How often do you use this type of product?
This will help us personalize your experience.

Why These 16 Dark-Spot Correctors Work, According to a Dermatologist

UPDATE best-dark-spot-corrector-ThumbnailUPDATE best-dark-spot-corrector-Header

Dark spots and hyperpigmentation on the skin can be so annoying, especially when they appear after just clearing up another issue, like acne. But lucky for you, you live in the golden age of skincare, which means you can find a product that tackles just about every issue; you just need to know how to work them into your skincare routine and which ingredients to reach for. 

According to Cameron Rokhsar, MD, FAAD, FAACS, dark-spot correcting products do work, and they use a combination of exfoliation, pigment correcting agents, antioxidants, and moisturization to get the job done. The easiest and most effective thing you can do right now? Load up on SPF. “Sun exposure can exacerbate the appearance of dark spots and hinder the effectiveness of dark-spot correcting products,” says Dr. Rokhsar, so make sure you’re applying SPF every day, whether you’re noticing dark spots or not (look for a sunscreen with at least an SPF 30).


About the Expert:

Cameron Rokhsar, MD, FAAD, FAACS, is the associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital and founder of the New York Cosmetic, Skin & Laser Surgery Center.

1. Best That Contains Hydroquinone:

MUSELY The Dark Spot Cream

MUSELY The Dark Spot Cream
Courtesy of MUSELY

Dr. Rokhsar touts hydroquinone as one of his most recommended active ingredients to patients with dark spots. “Hydroquinone six percent or eight percent are much more effective but should only be used under the close supervision of a board-certified dermatologist,” he says. 

This dark spot lotion from MUSELY creates a custom formulation for your skin type after a brief doctor review.

2. Best Best-Selling Face Serum:

SUNDAY RILEY C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

SUNDAY RILEY C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

With a 15 percentage of vitamin C, you know this best seller means business. One IPSY member says they “love the brand and I'm seeing a noticeable difference now that I've been using it for a few months.” The formula is fast-absorbing, and vitamin C is one of Dr. Rokhsar’s recommended key ingredients for treating dark spots.

“Dark-spot correcting products may contain antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, or green tea extract,” says Dr. Rokhsar. “Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage the skin and contribute to hyperpigmentation.”

3. Best Brightening Serum:

111SKIN Vitamin C Brightening Booster Serum

111SKIN Vitamin C Brightening Booster Serum

On the topic of vitamin C, this booster serum helps you get even more of its effects. In addition to vitamin C, this formula also features nourishing licorice root to help even out your complexion. "I love this product so much," writes one member. "It's super lightweight and it feels so lovely on my skin. It has a light scent, but it goes away very quickly. Two drops are all I need! Plus, this isn't greasy!"

4. Best Fast-Acting Serum:

MURAD Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum

MURAD Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum

This MURAD treatment also contains Dr. Rokhsar’s favorite dark spot ingredient—hydroquinone—at two percent. Those who have tried this serum says it gets to work in as little as a week, so if you’re strapped for time, this is definitely the one to pick up. 

5. Best Hydrating Serum:

DERMA E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

DERMA E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

In addition to trusty vitamin C, this formula also features nourishing green tea extract, soothing aloe vera, and always-hydrating hyaluronic acid. Smooth a few drops around your face and neck morning and night for a treatment that not only targets dark spots but also hydrates and promotes a radiant glow. "Loved it so much that it was gone in two weeks," one member writes. "Perfect consistency and it left my skin feeling supple and not one bit greasy."

6. Best Antioxidant-Packed Serum:

GOLDFADEN MD Brightening Elixir Protect + Repair Brightening Serum

GOLDFADEN MD Brightening Elixir Protect + Repair Brightening Serum

This powerhouse dark-spot serum is formulated with vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid, an antioxidant that essentially heightens the efficacy of other antioxidants (like vitamin C) in a product. And if that ingredient list wasn’t enough to make you love it already, this formula also contains vitamins B3 (aka niacinamide) and B5, which work to nourish and protect your newly even-toned skin. 

One IPSY member said, “This was the last product I was missing to make my skincare routine complete and I love it! These products have made my skin feel healthy and glow from the inside out.”

7. Best Lightweight Serum:

M.A.D. SKINCARE Spot on Targeted Skin Brightening Serum

M.A.D. SKINCARE Spot on Targeted Skin Brightening Serum

If you have a specific dark spot you're looking to target, apply this serum directly to the area you want to brighten up. Or, for a major radiance boost, apply a thin layer all over the face and neck. In addition to vitamin C, this formula uses a unique blend of botanical extracts to even out the skin tone. “My favorite out of everything I've tried,” says one member. “My skin loved it. And I have a hard time finding things for my skin since I am very sensitive and acne-prone.”

8. Best Moisturizer for Dark Spots:

SUNDAY RILEY Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream

SUNDAY RILEY Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream

This double-duty lotion is part moisturizer, part dark spot corrector, and all-around a great pick for anyone with sensitive skin or dry skin. The formula uses papaya enzyme extract and alpha-arbutin, an extract derived from antioxidant-rich berries, to even out discoloration. 

Dr. Rokhsar says moisturizing is a key step in reducing the appearance of dark spots. “Keeping the skin well-hydrated is important for overall skin health and can contribute to a more even skin tone,” he says. “Moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides can help improve the skin's barrier function, retain moisture, and promote a smoother, more radiant complexion.”

9. Best Mask for Dark Spots:

WANDER BEAUTY Lift Off Purifying and Brightening Peel Off Mask

WANDER BEAUTY Lift Off Purifying and Brightening Peel Off Mask

For an intensive treatment, try incorporating a brightening mask into your weekly skincare routine. This naturally berry-pink option is packed with antioxidants from açai, goji berry, and green tea extracts to noticeably brighten up dull skin. "This mask truly works," says one member. "It leaves my skin looking and feeling radiant! I was sad when I ran out! Getting more for sure!"

10. Best Clay Mask for Dark Spots:

GENERATION SKIN Ultra Violet Bright

GENERATION SKIN Ultra Violet Bright

If peel-off masks aren't your thing, instead try this nourishing clay mask. The fun purple formula is packed with plum extract, which acts similarly to an alpha-hydroxy acid by gently exfoliating to reveal a smoother, brighter complexion. "I absolutely love this product," says one member. "I can feel it working the minute I apply it and my skin glows after removal."

11. Best With Retinol:

VERSO SKINCARE Dark Spot Fix

VERSO SKINCARE Dark Spot Fix

Powered by a proprietary "retinol 8 complex," this formula offers eight times the benefits of standard retinol (or prescription retinoids)—with half the irritation. This results-driven serum works to target both dark spots and fine lines, and unlike most other over-the-counter treatments out there, you can use this one as a powerful and precise spot treatment for breakouts or those tough-to-treat areas that need some extra love. "Every once in a while, I’ll get a pimple that leaves a dark mark and this has actually helped to speed up the time it takes to fade," one member writes.

12. Best Toner for Dark Spots:

CAUDALIE Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence

CAUDALIE Vinoperfect Concentrated Brightening Essence

This toner works in two ways: Glycolic acid gently exfoliates away dead skin cells to create a more luminous complexion, while white peony extract revitalizes and further brightens up your skin. On top of that, this essence also leaves you super moisturized thanks to the inclusion of CAUDALÍE's signature organic grape water. "I was blown away by this toner! It made my skin much brighter, but I also noticed that my cystic acne went away within a week," one IPSY member writes. "I’d been dealing with it for several years."

13. Best Highest Concentration of Vitamin C:

MINTPEAR Vitamin C Serum

MINTPEAR Vitamin C Serum

This potent serum comes with a whopping dose of 25 percent vitamin C to send those firming, anti-aging benefits into overdrive. All-natural ingredients like aloe vera, thyme extract, vitamin E, and chamomile extract combine with vitamin C to create a dream team of ingredients that soothes and moisturizes your complexion. “It really worked on the wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes!” one member wrote.

14. Best for Fighting Acne:

DR. LIN SKINCARE Acne Spot Corrector

DR. LIN SKINCARE Acne Spot Corrector

If your dark spots are usually the result of acne scars, try this targeted corrector that uses five percent benzoyl peroxide to both kill acne-causing bacteria and diminish the appearance of any dark marks left behind. It's a brightener and an acne treatment all wrapped up into one tiny, must-have package. After trying this skincare product, one member says, "[It] takes a few uses in order to see results, but great works on dark spots and individual blemishes—it fades them and repairs any damaged skin."

15. Best On-the-Go Pads:

FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Pads

FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Pads

If you have sensitive skin, any products by FIRST AID BEAUTY are worth trying. These handy radiance pads contain lactic and glycolic acids that gently exfoliate, tone, and brighten quickly and conveniently. Think of them like a gentle at-home chemical peel. Next time you're on the go and need a skincare fix, pack these babies in your bag. "Definitely going to stock up on these as I fly for work a lot and this gave me a great refresh after I got off the airplane," says one member. 

16. Best With Linoleic Acid:

EQUITANCE Brightening Serum & Spot Corrector

EQUITANCE Brightening Serum & Spot Corrector

The key brightening ingredient in this formula is linoleic acid, a fatty acid that can lighten dark spots by suppressing melanin production. This targeted treatment works powerfully on small patches of the face to create visibly brighter results. "After a few weeks, I noticed a bit more brightness," writes one IPSY member. "And it does help even out darker spots. I'm happy that it didn't bother my sensitive skin. Really good product."

Want in on all the IPSY fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own beauty subscription. Already a member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

Like this article? Share it with your friends by clicking the icons below! 

Share Article
Article Last Updated June 13, 2023 12:00 AM