The 9 Best Dark Spot Correctors We’ve Tried and Derms Recommend to Even Out Your Skin Tone

Fading dark spots, sun spots, age spots, melasma, and hyperpigmentation are common concerns, especially among people of color. New York-based dermatologist Diane Madfes, MD, told thatdiscoloration is often the result of sun damage, hormonal changes, or skin growths. It occurs when “enlarged melanocytes or increased tyrosinase – an enzyme responsible for controlling the production of melanin – causes dark spots,” she explains.

Thankfully, there are products you can use to reverse the damage.Look for over-the-counter dark spot correctors containing “topical vitamins, retinol, arbutin, and other acids—whether glycolic, mandelic, kojic, or salicylic—in low concentrations are also ingredients to seek out because of their exfoliating effects” says Madfes.

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  • Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector is 35% off at
  • PCS Skin Hydroquinone Free Pigment Gel Facial Serum is 25% off at
  • Hero Cosmetics Lightning Wand Dark Spot Brightening Serum is buy one, get one 40% off at
  • Dr. Barbara Sturm Clarifying Spot Treatment is 10% offf or first time Luxury Stores customers on

We conducted hours of research on the best dark spot correctors out there, taking 30 products out for a spin. We used these spot correctors for eight weeks,evaluating their dark spot-fading capabilities, timeliness of effects, and additional skin benefits. We narrowed it down to nine products for this roundup with the help of our research insights and dermatologist recommendations to highlight the dark spot correctors worth your hard-earned money.

Best Overall

Hyper Skin Hyper Even Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum


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What We Like

  1. Fades existing dark spots
  2. Prevents future dark spots from forming
  3. Includes hydrating hyaluronic acid

What We Don't Like

  1. Takes about one month to notice results

Board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Adeline Kikam recommends ingredients like azelaic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide to address hyperpigmentation in her patients. This treatment is loaded with kojic acid, which works in tandem with brightening vitamin C and hydrating hyaluronic acid to reduce the appearance of existing dark spots and prevent future marks from cropping up.1 We love that this formulation contains anti-inflammatory agents turmeric and salicylic acid, as the two work to heal and prevent breakouts throughout the process—a huge win. During testing, we noticed that the formula made skin feel a bit tight after application, but after a couple of minutes, our skin felt smooth, supple, and soft-to-the-touch.

Who It’s For

This product is agreat option for all skin types with dark spots.We recommend applying it all over your face (rather than on just a spot) daily; doing so will encourageresults that you’ll be able to notice in about a month. 

  • Ingredients:Vitamin C,hyaluronic acid, kojic acid
  • Size: 1.0 fl. oz.

Best Overall, Runner-Up

PCA SKIN Hydroquinone-Free Pigment Gel Face Serum


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What We Like

  1. Fast results
  2. Potent blend of antioxidants target free radical damage
  3. Dark spots fade and disappear

What We Don't Like

  1. Can be drying
  2. Can irritate open wounds

This is another very effective option. Kikam says itcontains an antioxidant blend of plenylethyl resorcinol, azelaic acid, and kojic acid to correct hyperpigmentation and promote an even tone.2But, as the name suggests,it’s free of hydroquinone, a controversial skin-lightening ingredientthat can cause unwanted side effects with long-term use.3

The best part? It only takes two weeks to see results.We consistently applied the formula morning and night for 14 days and saw an improvement in the look of our dark spots. As the testing period progressed,dark spots and marks faded and even disappeared in some cases. Just be sure not to use the product on open wounds; we experienced a burning sensation after accidentally getting the formula on an open cut.

Who It’s For

PCA SKIN Hydroquinone-Free Pigment Gel Face Serum isparticularly great for anyone who is sensitive to Hydroquinoneor simply doesn’t want to use it on their skin.

  • Ingredients: Azelaic acid, kojic acid
  • Size: 1 fl. oz.

Best Budget

Versed Out of Sight Dark Spot Gel

Versed Skin

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What We Like

  1. Supports a more even skin tone
  2. Subtle cooling sensation upon application
  3. Reduces appearance of redness and spots

What We Don't Like

  1. Takes a bit longer to see results

This formula from Versed proves you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get serious spot-correcting results. The brightening gel features a blend of concentrated (yet safe!) ingredients thathelp fade dark spots and post-acne scars. Unlike hydroquinone (the controversial ingredient we touched upon previously), brightening ingredientslike tranexamic acid, kojic acid, licorice root, and niacinamide(AKA brightening, clearing vitamin B3) are less aggressive and work together to impede melanin productionand even out skin tone without irritation or adverse effects.

We loved how the simple formula helped reduce dark spots and redness lingering on our skin after breakoutsand diminishing the look of hyperpigmentation, leaving us with a more even-toned complexion.  Upon application, you can expect asubtle cooling sensation, but it simmers down when the product sinks into the skin. (The consistency is very lightweight, so absorption happens within seconds.)We used this product daily and never once experienced irritation or unwelcome tingling; it’s gentle and pairs nicely with almost any existing skincare routine.

Who It’s For

If you want to tackle hyperpigmentation on a budget, the Versed Out of Sight Dark Spot Gel is a solid option. While you may have to wait a bit longer—we noticed changes after six to eight weeks of use—it’s easy on the skin and the wallet.

  • Ingredients: Tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, licorice root extract
  • Size: 0.5 fl. Oz.

Best Gentle

Fenty Skin Watch Ya Tone 5% Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum with Vitamin C

Fenty Skin 

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What We Like

  1. Fades dark spots effectively
  2. Doesn’t irritate or aggravate sensitive skin
  3. Layers nicely underneath skincare and makeup

What We Don't Like

  1. Results not as glaring

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll love thislightweight, non-greasy formula from Rihanna’s Fenty Skin. Watch Ya Tone is a concentrated cocktail of skin brighteners like niacinamide, vitamin C, licorice root extract, and Barbados cherry (a vitamin C-packed nod to Rihanna’s roots)—designed to boost the skin’s overall luminosity and fade the look of dark spots and other forms of discoloration.4 We love that it’s non-comedogenic (so it won’t clog your pores), and it’s intended to be used on all skin types, including sensitive ones. Another plus: Because the consistency is silky smooth and non-sticky, itlayers nicelyunderneath skincare and makeup.

Now, let’s get down to the results: Over the course of about three months, we noticed that dark spots and post-acne hyperpigmentation faded, and our complexion as a whole looks brighter and more even. Admittedly, it takes a bit longer to see results—and those results aren’t as glaringly obvious—but if you have sensitive or highly reactive skin, you know that a tiny bit of progress is way better than opting for a more aggressive formula that causes more harm than good.

Who It’s For

This is a winning formula for anyone with skin that’s easily irritated. It provides a more gentle approach to fading dark spots, but with a bit of patience, you’ll be pleased with the visible results.

  • Ingredients: Niacinamide, vitamin C, licorice root extract, Barbados cherry
  • Size: 1 fl. oz.

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Best Spot Treatment

Hero Cosmetics Lightning Wand Dark Spot Brightening Serum

Hero Cosmetics

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What We Like

  1. Designed specifically for post-acne spots
  2. Easy to use while traveling
  3. Works like an illuminator to hide dark spots instantly

What We Don't Like

  1. Roller ball tip can be hard to control

This small but mighty wand from Hero Cosmetics is pure magic—trust us. The illuminating serum the wand carriescombines the powers of an illuminator, which offsets the darkness of the spots, with gentle botanicals to minimize the look of blemish marks on contact. Over time, we noticed a huge difference in the spots on our complexion; each spot was significantly lighter at the end of the trial. Take it from us, don’t give up.We didn’t notice any change in the first month, but it works wonders if you give it a chance.

Oh, and not only is the product affordable, but it lasts a long time. We were able to get through three months of treatment with one wand.Our only complaint: We wish the applicator tip was a squeeze tube rather than a roller ball. A squeeze tube would allow the user to control the amount of product a bit easier. As it is, you have to roll the tip across the skin, but a nozzle applicator would help deposit the right amount of serum every time.

Who It’s For

If you’ve got a couple of localized dark patches or spots, Hero Cosmetics Lightning Wand Dark Spot Brightening Serumprovides precision targeting of the affected areas. It’s also great for on-the-go application, with its conceal-and-treat formula contained in a compact wand.

  • Ingredients: Tranexamic acid, acetyl glucosamine, vitamin C, licorice root
  • Size: 0.33 fl oz

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Best for Sensitive Skin

SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense


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What We Like

  1. Clinically-backed ingredients
  2. Addresses discoloration
  3. Leaves skin looking brighter

What We Don't Like

  1. Small product

If you want to treat your skin to the top-shelf stuff, SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense is worth the splurge. Thisoil-free, lightweight serumis chock-full of ingredients liketranexamic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide, that are clinically proven to minimize the appearance of dark spots, even out discoloration, andbrighten your complexion. The addition ofHEPES, a molecule used to adjust the pH in cosmetic formulas, helps break down the bonds that bind dead skin cells to the surface, meaning it helps exfoliate, too. 

The price is undoubtedly steep, especially for such a small bottle, butif it’s within your budget (or you’re looking for something to splurge on), the results are worth it. After testing for several weeks, our skin had a more even, consistent tone and appeared beautifully radiant.

Who It’s For

This premium dark spot correcting serum has a great track record of clinically proven results and bills itself as theperfect complement to professional skin discoloration treatments, such as laser and chemical peels. We think it’s worth the price tag.

  • Ingredients: Tranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide
  • Size: 1.0 oz

Best with Retinol

Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector


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What We Like

  1. Helps reduce dark spots and acne scarring
  2. Promotes a more even skin tone 
  3. Can help acne and fine lines, too

What We Don't Like

  1. Should only be used at night

Formulated with retinol and vitamin C, this super serum leans on two of the most effective tone-correcting ingredientson the market to fade dark spots. Dermatologists often recommend retinol for those looking to eradicate fine lines, unwanted skin texture, and even acne. But,retinol also helps promote renewed skin cells which brightens the skin and fades hyperpigmentation.5

It’s worth noting, though, that retinol can only be used in the evening since it makes the skin more sensitive to the sun. During testing, we found that only a pearl-sized amount was needed to cover the entire face, and ithelped dramatically reduce dark spots, especially those from acne scarring. 

Who It’s For

Retinol fans will love this product. If you’re new to retinol, expect a settling-in period when your skin may be more irritated than usual. Follow with a soothing moisturizer to counteract any drying.

  • Ingredients:Retinol, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid
  • Size: 1 oz

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Best for Acne-Prone Skin

Dr. Barbara Sturm Untinted Clarifying Spot Treatment


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What We Like

  1. Gradual improvement starting after two weeks
  2. Treats blemishes and breakouts
  3. Fades old acne scars

What We Don't Like

  1. Not intended for use on the entire face

Those with acne-prone skin will rejoice having found this clarifying treatmentfrom German doctor, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s eponymous brand.In addition to treating breakouts, this serumhelps reduce the appearance of dark spots, blemishes, and overall redness on the skin. The transparent gel addresses impurities at the source, thanks to apotent blend of ingredients including antibacterial tea tree oil and zinc oxide. 

It took about two weeks of use to notice a difference in the overall look of our skin, but from then on, the results undeniably got better and better.

Who It’s For

Dr. Barbara Sturm Untinted Clarifying Spot Treatment isa skinsaver for anyone whos in the process of treating acne.The powerful product helps target blemishes while also fading the scars and dark spots left behind from past breakouts.

  • Ingredients: Zinc, vitamin B3, jojoba oil, panthenol, vitamin E, tea tree oil
  • Size:0.5 oz.

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Best Brightening

Glow Recipe Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Treatment Serum


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What We Like

  1. Firming and plumping 
  2. Contains five forms of vitamin C
  3. Visible brightening effect

What We Don't Like

  1. Results can take a while

We could all use a little skin brightening, are we right? This serum from Glow Recipe is the perfect choice for those looking for an all-over, radiant glow. It’s potent—thanks tofive forms of vitamin C, guava (full of vitamins A + C ), tranexamic acid (a potent brightening ingredient), and ferulic acid (an antioxidant used to target the signs of aging) —and it works overtime to fade dark spots and even out the look of your complexion.

Unlike other vitamin C serums on the market, it delivers effective ingredients in astable formula (vitamin C tends to be unstable on a molecular level). You can expect this non-sticky gel to absorb into the skin on contact, helping to plump, firm, and brighten the skin over time. It took about a month for dark spots to fade, but the overall look of our skin(radiant as heck) is what really sold us. 

Who It’s For

All the products on our list boast brightening effects, but Glow Recipe’s Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Treatment Serum was themost potent of them all in that regard. Use this when you need a radiance boost. 

  • Ingredients: 5 forms of vitamin C, guava seed oil, tranexamic acid, ferulic acid, vitamin E
  • Size: 1 oz.

Where We Stand

Our favorite dark spot corrector was our best overall pick:Hyper Skin Brightening Dark Spot Vitamin C Serum, a hardworking hyperpigmentation treatment and vitamin C serum thatquickly targetsthe look of dark spots for a more even tone and brighter-looking complexion. For a more budget-friendly option, you can’t go wrong with theVersed Out of Sight Dark Spot Gel, a gentleyet effective serum that works to fade dark spots and post-acne scars.

How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors spent hours researching the best dark spot correctors on the market, evaluating features like ingredients, size, and design, before landing on about 30 formulas to try out for ourselves. We tested each formula over the course of eight weeks, then assigned each serum a rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to all of the products we tested. The highest-rated products made the list.

Other attributes we evaluated each dark spot corrector on:

How well each serum absorbed into our skinWhether or not the formula left a residue behindHow our skin looked and felt after the testing period

What to Look for in a Dark Spot Corrector

Azelaic Acid:

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi recommends products with azelaic acid, which is an exfoliant known to banish breakouts, reduce inflammation, and even out the skin tone—all while being less harsh than hydroquinone. “Azelaic acid inhibits tyrosinase and prevents pigmentation, but it’s much more gentle,” she explains. If you’re interested in the ingredient, try out the PCA SKIN Hydroquinone-Free Pigment Gel Face Serum, which contains azelaic acid.


Retinol is another ingredient that works wonders when it comes to fighting dark spots. “Retinol helps to brighten the skin and fade pigmentation by renewing skin cells,” she says. “Retinols also help with fine lines and firming the skin.” The Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector, one of our favorite formulas, contains the ingredient.


Another ingredient to look out for is niacinamide (aka vitamin B3), a radiance-boosting, cell-renewing ingredient commonly found in dark spot correctors. Niacinamide fades discoloration and works best when combined with antioxidants like vitamins C and E. As far as niacinamide-rich formulations go, the Fenty Skin Watch Ya Tone 5% Niacinamide Dark Spot Serum with Vitamin C is a great one.


How do you use a dark spot corrector?

How you use a dark spot corrector will depend on the product and formulation. “Hydroquinone is potent and can be irritating, so it’s best to use only as a spot treatment,” she says. “Azelaic acid and retinol, on the other hand, should be used all over the face, as they help prevent pigmentation on the entire face.” Azelaic acid, she explains, is anti-inflammatory and helps reduce redness, so it’s used to treat acne and rosacea during the daytime. Retinol, on the other hand, should be used at night.

Do dark spot correctors work on freckles?

According to Shirazi, you can use dark spot correctors to fade freckles. “Freckles form as a result of overproduction of melanin due to UV exposure, so yes, bleaching agents can help lighten them as they reduce pigmentation,” she explains. Retinol serums can also effectively address dark spots, freckles, and other signs of photoaging by encouraging cell turnover.

After Testing Dozens of Formulas, We Can Confirm That These Are the 10 Best Facial Moisturizers 

Article Sources

We takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

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Köpke D, Müller RH, Pyo SM. Phenylethyl resorcinol smartLipids for skin brightening - Increased loading & chemical stability. Eur J Pharm Sci. 2019;137:104992. doi:10.1016/j.ejps.2019.104992

Tsz Wah Tse (2010) Hydroquinone for skin lightening: Safety profile, duration of use and when should we stop?, Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 21:5, 272-275, DOI: 10.3109/09546630903341945

Ciganović P, Jakimiuk K, Tomczyk M, Zovko Končić M. Glycerolic Licorice Extracts as Active Cosmeceutical Ingredients: Extraction Optimization, Chemical Characterization, and Biological Activity. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(10):445. Published 2019 Oct 1. doi:10.3390/antiox8100445

Callender VD, Baldwin H, Cook-Bolden FE, Alexis AF, Stein Gold L, Guenin E. Effects of Topical Retinoids on Acne and Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation in Patients with Skin of Color: A Clinical Review and Implications for Practice. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2022;23(1):69-81. doi:10.1007/s40257-021-00643-2

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