How To Treat Dark Spots With Skin Products

How To Treat Dark Spots With Skin Products

From sun damage to the natural aging process to blemish scars, dark spots can pop up for a variety of reasons — and they can be pretty stubborn. 

“If you’re dealing with dark spots, choosing the right skincare ingredients is key!”

  • Shani Darden, Esthetician

Thankfully, there are plenty of options when it comes to addressing those pesky dark spots. Today, I’ll help you understand why you’re dealing with an uneven skin tone and what you can do about it.

What Are Dark Spots?

Your skin contains cells called melanocytes, which are regulated by an enzyme called tyrosinase. These cells produce melatonin, which is what gives your skin its color. Melanin also works as a defense mechanism. When you are exposed to the sun, melanin production increases to prevent your skin from burning. 

When melanin clusters together, it can create a discoloration that appears darker than your natural skin tone. It might even look dark brown or pink. 

These dark spots can happen to anyone of any race or gender. It’s kind of like the great equalizer of the skin health world. Those with darker skin tones may find that dark spots happen more frequently because they naturally have more melanin in their skin than people with lighter skin colors. 

What Are Some Common Causes of Dark Spots?

It’s not just the sun that can cause you to have dark spots, although that’s usually the number one offender, which is why you’ll often hear of these spots referred to as sun spots. Dark spots have other causes than sun damage. Here are a few different types of pigmentation you could be experiencing.

Hormonal Changes

Changes in your body’s chemistry can affect how melanin is produced in your skin. For example, fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone specifically can lead to a darkening of the skin, especially in those with naturally dark skin. 

If you use hormonal birth control or are using hormonal replacement therapies, you might also notice small patches of skin changing colors for the same reason. Pregnant women often get dark spots during pregnancy due to hormonal changes during the second and third trimesters. 


The way your skin behaves has a lot to do with your DNA. If you have blemish-prone skin, for instance, you probably have a parent or sibling who does too. 

Dark spots are no different. If you come from a family prone to freckles or sun spots, you’ll likely have a higher chance of getting them too. 


As our skin ages, it changes. The way our skin supports itself begins to slow down. Skin cell turnover slows, which means new skin isn’t being made as quickly as it was when we were younger. These are usually called age spots.

New skin is undamaged skin, so when it takes your skin longer to renew, you’ll have a darker spot on your skin longer. Another aspect of aging skin is less collagen production. Collagen supports the skin by helping it look more youthful. Less collagen can lead to fine lines and wrinkles and can also exacerbate a dark area of excess melanin. 

Blemish Scars

If you suffer a trauma to your skin, like a bad cut or burn, you may end up with a cluster of melanin in the form of a scar. This can also happen if you’ve blemishes that left you with acne scars or if you’ve picked at a pimple (which is why it’s so important to keep your hands off your face). 

How Can I Prevent and Address Dark Spots?

I want to be realistic with you: you might not be able to prevent all dark spots on your skin. Even intensive treatments like laser treatment and hydroquinone can’t totally prevent you from getting dark spots. You can, however, take precautions to keep them at bay, and that starts with giving your skincare products a checkup. 

Sun Protection

It’s no secret you need to protect your skin from sun exposure. I’m a huge fan of CC creams. These dual-purpose products not only offer sun protection, but also give you light coverage that works perfectly for giving you a fresh-faced, natural look. 

The CC cream I recommend most is Supergoop CC Screen. It contains 100% mineral actives to protect your skin and is available in four shades with specific undertones to blend naturally into your skin. It also includes SPF 50, which is plenty of coverage for outdoor activities and your daily grind.

Turn to the Power of Retinol

Retinol is my favorite skincare ingredient because it delivers consistent, quantifiable results that my clients love. When I have clients dealing with pigmentation issues, I always recommend adding a retinol product to their skincare routine. 

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that stimulates your skin cells and supports their natural regeneration process. This means new skin cells can be produced properly, and dead, damaged skin cells are sloughed off to reveal smoother, more even skin tone. It’s essentially at-home skin resurfacing. 

The problem with retinol is also what makes it amazing: it’s really powerful. That power can leave your skin red and irritated, and if you’ve ever used a retinol product and felt like your skin was burning after use, it’s because the retinol in the product was delivered immediately to your skin. 

My Retinol Reform takes the sting and irritation out of retinol without decreasing its ability to help encourage new skin cell growth. Retinol Reform is formulated with an encapsulated retinol that slowly releases overnight. Your skin gets all the benefits of retinol without the irritation that can come with too much too soon. 

I also recommend that you start using any retinoids slowly. Once a week is enough to see how your skin tolerates it. You can gradually build it for nightly use. 

Try Lactic Acid

Another phenomenal ingredient that can help brighten the skin and fade dark spots is lactic acid. Not only does it renew your skin and help you wake up with a virtually instantaneous glow, it also helps by exfoliating the skin and helping break the bond between dead skin cells on the skin’s surface and living skin. 

My Lactic Acid Serum contains the perfect amount of lactic acid alongside gluconolactone, another exfoliating ingredient that is a better solution for sensitive skin than glycolic acid. Gluconolactone molecules are larger, which helps them work on the surface of the skin and prevents irritation. 

If you tend to have oily skin, you may want to prep your skin with my Sake Toning Essence. This toner features sake and soothing niacinamide to gently brighten your skin and minimize the appearance of pores. 

You can also use my Triple Acid Signature Peel to give your skin an extra boost of brightness. Featuring lactic acid, glycolic acid, and mandelic acid, as well as kaolin clay for purification, this peel is a skincare powerhouse when it comes to even-toned radiance.

Vitamin C

For lighteningdarker skin areas and brightening overall skin tone, vitamin C is a go-to solution. I highly recommend Dr. Dennis Gross’s Alpha Beta Peel Pads. These pads contain vitamin C along with both alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids to deliver an at-home chemical peel that exfoliates, brightens, and improves skin tone and texture. 

These pads are loaded with chamomile, so even sensitive skin types can use them without developing redness or irritation. 


Free radicals are molecules that attack healthy skin cells. They come from sources like the sun, pollution, and even cigarette smoke. They can cause the skin to age prematurely and can also cause the development of dark spots. 

Antioxidants work like a shield, protecting your skin cells from free radicals that could damage them. Most of my skincare products contain antioxidants because of the natural, plant-based ingredients. I love to throw in an added layer of antioxidant protection with a moisturizer. My Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer is packed with red algae, a nutrient-dense ingredient that is loaded with antioxidants to help protect your skin. 

Helpful Hints

Dark spots can be a really common skin problem, but you can easily fade them with over-the-counter products that contain powerful ingredients. Topical application of retinol and lactic acid are my favorite ways to combat uneven skin tone (as well as a myriad of other skin concerns). These ingredients are powerful, here’s how to use them correctly. 

  • Go slow. Start out using a retinoid once a week and only at night. As your skin tolerates it, build up to nightly use. 
  • You can use a lactic acid serum and a retinol serum simultaneously. It’s best to use them every other night (not together).
  • If you have a spot that is black or dark brown and has irregular edges, grows, or scabs, see your dermatologist immediately to rule out a more serious skin condition. 
  • Make sure your sun protection is broad-spectrum, which means it can protect you against both UVA and UVB rays, both of which can add dark spots to your skin. 

You know your skin best. If you aren’t seeing the results you want, schedule a consultation to learn about other options. 

Fabulous Skin, Zero Irritation 

Dark spots? Not a problem. I’ve got the solutions to help you prevent them from happening and fade them if you develop them. Together, we can create flawless, even skin. 


Definition of solid tumor | NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

Hyperpigmentation: Age Spots, Sun Spots & Liver Spots | My Cleveland

Therapeutic Uses of Red Macroalgae | PMC


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