Dark spots don’t require a lofty explanation. They’re post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or the marks that get left behind after inflammation, such as a pimple or other irritation. And according to New York–based dermatologist Hadley King, MD, other dark spots can be melasma, a type of discoloration that results from a combination of your hormones, genetics, and sun exposure.
Regardless of where your dark spots came from, they’re generally a pain to get rid of, especially if you’re in the habit of picking while they heal. This is where dark spot correctors come in handy. They come in many forms (spot treatments, creams, gels), but the best ones contain a few key ingredients.
“I generally find that hydroquinone is the most effective ingredient for fading dark spots,” says Dr. King. “Hydroquinone is sometimes combined with a topical cortisone and a topical retinoid, and these combination products are great because each ingredient decreases the discoloration through a different mechanism. Azelaic acid is another ingredient that can also be helpful.”
It’s also important to minimize sun exposure and up your daily sun protection, even after you’ve applied something topical. But because we can’t resist a little skin-care magic, here are the top-rated correctors that should be on your radar.