Are dark spots keeping you from flaunting your bare face? While some vanish on their own over time, a stubborn handful seem to never budge, peeking through a thick layer of concealer. The good news is that hyperpigmentation is reversible. If you've pinpointed the exact cause, which is crucial, then over-the-counter correctors can help to an extent.
So, how does hyperpigmentation come about? We spoke to Dr Hala Al Jaber, specialist dermatologist and cosmetologist at Medcare Specialty Centre, Mirdif, Dubai. She explains: "Skin cells called melanocytes produce a pigment called melanin, which gives colour to our skin tone. Melanin is a form of protection for the skin against UV (ultraviolet) rays. When there's excess melanin production, it leaves deposits in the skin that are darker than the surrounding area, known as hyperpigmentation".
Anything from sun damage to inflammation can trigger dark spots. Harmful UV rays can stimulate hyperpigmentation, and so can hormonal changes during pregnancy or hormonal therapy. Our breakouts are sometimes to blame, too: "Any inflammatory injury to the skin, from acne, eczema or an allergic reaction, can result in dark spots," added Dr Al Jaber.
But, before you pick up a dark spot corrector, note that misdiagnosis is common when it comes to hyperpigmentation. It could very well be a sign of serious underlying causes that only your doctor can screen, says Dr Al Jaber.
Once you're certain, go ahead and add simple treatments to your skincare regimen. Post-acne hyperpigmentation could take two to three months to fade away. Expedite the process with skin brightening and skin-tone evening actives, like vitamin C, glycolic acid, kojic acid and arbutin. Vitamin A derivatives, such as tretinoin, also help with lightening the spots by renewing the skin.
When in doubt or overwhelmed, Dr Al Jaber recommends the corrective power of both vitamin A and C. "Use them every other night to build tolerance, before switching to every night. Start with the vitamin C serum; once it dries, apply the vitamin A derivative of your choice. During the day, make sure to use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 and up, and reapply every two to three hours," she advised.
Remember, sunblock can only do so much, which is why any protective clothing or accessory, like a hat, can go a long way. During this healing period, it's important that your skin is pampered with a cleanser and moisturiser suitable for your skin type, to avoid further injury, added Dr Al Jaber.
Check out the best-rated dark spot correctors below, including our skin expert's recommendations, and get the products delivered to you by today or tomorrow via Amazon Prime.
1. Best Overall: Obagi Medical Nu-Derm Clear Fx Skin Brightening Cream
Dr Al Jaber lists Obagi Medical as one of her go-to brands for hyperpigmentation. The Obagi Nu-Derm Clear Fx cream is packed with arbutin and vitamin C (ascorbic acid), both skin-brightening agents and antioxidants. With steady use in the day and at night, the cream gradually lightens dark spots and evens out the complexion. Several happy reviewers mention buying the product upon recommendation from their dermatologist. They started seeing results in two weeks, listing various hyperpigmentation causes, from chemical peel reactions to sun damage.
2. Best for Kojic Acid: ACM Depiwhite Advanced Anti-Taches and Anti-Brown Spot Cream
Another recommendation by Dr Al Jaber is the ACM DepiWhite cream. It's formulated with kojic acid, lactic acid and niacinamide to target brown spots, by limiting melanin production and stimulating melanin biodegradation. This spot-treatment cream goes on concerned areas only once a day, and works slowly to deliver results in two months. Some reviewers have even used it on active acne to prevent spots.
3. Best for Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
Common acne treatments, like retinoid cream or other derivatives of vitamin A, speed up cell turnover and give way to new, healthy skin underneath. According to Dr Al Jaber, tretinoin is a better derivative, but retinoid works just as well. The Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% by La Roche-Posay is oil- and fragrance-free. Use a pea-sized amount for the entire face, as it's not meant for treating only concerned areas. Reviewers say they've gotten rid of not only their acne, but also dark spots and textured skin. Some report seeing even better results with the Glycolic B5 Serum, alongside the gel, to lighten acne inflammation. Do remember to use retinoid every other night, followed by sunscreen in the mornings daily, to build tolerance.
4. Best Vitamin C Serum: Goodal Green Tangerine Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum
Add a solid vitamin C serum to your kit that you can always get behind. The Goodal vitamin C serum harnesses the power of organic ingredients straight from fresh green tangerines to lighten post-acne spots. This fruit water serum is formulated with sensitive skin in mind, since it's infused with soothing tiger grass or centella asiatica. It also boasts 4% niacinamide and 2% arbutin. Five-star reviews confirm the bottle's spot lightening powers and find it skin-friendly even when they use the serum in the AM and PM. Do note that it has a light fragrance.
5. Best Budget: Axis-Y: Dark Spot Correcting Glow Serum
K-beauty fans will recognise this pocket-friendly but viral dark spot corrector from TikTok. Axis-Y's brightening serum contains 5% niacinamide or vitamin B3, which improves uneven skin tone. Like most Korean skincare products, the Glow Serum makes the most of botanical extracts, from rice bran and papaya to anti-ageing sea buckthorn and plant-derived squalane that keeps skin from drying out. Reviews prefer this for the winter, thanks to the addition of squalane.
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