With so much conflicting information and so many products out there, it can be tough to know where a treatment for dark spots even belongs in your skincare routine. Derms are here to help in that department.
Board-certified dermatologist Lauren Penzi, MD, weighs in. “I recommend applying the dark spot corrector as the first step after cleansing,” she says. “Apply a thin layer to the dark spot/area. Then you can apply your serums, moisturizer, and SPF on top (in that order). At night, same thing—cleanser followed by dark spot corrector, followed by retinol/retinoid (if you use one) and then moisturizer.”
Shirazi also has some advice for those with sensitive skin. If you do have sensitive skin, you’ll want to proceed with caution when using dark spot correctors. She says, “They are best applied to dry skin to reduce the risk of irritation. Be cautious of the number of products you are using with dark-spot-correcting ingredients in order to avoid irritation, which in turn can lead to worsening hyperpigmentation. It’s best to use one to two products designed to lighten dark spots that are comprehensive, meaning there are multiple ingredients in a single product to maximize benefits and reduce side effects. The most important product [you can use] to fight hyperpigmentation is sunscreen. Oftentimes, people focus on using products designed to lighten hyperpigmentation without protecting their skin from factors that play a major role in stimulating melanin—UV rays and visible light.
“I love azelaic acid for dark spots for those with sensitive skin. It’s one of the gentlest ingredients to treat hyperpigmentation. It gets along well with others and also treats breakouts, which are often the cause of dark spots.”
Garshick also stresses that those with sensitive skin who are also dealing with acne should be careful not to overdo it in this department since breakouts are another leading cause of dark spots. “Some ingredients like retinoids and exfoliating acids may be harsh or irritating on the skin, so when treating hyperpigmentation, it is often best to incorporate one new product at a time,” she says. “Importantly, for those who may be susceptible to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, it is especially important to avoid irritating the skin when treating hyperpigmentation, as this can actually lead to more discoloration.”
Keep scrolling for all the best dark spot correctors that derms recommend.