We updated this article in May 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on extensive testing done by the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab, additional expert commentary and three new GH Beauty Lab top-tested products.
Also called sun spots, age spots or hyperpigmentation, dark spots can pop up on your face, hands and décolletage as a result of sun exposure, genetics, hormones and inflammation, says Howard Murad, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare. Instead of just covering them with concealer, seek out a dark spot corrector skincare product that can help fade hyperpigmentation for good. "Dark spot correctors are used to lighten and diminish skin hyperpigmentation resulting from acne, sun damage or an otherwise uneven skin tone," explains Alan J. Parks, M.D., dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse in Columbus, OH. "They work by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin in the skin, and may also increase the rate at which skin cells renew themselves, ridding the skin of the dead, damaged cells faster and making way for fresh, new cells."
Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab scientists evaluate hundreds of skincare products every year, including ones that claim to correct dark spots, from moisturizers to night creams to serums and face peels. The products are evaluated both in the Lab using technical instruments and with consumers at home, who provide their feedback on factors like ease of use and look and feel of skin brefore and after use. Whether your dark spots are from the sun, post-acne scarring darkened by UV exposure or caused by melasma, these are the best dark spot correctors that really work to permanently remove dark spots and hyperpigmentation on the face and body, as tested by the GH Beauty Lab.
Our top picks:
Best Overall Dark Spot Corrector CreamAnew Ultimate Multi-Performance Night Cream Avon Read More
Best Value Dark Spot CorrectorRevitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30 L’Oréal Paris Read More
Best Dark Spot Corrector for Sensitive SkinRegenerist Max Tone Serum with Vitamin C Olay Read More
Best Hydroquinone Dark Spot CorrectorSkin Success Anti-Dark Spot Fade Cream Palmer's Read More
Best Anti-Aging Dark Spot CorrectorMulti Correxion 5 in 1 Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30 Roc Read More
- Measurably fades dark spots
- Effectively firms and hydrates skin
- Boosts radiance
- Scent may be polarizing
Avon's cream with high levels of glycolic acid showed stellar performance in GH Beauty Lab testing, earning a perfect score for helping reduce the appearance of UV spots by an impressive 12%, plus top rankings for improving skin firmness and hydration. Several testers noted that it gave their skin a glow. "It really diminished the look of age spots and kept skin well moisturized at night," one commented.
- Top Lab scores for fading dark spots
- Affordable and available at drugstores
- SPF 30 sun protection
The winner of the GH Beauty Lab's day cream test, this L’Oréal Paris drugstore moisturizer is formulated with anti-aging powerhouses like vitamin C, pro-retinol and glycolic acid, plus protective SPF 30. The drugstore bargain proved the best at improving UV spots (by 11.2%) in the Lab’s clinical study and testers agreed — they rated it top at perfecting skin tone. "It improved my skin tone...my skin appeared brighter and more radiant," one raved. All for a bargain price!
- Potent levels of vitamin C
- Good value
Backed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, Olay’s serum is supercharged with high levels of skin tone-evening vitamin C and free of fragrance for those with sensitivities. In a split-face study, imaging analysis showed significant improvement in spots and evenness in skin tone and color starting after two weeks of use, GH Beauty Lab data evaluatin found.
- Contains multiple effective active ingredients
- Ingredient may be too strong for sensitive skin
Made with potent 2% spot-fading hydroquinone, retinol and vitamin C, this cream from the trusted GH Seal star brand Palmer's is the best-selling dark spot corrector at Walmart. “I have been using this product for years— it is the best dark spot fade cream I have ever used,” a reviewer raved. “Most of my dark spots have completely faded.”
- Firms skin and reduces wrinkles
- Measurably fades dark spots
- Contains SPF
This all-in-one daily moisturizer from Roc was the consumer favorite in the GH Beauty Lab's anti-aging day cream test and scored high for reducing visible spots by 4.5%, over four weeks in Lab measurements. Testers gave it the best marks for softening, firming and reducing wrinkles, and a few said it was perfect for wearing under makeup. “It left my skin feeling plump and looking smooth and glowing," one said, and another noted that it seemed to have lightened her brown spots.
- Made with 20% brightening vitamin C
- Targets hyperpigmentation on dark skin tones
From BeautyStat, a Black-owned brand created by cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, this multi-benefit serum contains a high 20% concentration of the gold standard brightening ingredient vitamin C, especially beneficial for dark skin tones that are prone to hyperpigmentation. We haven't tested it in the Lab, but reviewers swear by it: “Helps combat dark spots, breakouts, signs of aging,” a Skinstore reviewer reported. “It's a miracle product that truly tackles it all.”
- Formulated for dark spots from breakouts
- Targets individual spots
These innovative ZitSticka patches, infused with a laundry list of brightening ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C, arbutin, licorice root extract and kojic acid, pinpoint and tackle dark marks from acne. “They work really well for hyperpigmentation after acne, and I like how targeted they are, so you can ensure they’re working on the area you want them to,” says GH's former beauty assistant.
- Effectively brightens skin and boosts radiance
- Visible effects for days
- Can be used on body skin
In the GH Beauty Lab's face peel test, Philosophy’s individually-packed pads, which can also be used on the body, earned the top score for brightening skin according to consumer testers and ranked highly for evening skin tone. Great for use before a special event, a few testers found their skin glowing for days after application. “After each use, my skin looked brighter for two days," one said. "It also felt softer and smoother."
- Packed with proven brightening ingredients
- Anti-aging benefits
Mamina Turegano, M.D., a dermatologist in Metairie, Louisiana and co-founder of Skintap.com recommends this multipurpose Biopelle serum, which is blended with both dark spot-fading and anti-aging ingredients. "It contains kojic acid, niaciamide, retinol and vitamin C to help with dark spots," she says. "The formula also has peptides to help rejuvenate the skin."
- Brightens and boosts radiance instantly
- Reduces dark spots over time
- Good value
A Good Housekeeping Seal star, this cloud-like moisturizer from Olay contains 5% niacinamide for brightening and antioxidant green tea. The formula quickly soaks into skin, increases skin radiance through an eight-hour day and fades and shrinks dark spots and pores over time, GH Beauty Lab data confirmed.
- Measurably reduces dark spots
- Highly moisturizing
A standout night cream in the GH Beauty Lab's test, Algenist was the best at minimizing the look of dark spots (by 10.5%!) in calculations with the Lab's Visia Complexion Analyzer device. It also earned the highest moisturization scores from consumers and boosted skin’s hydration by 33% over six hours in Corneometer machine measurements. One tester said that the formula “really is removing my dark spots.”
- Effectively brightens skin tone
- Smooths skin
- Tester favorite
Dermalogica's professional-level lactic acid peel was the best at brightening skin the GH Beauty Lab's face peel test. An impressive 100% of testers agreed that it brightened their skin, improved skin tone and left skin looking smoother, and all reported they'd use it again. It also performed impressively at boosting skin's radiance. "My skin immediately felt so smooth and looked even and bright," and "it seemed to lighten brown spots," two testers reported.
- Contains several dark spot-minimizing ingredients
- Antioxidant effects
Recommended by both Dr. Turegano and Dr. Parks, SkinMedica's serum is made with a plethora of proven dark spot-reducing ingredients, including tranexamic acid, niacinamide, phenylethylresorcinol and phytic acid. "It addresses discoloration and hyperpigmentation of the skin and reveals a brighter, more even complexion," Dr. Parks says.
- Precise applicator to target spots
- Evens skin tone
Zero in on stubborn dark spots on the face with this concentrated vitamin C treatment from No7, a Good Housekeeping Seal star. After just two weeks of use, 66% of users reported their age spots, dark spots or other areas of pigmentation were visibly reduced and 72% said their skin tone was more even after four weeks, according to GH Beauty Lab data evaluation.
- Minimizes lines and firms
- Brightens skin
Treat dark spots on the face and wrinkles simultaneously with this serum from dermatologist-recommended brand Skinceuticals, a winner of the GH Beauty Lab's anti-aging serum test. Not only was it the best at reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles according in Lab evaluations, at-home testers raved that it was the best at firming skin and a great skin brightener. It’s formulated with 5% niacinamide, which Beauty Lab chemists say has been shown to brighten skin, improving hyperpigmentation. "My skin tone appears more even," a tester reported.
- Exfoliates and smooths skin with powerful actives
- Brightens and boosts radiance
A GH Beauty Lab face peel test winner, La Prairie's fast-acting formula with a potent blend of exfoliating lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids is splurge-worthy. It scored highest in Lab digital imaging evaluations for improving radiance and earned some of the highest scores for brightening skin. “My skin looked brighter as soon as I washed it off — my family even noticed!” one revealed.
- Lightweight formula
- Fragrance-free and noncomedogenic
- Reduces hyperpigmentation
Even out spotted skin by applying this Good Housekeeping Seal star Mary Kay serum daily. GH Beauty Lab evaluations confirmed that 95% of women reported improvement in pigmentation and spot size after 12 weeks of use. Beauty Lab scientists also like that the formula is fragrance-free, lightweight and non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores.
- Contains naturally-derived ingredients
- Targeted applicator
- Good value
This GH Beauty Award winner from Versed contains a potent blend of ingredients (kojic acid, niacinamide, licorice extract, tranexamic acid), balanced by botanicals like aloe and orange fruit water, that work to fade hyperpigmentation. In an eight-week trial of this “lightweight” spot treatment, 85% of users agreed that it minimized the look of dark spots, GH Beauty Lab data evaluation confirmed.
To find the best dark spot corrector products, GH Beauty Lab scientists conduct both rigorous clinical and consumer testing, recruiting women of all ages and skin types to assess the products' results after at home use. In the Lab, their skin is scanned with the Visia Complexion Analyzer machine to measure changes in the size and count of dark spots, plus pores, skin texture and lines and wrinkles before and after weeks of use, as pictured below.
Consumer testers also report their feedback on factors like ease of use, cosmetic properties (i.e. texture, scent), application and the look and feel of their skin following the testing period. The clinical and consumer data is then tallied to find the products that really perform.
When shopping for dark spot correcting treatments, which can include serums, moisturizers and exfoliators like peels, our experts suggest look for terms directly addressing dark spots or "brightening" and “skin tone-evening" on the packaging. Dr. Parks recommends seeking out formulas that contain skincare ingredients like:
✔️ Vitamin C, an antioxidant that brightens skin
✔️ Niacinamide (a.k.a. vitamin B3), which slows pigment production)
✔️ Hydroquinone, which inhibits an enzyme that produces melanin
✔️ Retinol and alpha or beta hydroxy acids (like glycolic and salicylic acids), which increase skin cell turnover to get rid of hyperpigmented cells
✔️ Tranexamic acid, kojic acid, alpha-arbutin, cysteamine, azelaic acid, resorcinol, soy and licorice root extract can also lessen hyperpigmentation, Dr. Turegano says.
When applying a dark spot corrector, generally, "if it's a serum or liquid form, it should be the first product that touches your skin after cleansing," Dr. Turegano advises. "If the dark spot corrector is in a lotion or cream form, it can be applied after a serum." Note that "the sun is one of the biggest contributors to developing and accentuating dark marks," she says, so applying a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen daily is a must in order to see a reduction in dark spots.
Most importantly, use a dark spot corrector according to the instructions on the product packaging, especially regarding frequency, which can vary from once to twice daily or one or two times per week for products like peels.
Good news: Dark spots aren’t permanent! Here's how to fade hyperpigmentation, whether at home or heading to the dermatologist for a professional treatment:
- Commit to a skincare regimen for at least one month. The topical options you use at home can really work, but “any at-home age spot-fading skincare product, like a serum, must be used daily as directed for at least four weeks," explains GH Beauty Lab Executive Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D.
- Wear SPF. Any dark spot correcting product must be used "along with a broad-spectrum facial sunscreen SPF 30 or higher to allow it to work and prevent further damage," Aral says. Slather on face SPF every single day in any season.
- Head to the derm. For stubborn spots, a dermatologist can offer faster, more high-tech solutions, like a laser treatment. It's always a good idea head to your dermatologist for yearly skin checks to be sure none of your spots are precancerous or cancerous.
GH Beauty, Health and Sustainability Lab Executive Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D., has led clinical and consumer testing in the GH Beauty Lab for 15 years across categories including skincare, haircare, makeup and devices. In addition to earning M.Eng. and Ph.D. degrees in chemical engineering, she recently added a professional certificate in sustainability management from Columbia University to her credentials. Birnur and the Beauty Lab chemists also conduct the brand's annual Beauty Awards selection process, a yearlong effort for the team that involves assessing hundreds of products.
April Franzino is the Beauty Director at Good Housekeeping and has over 15 years of experience researching, writing and editing skincare-related content, utilizing the expertise of the Institute's Beauty Lab scientists and top industry professionals such as dermatologists and aestheticians. She is an expert in all face and body skincare product categories, including eye creams, cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, sunscreens, exfoliators, masks, professional treatments and more. April works closely with the GH Beauty Lab to coordinate skincare product testing and translate test results into best-in-class, compelling, factually accurate science-backed content.
Nicole Saporita is a former member of the Good Housekeeping editorial team that spent years working with the GH Beauty Lab to interpret and report on product testing.