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How To Address Dark Spots on Your Face

Help say sayonara to dark discolorations.
  • Cat Matta
May 28, 2024

There are few things as frustrating as finally getting rid of a blemish only to discover a stubborn dark spot has taken its place. Often, such an event inspires a furious spiral into researching how to get rid of dark spots quickly. We get it, because we’ve been there. But managing dark spots on the face is a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, there is no guaranteed quick fix: Keeping your skin tone clear requires maintaining a consistent and targeted skincare routine (and avoiding the triggers that can cause discoloration).

To learn more about dark spots on the skin and, most importantly, what you can do about them, we tapped Michelle Henry MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and L’Oréal Paris consultant. And what we found out was truly illuminating (pun intended). Keep reading to find out all about what causes dark spots and some of the best ingredients for fighting them off—plus, how you can conceal the ones you already have and help avoid developing more in the future.

What Are Dark Spots?

Dark spots are quite literally what they sound like—small patches of discoloration that are darker than your regular skin tone. They occur when the pigment that gives skin its color, melanin, goes into overdrive. While dark spots can occur on anyone, people with medium to dark skin tones are especially prone to developing them.

Dark spots and hyperpigmentation are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t always quite the same thing. “All hyperpigmentation is dark by definition, but not all hyperpigmentation is a spot,” says Dr. Henry. For instance, “Melasma is a wide irregular patch across the face,” she points out. “It’s not a spot, but it’s dark and a type of hyperpigmentation.”

Types of skin darkening

  • Sunspots (a.k.a. age or liver spots) are the result of sun damage, which is why they usually pop up on skin that’s frequently exposed to the sun, like your face and hands.
  • Freckles are small brown spots that can occur anywhere on the body, though they tend to develop on the face and arms. These small spots are genetic and, unlike other types of dark spots, are most common on those with fairer skin.
  • Melasma, as Dr. Henry mentioned, is a type of discoloration that results in larger dark spots or patches. It’s typically caused by hormonal changes (like pregnancy) and can develop on the cheeks, forehead, across the nose, or just above the upper lip.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation develops after injury or irritation to the skin (acne and bug bites are common causes). The discoloration occurs only where the original irritation was, resulting in a small, localized dark spot.

Editor’s note: No matter the cause, all dark spots on the skin can become darker and more pronounced when they’re exposed to the sun. Keeping your skin protected from the sun is one of the best ways to help minimize the appearance of dark spots (and prevent future spots from developing).

Skincare Ingredients for Dark Spots

Dark spots on face and body skin can be stubborn, which may explain why they’re one of the most common skin issues people seek help for. Fortunately, certain skincare ingredients can help improve the look of them. While there’s no surefire way to remove dark spots entirely, the following ingredients can help them become less noticeable over time.

1. Niacinamide

Inarticle Dark Spots On Face1

If you’re looking to treat dark spots and promote a more even skin tone, consider adding niacinamide to your skincare routine. Studies have found that this naturally occurring form of vitamin B3 can help lighten dark spots and other types of discolorations on the face and body when used topically. In addition to its dark spot-lightening benefits, niacinamide can help soothe irritation, increase skin hydration, and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores. It even shows promising anti-aging properties—like helping to improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Plus, it’s known to play well with other skincare ingredients, such as glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and retinol.

You can find this powerful ingredient in L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum. The dermatologist-validated formula helps reduce the appearance of all types of dark spots (including age spots and post-acne marks) and gently exfoliates to reveal brighter-looking skin. Your skin will start to look more even in just a couple of weeks' time, and dark spots will be less visible with continued use. Plus, the lightweight serum is suitable for all skin types and gentle enough for daily use.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C (a.k.a. ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid) is also known for helping to improve the appearance of dark spots. This powerful antioxidant helps protect your skin from free radicals and sun damage, which can accelerate skin aging and cause dark spots on face and body skin. When used consistently, products with vitamin C may help fade dark spots while making your skin look brighter, smoother, and more radiant overall. Bonus: it’s also useful for tackling other age-related concerns, such as dark under-eye circles, fine lines, and wrinkles.

3. Retinol

While retinol is best known for its anti-aging benefits, the powerful vitamin A derivative can also help improve the appearance of dark spots. When used topically, retinol helps exfoliate the skin, which contributes to a brighter, more even-looking appearance over time. By exfoliating the skin, retinol may also help to keep clogged pores (and, by extension, breakouts) to a minimum, as well—so it can be used to both treat dark spots and help prevent them.

Keep in mind, however, that retinol can cause dryness when you first start using it, especially if you’re sensitive. If you’ve never used retinol before, we suggest checking in with your dermatologist before diving in.

4. Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that can be found in a wide array of toners, serums, and moisturizers. It helps exfoliate the skin and can help improve texture and tone while minimizing the appearance of enlarged pores and fine lines. Plus, unlike some other alpha-hydroxy acids, it’s hydrating—making it an ideal pick for those with drier skin.

5. Sunscreen

As we mentioned earlier, sun exposure can both cause and worsen the appearance of existing dark spots. As such, wearing sunscreen every day—rain or shine—is one of the best things you can to do maintain clear, even-toned skin. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends opting for a broad-spectrum formula with an SPF of at least 15 (and reapplying it, at a minimum, every two hours). Our pick: L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion. It contains vitamins C and E and helps protect against both UV rays and environmental damage that can contribute to early signs of skin aging. Another bonus: the non-greasy formula blends well with all skin tones and can be used to help prime your skin for makeup.

How Can You Reduce Your Chances Of Getting Dark Spots?

Knowing how to get rid of dark spots (or at least, help minimize their appearance) is useful, but even better is knowing how to prevent them from developing in the first place. Below are some things you can do to help promote clear, even-toned skin.

1. Wear sunscreen

Whether you’re a skincare novice or a pro, we’re sure you’re familiar with this mantra: wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine. The aforementioned L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Daily UV Lotion is a great pick for daily use since it doesn’t leave a white cast and is suitable for all skin types. You can also double up on your sunscreen by opting for a moisturizer that contains SPF, such as the L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Triple Power Day Lotion SPF 30.

2. Reapply SPF

If you’ll be outdoors for a while, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends reapplying your sunscreen every two hours, or if you’ve been swimming or sweating. If you’re doing a full-body application, think about using about the same amount of SPF that would fill a shot glass (about one ounce).

3. Use other sun protection

Sunscreen helps protect your skin from the sun, but it isn’t foolproof. For additional protection, you’ll want to take other sun protection measures. These include limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun (especially during peak hours, which are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.), seeking shade, and covering up exposed areas in long sleeves, pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.

4. Don’t pop pimples

We know it can be tempting when you look in the mirror and see a big whitehead or blackhead staring back at you. But try your best to resist giving it a pop. “Not only is picking going to increase the chances of hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Henry warns, but “it could also contribute to textural changes.” In short, picking at your acne can lead to hard-to-treat dark spots or even scarring.

5. Try not to touch your face

Along the same lines, try to be more conscious about not touching your face. We know, easier said than done. (Fun fact: One study found that participants touched their faces an average of 23 times per hour!) But touching your acne can actually worsen it, making it more likely that you’ll be left with dark spots and scars.

6. See a dermatologist

When in doubt, visit a dermatologist. They can help tailor a plan for your specific skincare needs and offer recommendations on how to treat dark spots. Some may even have access to in-office treatments that can effectively remove dark spots on your face (though, keep in mind, these treatments often come with a hefty price tag).

How Can You Minimize the Appearance Of Dark Spots?

Try as we may, sometimes dark spots are unavoidable. Try not to blame yourself. Instead, think about using these strategies focused on how to get rid of dark spots.


If you’re prone to dark spots, Dr. Henry recommends incorporating an exfoliant like glycolic acid into your regular skincare routine. As for how often you should use it, pay attention to the product label, as well as how your skin responds to determine what works best for you. While some people can handle daily exfoliation, others may only need to do so once or twice a week.

A gentle option formulated for nightly use on all skin tones and types—even sensitive ones—is L’Oréal Paris RevitaLift Derm Intensives 5 Percent Glycolic Acid Peeling Toner. This glycolic acid toner immediately leaves the skin feeling smoother. With consistent use, you’ll notice softer, glowier skin and a visible improvement in existing dark spots.

Use a targeted dark spot skincare

A serum, cream, or other dark spot-specific skincare treatment can help improve the appearance of dark spots over time. The aforementioned L’Oréal Paris Bright Reveal 12% [Niacinamide + Amino Sulfonic + Ferulic Acid] Dark Spot Serum is a great pick for those battling existing dark spots. If you’re looking to help keep discoloration at bay, we also recommend L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 12% Pure Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum. This formula with vitamin C, salicylic acid and vitamin E helps brighten and refine the skin while visibly evening skin tone. It also helps reduce the appearance of age-related concerns like fine lines and enlarged pores to reveal a smoother, more youthful-looking complexion over time.

How Do You Conceal Dark Spots With Makeup?

Alas, all good things take time and patience. So, while you’re waiting to see an improvement in the look of your dark spots, try these makeup tips for hiding dark spots.

Step 1. Color-correct and/or prime

If you have dark spots (or any other skin discolorations) consider adding a color-correcting concealer to your makeup routine. To understand the concept behind color-correcting, journey back to your elementary school days when you likely learned about the color wheel. Colors that are opposite each other on the wheel cancel each other out. Yellow, for example, can help to conceal purplish discoloration. And green can help to neutralize redness.

You can also try using a skin-perfecting makeup primer, like the L’Oréal Paris Prime Lab Up to 24H Dullness Reducer. Best for medium to deep skin tones, this dullness-reducing primer with niacinamide helps prime your skin for makeup while boosting radiance over time. For fair to medium skin with an uneven, reddish tone, try L’Oréal Paris Prime Lab Up to 24H Redness Eraser. This green-tinged formula instantly hides redness and helps improve skin tone with consistent use.

Step 2. Apply full-coverage concealer

Once you’re done color-correcting, use a full-coverage concealer, like L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer up to 24H Full Coverage. It has a matte finish and a long-lasting formula that stays in place for up to 24 hours. Find your shade among the 25 different options, then buff the concealer onto your skin using a brush, makeup blender, or your finger. Immediately, imperfections such as dark spots, redness, scars, and more will be gracefully hidden.

Another effective option is L’Oréal Paris True Match Radiant Serum Concealer. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and caffeine and comes in 24 shades that provide medium coverage to help mask imperfections.

Step 3. Layer on a full-coverage foundation

Once you’ve finished with concealer, it’s time to move on to foundation. Try the L'Oréal Paris Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation. This lightweight, breathable foundation is transfer-proof and offers medium to full, buildable coverage (in 40 shades!). It also wears for up to 24 hours. Stipple the liquid foundation onto your skin, then simply blend and buff until it's even.

Step 4. Finish with setting spray

To help your makeup stay in place and look flawless all day—and avoid midday touchups—use a setting spray. You can seal the deal with L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray. Shake the bottle well, then hold it eight to ten inches away from your face, close your eyes, and spray it on a few times using an “X” and “T” motion for all-day makeup wear.

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