How To Fade Dark Spots and Get Your Glow Back

In This Article:

The fact that there are thousands of anti-aging treatments on the market is an undeniable indication of our obsession with wrinkles—yet wrinkles are only a part of what makes us look older. Deep brown freckle-like spots and uneven skin tone on the face, chest, and hand are ever-growing, stubborn reminders of our age that most of us wish would just go away, but wishing isn't enough.

Thankfully, there are solutions! Whether those brown spots and uneven skin tone are from one too many days in the sun without protection, past breakouts, or hormones, the following treatment combinations will absolutely lighten and brighten your skin. With consistent use, you will see your discolorations diminish—and you won't see new ones popping up!

Step 1: Protection and Preventing More Dark Spots

The best way to truly reduce the appearance of brown spots and prevent new ones is daily application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen, rated SPF 15 or greater (and greater is better where fading discolorations is a concern). If you aren't using a sunscreen 365 days a year, even when you're inside, dark spots and uneven skin tone won't budge, not even a little bit.

From our own personal experience, mineral-based sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the active ingredients are preferred for fading discolorations. Why? Their reflective quality, which is what protects the skin from UV rays, is what we suspect gives them the edge in helping to prevent or treat uneven skin tone and wrinkles at the same time. The Paula's Choice Research Team Recommends:

  • For oily, combination, or breakout-prone skin: Barely There Sheer Matte Tint SPF 30 ($17) like the BB Creams that are all the rage, this provides a sheer wash of color + mineral SPF. Or, consider the top fan pick "secret use" product for both your hands and face: RESIST Ultimate Anti-Aging Hand Cream SPF 30 ($13), a perfect non-greasy, gentle mineral sunscreen!
  • For normal, dry, or very dry skin: Loaded with anti-aging antioxidants, RESIST Cellular Defense SPF 25 ($27) is an ultra-creamy, wrinkle and brown-spot shield to protect and moisturize dry skin. One of our double-duty favorites for the face and hands is our Extra Care Non-Greasy Sunscreen SPF 50 ($16), which has a beautiful texture and will work flawlessly anywhere you apply it.

While we ourselves are partial to mineral-based sunscreens for dark spots, you also can use sunscreens with other active ingredients as well, even in combination with mineral actives. See our full collection of Paula's Choice sun-care formulas or our top recommendations from other brands on Beautypedia.

Step 2: Treatments to Fade an Uneven Skin Tone

You can brighten up an uneven, blotchy skin tone quickly with the right specialized ingredients and treatments. Research has shown that combination therapy can produce the best possible outcome for an even, brighter complexion.

The Treatments:

Hydroquinone + AHA or BHA

What They Do: Hydroquinone targets discolorations from sun damage (or hormonal changes) with gusto, and when combined with a formula that contains BHA or AHA for exfoliation, you'll speed results and target such skin concerns as breakouts or rough texture!

How They Work: Hydroquinone slows melanin production to the sun-damaged areas of the skin, while BHA (salicylic acid) or AHA (glycolic acid) speeds your results by clearing the skin of built-up dead cells—it's a multi-action dark spot solution! The Paula's Choice Research Team Recommends:

Niacinamide and Acetyl Glucosamine

What They Do: Dealing with multiple types of discolorations? To target brown spots and red marks left over from a breakout, you need the potent melanin-inhibitor and skin-brightening pair of niacinamide and acetyl glucosamine.

How They Work: When combined, niacinamide and acetyl glucosamine interrupt excess pigment formation to fade the discolorations you see now, and those you have on the way! The Paula's Choice Team Recommends:

  • All skin types: RESIST Pure Radiance Skin Brightening Treatment ($32) for an instantly radiant complexion from a specialized blend of niacinamide, acetyl glucosamine, and other potent antioxidants. This incredibly sheer, silky powerhouse product works tirelessly to fade a spectrum of discolorations for a brighter result that only gets better over time!

Retinol + Antioxidants

What They Do: The ultimate anti-aging team—retinol, paired with potent antioxidants like vitamins C and E—treat multiple signs of aging, including sun damage and uneven skin tone.

How They Work: Skin responds best when retinol is combined with antioxidants, helping to repair damaged skin cells and protecting against free-radical damage that can lead to a mottled, uneven complexion. When paired with other skin-lightening products and daily sunscreen, you'll see younger, beautifully even skin! The Paula's Choice Team Recommends:

  • All skin types: RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum ($37) is our exclusive, proprietary formula. This supercharged treatment improves the signs of aging and helps repair discolorations from sun damage or post-breakout red marks.

A Potent BHA Spot Treatment

What It Does & How It Works: BHA exfoliates the surface of the skin as well as deeper, into the pore, dissolving dead cells and promoting healthy collagen production. Ideal for any skin type, including rosacea or eczema, our new, high-powered BHA spot treatment combats multiple issues: sun damage, wrinkles, red marks. and more...with dramatic results.

  • All skin types: RESIST BHA 9 ($40) is a first-of-its-kind spot treatment specially formulated to provide controlled, sustained release of salicylic acid without diminishing any of its effectiveness. This industry first gets you powerful results without irritation. Best of all, it treats your most stubborn imperfections, including dark spots, red marks, wrinkles, sebaceous hyperplasia, blackheads and more with advanced results previously impossible outside a dermatologist's office.

A Brighter, Even Skin Tone at Any Age!

Despite the parade of skin brighteners and lighteners, many don't work as promised because they contain unproven (or even irritating) ingredients that your skin doesn't need. Backed by independent, published research, the superstar ingredients mentioned above deliver on their promises. Remember, no matter the concern, it all starts with a gentle, effective skin-care routine (and never forget the sunscreen!). See all our top recommendations from our Paula's Choice products or from other brands at Beautypedia.

Recommended Products to Fade Dark Spots

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

View Media Highlights

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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