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One of the most common complexion gripes is dark spots (a.k.a. sun spots, age spots or hyperpigmentation), which can make skin appear uneven, less clear and dull. Dark spots can appear on your face as well as body areas such as hands and décolletage as a result of sun exposure, genetics, hormones and inflammation, says Howard Murad, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare, and often become more prevalent with age.
An easy fix: dark spot corrector skincare products that are created to help fade unwanted hyperpigmentation. "Dark spot correctors are used to lighten and diminish skin hyperpigmentation resulting from acne, sun damage or an otherwise uneven skin tone," says Alan J. Parks, M.D., dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse in Columbus, Ohio. "They work by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin in the skin, and may also increase the rate at which skin cells renew themselves, ridding the skin of the dead, damaged cells faster and making way for fresh, new cells." GH Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Danusia Wnek recommends treatments that contain ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, niacinamide and kojic acid.
Our top picks:
Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab scientists evaluate hundreds of skincare products every year, including ones that claim to correct dark spots, from moisturizers and pore minimizers to serums including anti-aging, antioxidant and vitamin C serums. The products are analyzed both in the Lab using technical instruments over a set time period and with consumers at home, who provide feedback on factors like ease of use and look and feel of skin before and after application. Hundreds of data points are then collated to find the most effective dark spot correctors.
Whether your dark spots are from the sun, post-acne scarring darkened by UV exposure or caused by melasma, read all about the best dark spot correctors that work, as tested by the GH Beauty Lab and recommended by dermatologists. Pair the right dark spot corrector for your skin with one of our top-tested night creams, anti-aging wrinkle creams or color correctors.
How we test the best dark spot correctors
To find the best dark spot corrector products, GH Beauty Lab scientists conduct both rigorous clinical and consumer testing, recruiting women of all ages and skin types to assess the products' results after at home use. In the Lab, their skin is scanned with the Visia Complexion Analyzer machine to measure changes in the size and count of dark spots, plus pores, skin texture and lines and wrinkles before and after weeks of use, as pictured.
Consumer testers also report their feedback on factors like ease of use, cosmetic properties (i.e. texture, scent), application and the look and feel of their skin following the testing period. The clinical and consumer data is then tallied to find the products that really perform.
What to look for when shopping for the best dark spot corrector
When shopping for dark spot correcting treatments, which can include serums, moisturizers and exfoliators like peels, our experts suggest you look for terms directly addressing dark spots or "brightening" and “skin tone-evening" on the packaging. Dr. Parks recommends seeking out formulas that contain skincare ingredients like:
✔️ Vitamin C, an antioxidant that brightens skin.
✔️ Niacinamide (a.k.a. vitamin B3), which slows pigment production).
✔️ Retinol and alpha or beta hydroxy acids (like glycolic and salicylic acids), which increase skin cell turnover to get rid of hyperpigmented cells.
✔️ Tranexamic acid, kojic acid, alpha-arbutin, cysteamine, azelaic acid, resorcinol, soy and licorice root extract can also lessen hyperpigmentation, Dr. Turegano says.
✔️ Hydroquinone, which "interrupts melanin synthesis to even tone,” says Sara Hogan, M.D., a dermatologist in McLean, Virginia. (Note that this ingredient is only available by prescription.)
April (she/her) is the beauty director at Good Housekeeping, Prevention and Woman's Day, where she oversees all beauty content. She has over 15 years of experience under her belt, starting her career as an assistant beauty editor at GH in 2007, and working in the beauty departments of SELF and Fitness magazines.
Birnur (she/her) has led the Beauty, Health and Sustainability Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute since 2007. In addition to overseeing product testing and GH Seal applications, she conducts the brand's annual Beauty Awards selection process and is an active leader in GH’s green initiatives, including the Sustainable Innovation Awards and Raise the Green Bar Summit. In addition to earning M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering, she recently earned a professional certificate in sustainability management from Columbia University.
Danusia (she/her) is a senior chemist in the Beauty, Health and Sustainability Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute where she evaluates haircare, skincare, cosmetics and beauty tools. She holds a B.S. in chemistry from St. John’s University and a M.S. in pharmaceutical sciences with concentration in cosmetic science from the University of Cincinnati. Danusia has over 10 years of experience in the personal care industry including formulation, product development, claim evaluation and efficacy testing.
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