including how the formula felt on the skin, its absorption, how much product was needed for effective coverage, and how well the dark spot correctors layered with both skincare and makeup formulas.
Throughout the three-month testing period, we also noted the fading process and how well the formulas worked at fading dark spots altogether, as well as condsidered how the correcting formulas impacted our skin’s texture and glow.
Once testing was completed, we came together and shared our notes and insights to determine which dark spot correctors deserve a spot on our top picks list. We meticulously reviewed the notes for each product, comparing the formulas and experiences before narrowing everything down to the 11 best dark spot correctors.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the fastest way to fade dark spots?
The best and fastest way to fade dark spots is usually through laser treatments such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy. However, if you’re looking to fade dark spots at home through dark spot correctors, Dr. Engelman says to start treatment as soon as possible when the damage is fresh. “This will help prevent and heal the dark spot as cellular turnover, induced by the product, will work to remove the top layers of the skin and replace it with newer, brighter skin,” she explains, adding that addressing dark spots ASAP will help fade them faster.
In addition to lasers and using dark spot correctors sooner than later, Dr. Engelman recommends using chemical peels to improve the look of dark spots. “These use a powerful dose of acids to weaken the cellular bonds between skin cells in the dermis,” she notes. “The exfoliation helps to slough away dead skin cells and reveal health ones, improving hyperpigmentation and skin texture.”
How do you permanently fade dark spots?
“Prescription medications like tretinoin and dark spot correctors can successfully permanently fade dark spots, as can more expensive treatments like laser procedures and chemical peels,” says Rhee. “However, it’s also important to proactively prevent dark spots by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen as part of your daily routine, as sun damage is a common reason behind the presence of dark spots.”
With that said, Dr. Engelman notes that the success of fading dark spots depends on the person, skin type, damage, and treatment.
What is the number 1 dark spot corrector?
Our top pick for the best dark spot corrector is the Hyper Skin Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum, which is formulated with a potent mix of vitamin C, kojic acid, and hyaluronic acid and designed to promote a more even-looking complexion all-over while also targeting specific blemishes.
For a more budget-friendly option, we also love the Versed Out of Sight Dark Spot Gel, which is more of a spot treatment and formulated with tranexamic acid — which can target the most stubborn forms of hyperpigmentation — and kojic acid, licorice root, and niacinamide to fade blemishes.
Take Our Word For It
Jessie Quinn is a contributing commerce writer for PEOPLE and has written for publications such as Byrdie, InStyle, The Spruce, NYLON, and more. When covering the best dark spot correctors, Jessie started by thoroughly reviewing the PEOPLE Tested team’s insights, carefully paying attention to the way each formula felt on the skin during the application process, how well they absorbed into the skin, and whether or not the dark spots were effective at fading dark spots. She also considered each formula and looked for noteworthy ingredients such as vitamin C, retinol, azelaic acid, and kojic acid.
Additionally, Jessie reached out to top skincare experts Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic, Libby Rhee, DO, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Liora Dermatology and advisor for direct-to-consumer telehealth company Ro, and Dr. Pearl Grimes, director of The Grimes Center of Medical and Aesthetic Dermatology and chief dermatologist at Mother Science, to learn more about dark spots and dark spot correctors, including what to look for when shopping for an effective formula and how to permanently fade dark spots. As a result, she wrote this list of the best dark spot correctors for every skin type.
What Is PEOPLE Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
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Read the original article on People.