Dark spots on the skin, also known as hyperpigmentation, can appear for a number of reasons. The most common causes of dark spots are sun exposure and acne scarring. Sometimes they can be caused by hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or menopause, and even by certain medications.
Thankfully, there are a number of skincare treatments available to treat dark spots on the skin, and the best place to start is with an effective cleansing routine.
Exfoliating the top layer of skin, which is full of dead skin cells, is essential to loosen cell attachments. This allows skin lightening ingredients to get into the skin easier, whether those ingredients are in your cleanser or post-cleansing dark spot serum or cream. Always complete your skincare routine with a broad spectrum SPF to prevent the formation of new dark spots.
You can exfoliate the dead skin cells away from your skin using either chemical exfoliation with hydroxy acids, mechanical exfoliation with scrubs, or a combination of both.
What Are The Best Cleansers To Treat Dark Spots?
The best cleansers to treat dark spots on the skin will contain either alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and sometimes both. These ingredients are chemical exfoliators, which effectively remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to leave clear, fresh skin behind.
What Are The Best Alpha Hydroxy Acid Cleansers?
Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) cleansers will usually contain glycolic acid or lactic acid (sometimes both), which are the most gentle AHAs for use as part of your daily skincare routine. They work to polish the skin, remove impurities and improve skin texture.
Alpha hydroxy acids are also very effective at correcting the discoloration of dark spots on the skin as a result of acne scarring or sun exposure, and are best used in dry skin types as lactic acid, in particular, helps the skin to stay hydrated.
PCA Skin Facial Wash contains lactic acid, so is a gentle cleanser for dry, sensitive skin. As well as keeping the skin moisturized, it corrects dark spots on the skin to brighten the complexion and even out skin tone. It is packed with antioxidants and aloe vera to soothe and calm the skin.
Essopi Glycolic 10% Moisturizing Cleanser is also suitable for dry skin and contains vitamins A, C and E, and co-enzyme Q10 to renew the skin. This alpha hydroxy acid cleanser is gentler than the best scrubs, but just as effective, and helps to prepare the skin for the next step in your skincare routine. It will keep the skin’s pH low and hydrate the skin, though is best used as part of a personalized skin care routine.
Our favorite hydroxy acid cleanser for acne and dark spots on the skin caused by acne scarring is SkinCeuticals LHA Cleanser Gel, which combines an alpha hydroxy acid (glycolic acid) with beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid and lipo-hydroxy acid) to remove excess oils from the skin and clear the pores. It gently reduces the appearance of dark spots on the skin, as well as addressing the signs of aging.
What Are The Best Beta Hydroxy Acid Cleansers?
Beta hydroxy acid cleansers tend to contain salicylic acid, which is effective in acne treatments as it exfoliates the skin and keeps the pores clear. It is an effective treatment for acne, acne scarring, dark spots on the skin, and melasma. Lipo-hydroxy acid is derived from salicylic acid and is a gentler form of beta hydroxy acid.
That said, salicylic acid is gentle enough for even sensitive skin types and very effective for oily or combination skin types.
To reduce the appearance of acne scarring, I recommend SkinCeuticals Clarifying Exfoliating Cleanser, which combines salicylic acid with glycolic and lactic acids. Most “acne scars" are not actually scars, but are treatable red or dark spots from acne that can be removed with a daily acne cleanser, acne treatment and sunscreen as part of a personalized skincare routine for acne.
SkinCeuticals Clarifying Exfoliating Cleanser works to unclog the pores and exfoliate dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, leaving a bright, even skin tone.
However, I find the best cleanser to clear the pores fully and reduce dark spots on the skin is NoLIO Salicylic Acid Cleanser. This low pH cleanser is anti-inflammatory, so one of our favorite face washes for acne scarring and dark spots on the skin.
What Are The Best Scrubs To Treat Sun Spots?
If you prefer to use a scrub, there are two options I always recommend to my patients - the best option for you will depend on your skin type.
Pidanti Smoothing Polish Face and Body Scrub is an amazing all-around scrub that is effective for dark spots on the skin, fine lines, acne and acne scarring. It gently removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to leave an even-toned, radiant appearance.
The skin lightening ingredient arbutin, combined with fat-soluble vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate), reduces the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation, as well as brightening the skin tone.
If you have dark spots on the arms and legs, then a good scrub to use is Jan Marini Bioglycolic Resurfacing Body Scrub. Exfoliating particles combined with glycolic acid gently remove dead skin cells and correct dark spots on the skin. Aloe vera soothes and prevents irritation.
Dark spots on the skin are easily treatable, particularly when caused by acne scarring or sun exposure. However, it is essential to wear an SPF every day, in addition to protective clothing, as the sun is the number one cause of spots on the skin. It is also essential to wear an SPF when using the products listed in this article, as some of the ingredients can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s harmful rays.
We recommend taking our Skin Type Quiz and learning your skin type to get a personalized skincare routine to treat dark spots on the face.