Dark spots on the skin (AKA hyperpigmentation) can be caused by sun damage (sun spots or age spots), hormonal changes (melasma) or after damage to the skin – most commonly acne (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation).
What is the best formula for reducing the appearance of dark spots
The most effective treatment used by dermatologists for hyperpigmentation is called the Kligman formula (the original dark spot treatment, which inspired the MDacne Dark Spot Remover). It includes three main elements:
Hydroquinone—the gold standard anti-pigmentation agent
Retinoid—enhances skin penetration of the hydroquinone
Hydrocortisone—reduces skin irritation to the treatment
While this formula is proven to be extremely effective in treating dark spots, it is only available with a prescription and therefore, requires a visit to a dermatologist to obtain (often prohibitively expensive and time consuming). Several skincare brands now offer their own dark spot correctors available over-the-counter without a prescription
What are the most important ingredients for dark spot correcting?
As a dermatologist with decades of experience treating acne and post-acne hyperpigmentation, I believe the best dark spot correctors are those that combine the following five elements.
1. Pigment Lightening Agent: Medical grade skin lightening ingredients (such as hydroquinone) to reduce the hyperpigmentation in the fastest and most effective way but mild enough to be suitable for all skin types (including sensitive skin).
2. BHAs and/or AHAs: BHAs (beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid) and AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid) help the active ingredients penetrate the lower layers of the skin where the excess melanin (pigmentation) accumulates
3. Retinoids: Additional ingredient to help increase penetration, even skin tone, and add a natural glow to the skin (also has an anti-aging effect, including preventing fine lines and wrinkles)
4. Anti-inflammatory ingredients: Ingredients that help reduce skin irritation during treatment.
What are the best dark spot removers available on the market and how do they compare?
There are several dark spot treatments available over-the-counter (i.e. without a prescription). Each of these skincare products reports to help improve uneven skin tone by preventing excess melanin production, increasing cell turnover, and removing dead skin cells. These are some of our favorites and how they compare.
Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector
Rodan & Fields Reverse Complex
Pro Tip: Prevent future dark spots
Regardless of the causes of your dark spots, it is known that sun exposure can more hyperpigmentation even darker. While treating dark spots with any of these products or the prescription Kligman formula, it is critical to limit sun exposure and apply an oil-free daily SPF 30 sunscreen.