Dark spots on your face can be brought on from either past breakouts, sun damage, or skin trauma—all of which can happen to just about anyone. Now the good news: These darkened patches are fairly easy to treat, meaning you’re not stuck with them forever, if you don’t want to be. Follow the tips below and you’ll start to fade the dark spots on your face in as little as four weeks, while preventing new spots from popping up, too.
Do not pick that zit: If you’ve given into temptation in the past and picked at your face, you know the ugly aftermath: an inflamed red or brown mark (that can stick around for months) as a result of skin trauma. Instead, keep your hands off and treat your pimples with a one percent hydrocortisone cream. It’s an anti-inflammatory, so it’ll soothe redness and swelling—and unlike traditional acne spot treatments, it won’t dry out or irritate your skin (which can end up creating more hyperpigmentation).
Use a chemical exfoliant: Ditch your face scrub and get yourself a chemical exfoliant, instead. Chemical exfoliators include alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic and lactic acids), beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid), and enzymes from fruit extracts. All three help dissolve the glue that holds together dead, discolored cells on the surface of your skin leaving you with clearer, brighter, all-around glowier skin. Plus, by sloughing away surface-level dead cells, your skin is better able to absorb any spot treatments or brightening serums you apply afterward, which helps make them more effective.
As a general rule, dark spots from acne can benefit from using a chemical exfoliators with salicylic acid (the ingredient is anti-inflammatory and helps clear excess oil from pores), while dark spots and marks from UV damage are better off exfoliating with an AHA like glycolic acid.
Invest in a brightening serum: Dark spots and marks takes weeks to fade, regardless of whether they’re from your handiwork or from the sun or old breakouts. It’s the worst. But committing to a dark spot correcting serum—look for one with brightening ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, tranexamic acid, and/or kojic acid—can significantly speed up the process and help fade dark spots even faster.
Make sunscreen an everyday thing: If there’s only one rule that you follow from this entire list, make it this one: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more every day. Not only does regularly using sunscreen help prevent skin cancer, it also shields your skin from harmful UV rays—the culprit behind most dark spots. In response to the sun’s UV rays, cells send out protective pigment (or melanin) to keep your skin from getting burned. You know this process as “getting tan,” but it’s really your skin trying to protect itself.