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7 Face Serums to Try for Fading Dark Spots

Janeca Racho
Writer and expert1 year ago
View Janeca Racho's profile
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In a perfect world, we’d all wake up with clear and bright-looking skin. But even if we’re dealing with dark spots and discoloration, that doesn’t mean we can’t have the radiant, blemish-free skin of our dreams. That is, if you know which serums to look for.

Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Clinton, Miss., explains that dark spots are caused by an increased number or activity of the pigment-producing skin cells melanocytes. This can be triggered by a number of factors and lead to an uneven complexion.

Top Skin-Brightening Ingredients to Look For

Known for its antioxidant properties and anti-aging benefits, vitamin C is one of the most common ingredients when it comes to fading dark spots. But there are also other skin-brightening must-haves that work for different skin types and concerns. Among these ingredients, Dr. Tonkovic-Capin picks arbutin, licorice extract, azelaic acid, AHAs and BHAs such as salicylic, kojic and glycolic acids, retinoids, soy proteins, cysteamine and resveratrol as some of the standouts.

For those with mature or sensitive skin, reach for natural alternatives such as kojic acid, which also contains antioxidants that enhance its brightening effect. The same is true for arbutin, a natural compound found in bearberry, blueberry and cranberry plants. It helps lighten and brighten skin by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which can be found in melanocytes.

To address post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or skin discoloration as a result of skin conditions like rosacea or acne, look for serums with licorice root extract. Licorice root contains glabridin, an active ingredient that prevents the formation of tyrosinase and possesses anti-inflammatory properties.

Melanated skin has more reactive pigment-producing cells than non-melanated skin, making it more easily triggered by inflammation. In other words, irritation can lead to inflammation which in turn can stimulate more melanin production, a.k.a dark spots and discoloration. So when choosing a serum to target discoloration on darker skin tones, it's a particularly delicate balancing act between effective ingredients that don't irritate the skin. Look for ingredients like tranexamic acid, niacinamide and alpha arbutin.

How to Use Skin-Brightening Serums

To get the most of your skin-brightening serum, make sure to apply twice a day as part of your morning and evening skin care routine. “They all should be paired with a good sunscreen, preferably mineral sunscreen containing zinc oxide,” adds Dr. Tonkovic-Capin. “Avoidance of ultraviolet rays is also a must. Otherwise, none of the products would be effective.”

According to Dr. Anna H. Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist in Weston, Fla., “Some treatments such as topical retinoids and topical vitamin C are best used in the evening, right before bedtime. It’s best not to mix them as they may cause excess irritation. Occasionally, I find alternating products works best and helps to avoid irritant contact dermatitis.”

The Best Brightening Serums for Dark Spots

Ready to add a brightening serum to your routine? Check out our top picks for face serums that target dark spots.

    Janeca Racho
    Writer and expert
    View Janeca Racho's profile

    With over 10 years of writing and editing experience, Janeca Racho has worked with clients in the fashion, entertainment, food, health and travel industries. An adventurer at heart, she will gladly trade her heels for a good pair of hiking shoes and skip hotels to camp under the stars. She loves horror movies, googling ingredients in her beauty products and backpacking trips with her toddler. Her newfound obsession: nude lipstick.