Home » Dermatologists on How to Get Rid of Dark Spots on Your Face

Dermatologists on How to Get Rid of Dark Spots on Your Face

As we prepare for warmer temperatures and more socializing come summertime, you might be wondering how to get rid of dark spots on your face. “Dark spots occur when the skin produces excess melanin, the natural brown pigment that gives our skin color,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green. “The exact reason why dark spots appear ranges from acne scars to excessive sun exposure to aging to nutritional deficiencies. However, most dark spots are a result of sun exposure.”

At-Home Dark Spot Treatments

  • The Expert-Approved Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $182
  • The Gentle Exfoliant: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Treatment, $85
  • The Retinol: SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex .25, $64
  • The Daily SPF: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $41
  • The Buzzy Serum: Topicals Faded Serum, $38
  • The Supercharged Peel: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, $92
  • The Brightening Serum: Ourself Daily Dark Spot Intercept, $260

“When your skin is exposed to the sun, its natural reaction is to produce melanin, which helps to block UV radiation from further damaging our DNA and skin. This is often why, when we go into the sun for prolonged periods, our skin gets tanned,” she says. “It is also the reason why individuals with fair skin easily burn in the sun while those with darker skin complexions are less likely to get sunburned. 

Sometimes, the sun causes an uneven increase in melanin production. This excess melanin gets clumped up and spills in between skin cells, giving the appearance of dark spots.”

In short, dark spots are a result of hyperpigmentation. Green notes that most dark spots, such as sun or age spots are preventable with proper SPF protection and sun avoidance.  

But, if you notice a new spot that changes in size or color, it’s best to consult a board-certified dermatologist to rule out skin cancer. “Anything out of the ordinary, especially if you have fair skin or a family history of skin cancer, should be checked out. I recommend getting regular skin exams so nothing suspicious goes unnoticed,” Green says. 

Once you’ve determined that a new freckle is harmless, it’s time to prevent and treat it through your at-home skin-care regimen. Here, dermatologists walk us through how to get rid of dark spots—from everyday sun protection to rejuvenating retinol treatments.

Always Apply SPF

“Your first line of defense is always going to be sunscreen. Everyone should wear at least SPF 30 on their face daily and reapply every two hours if outside in the sun, or sitting next to a window,” notes Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama.

Green suggests the EltaMD UV Clear, dubbing it one of the best sunscreens out there. “This product is a lightweight oil-free face sunscreen that works well with all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin,” she says. “It is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for daily use and also contains sodium hyaluronate and lactic acid which helps keep the skin hydrated and your pores clear.” 

Or, take your pick between La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane or Supergoop!’s Unseen, which pair sheer nourishment with ample SPF protection. Because our experts emphasize the need to apply sunscreen throughout the day, be sure to stock up on convenient formulas that make reapplication simple. Habit’s mister is a lightweight spray formula that delivers UV protection and won’t mess up your makeup.

Consider Antioxidant-Rich Products

“You also want to make sure you are using skin-care products with antioxidants, which are essential to helping reduce free radicals that can lead to hyperpigmentation,” says Hartman. Consider vitamins A, C, and E, as well as ferulic acid, resveratrol, and niacinamide. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Alexis Stephens is a fan of Eadem’s Milk Marvel for fading post-acne dark marks. 

“The unique formula also helps to prevent future hyperpigmentation and gently resurface the skin. It is uniquely formulated with the key ingredients niacinamide, encapsulated vitamin C, amber algae and enzymes.” Stephens also likes the Isdin Sunisdin sun capsules to “help skin fight photoaging and the pro-pigmentation UV rays”—along with boosting overall radiance and elasticity. 

Otherwise, experts recommend the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic again and again for its environmental protection, or the cosmetic chemist-formulated BeautyStat Universal C to prevent signs of aging without oxidizing.

Reach for Retin-A or Retinol

“It’s also important to get into the habit of gently exfoliating the skin to remove dead skin cells that are often harboring excess pigment. This can be done by using a topical retinoid product that both treats and fades hyperpigmentation,” explains Stephens. While Green says that retin-a (tretinoin) or retinoids are best, an ingredient that can be picked up by a beauty subscription service like Curology, retinol is the next best bet without a prescription.

“Retinol is a weaker over-the-counter formula of retinoids and can provide similar benefits in reducing the appearance of dark spots, although it will typically take much longer,” Green explains. Take your pick of SkinCeuticals’s Retinol 0.3, SkinMedica’s Retinol Complex .25, or CeraVe’s Skin Renewing serum to experience the restorative benefits of the oft-recommended ingredient.

Incorporate Gentle Exfoliants

Hartman suggests “a product with an exfoliating active ingredient, like AHA, to help remove the top surface layer of the skin to treat dark spots.” This category of exfoliants includes glycolic, mandelic, and lactic acids which Stephens says “helps to remove dead skin cells while moisturizing the skin.” 

If you’d prefer a serum formula, Sunday Riley’s Good Genes is a solid option packed with lactic acid to exfoliate and brighten, whereas Alpha-H’s glycolic acid-enriched formula is an excellent liquid exfoliant known to improve skin tone and texture overnight. Similarly, at-home peels might be worth incorporating for those unable to get a professional treatment. Take options by M-61 or Dr. Dennis Gross’s peels, for example; these supercharged towelettes help reduce the look of discoloration through a cocktail of exfoliating acids.

Try Specialized Treatments

Thanks to a new class of specialized treatments, one can give their dark spots extra TLC. Those interested in a dermatologist-approved solution should seriously consider Cyspera’s system that Hartman advocates for. “Cyspera is my first choice for patients dealing with hyperpigmentation, especially patients of color, as hyperpigmentation can be difficult to treat successfully in darker skin,” he details. “Its active ingredient, cysteamine, is an exclusive amino acid derivative that helps reduce pigment and is effective in treating all skin tones.” Or, there’s board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss’s recently-launched brand, PillowtalkDerm, which features a Major Fade collection formulated, in part, based on her own experience treating melasma and discoloration. 

On the other hand, there are a few contemporary beauty labels making waves for their efficacious offerings. There is Topicals Faded serum which uses a blend of tranexamic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide to reduce the look of dark spots, patches, and post-acne scarring. Ourself’s brightening serum, on the other hand, is powered by the brand’s patented technology enriched by the likes of peptides and powerhouse brightening ingredients, alongside vitamin C and niacinamide to intercept the overproduction of new melanin and lighten existing spots. Or perhaps a patch approach works best for your regimen? In that case, Hero Cosmetics recently launched a new and improved version of its Micropoint patches which deposits tranexamic acid, vitamin C, licorice root, and niacinamide onto dark spots through 395 micropoints to fade post-blemish marks.

Wear Sun-Protective Clothing

“The sunlight and visible light spectrum is responsible for the great majority of hyperpigmentation, hence the number one way to both prevent and treat dark marks is properly using and applying a broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 40+ with HEVL/blue light protection and taking additional sun protective measures with sunglasses, UPF clothing and seeking the shade when possible,” says Stephens. She reaches for the Bluestone Sunshields for extra protection. For the body, consider Lululemon’s shirt which offers UPF 40+ protection. “If possible, try to avoid going out for prolonged periods when the sun is at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” says Green, who adds that a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses are a good choice to protect your eyes and scalp from the sun.

Source: Vogue