Here’s our guide to understanding everything about them – from some of the key causes to the ingredients to look out for on your skincare labels
It’s no secret that natural skin should be celebrated. In recent years, the beauty industry has moved away from the need for “perfection”. Instead, we’re removing filters and airbrushing in a bid to honour the quirks that make us who we are. And when everything from blemishes and texture to pigmentation and dark spots are part of the skin’s natural function and healing process, we should seek to normalise them as part of what makes us human.
That said, just because it’s normal, it doesn’t mean you should feel unequipped to improve something if you'd like to. It’s OK to want to minimise the look of dark spots and enhance the skin you’re in. We believe that looking and feeling beautiful is very much a “you do you” situation – and we’re here to support that.
With this in mind, here’s everything you might want to know about dark spots on your face, as well as the sorts of ingredients, products and techniques you might like to consider adding to your routine. We speak to skincare experts Dr Emma Wedgeworth, La Roche-Posay consultant dermatologist, and Dr Pamela Benito, aesthetic medicine specialist, about everything there is to know.
What are hyperpigmentation & dark spots?
‘Hyperpigmentation is a common condition where an area appears darker in colour than the surrounding skin,’ explains Dr Benito. ‘It can cover small patches or affect the entire body.’
It will come as a comfort to know that it’s totally harmless – only occurring when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin colour, forms deposits in the skin.
What causes hyperpigmentation & dark spots?
Dr Wedgeworth explains that dark spots may occur on the skin for a number of reasons, including sun damage, ageing, acne marks or hormonal changes.
Who is most commonly affected?
‘Dark spots are a particular issue for darker skin tones,’ says Dr Wedgeworth. ‘This is due to the increased melanin production, and it’s common to see post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after blemishes.’
What are the key ingredients that can help at home?
But how can you help dial down dark spots caused by pimples and other types of pigmentation? ‘For the best results, I advise using niacinamide in combination with other actives chosen according to the underlying reason for your pigmentation,’ says Dr Wedgeworth. ‘If ageing is your concern, retinol is ideal – and niacinamide may actually help with tolerance by supporting skin barrier function. Vitamin C is another key ingredient to help with brightening.’
Where do you typically fit these actives into your skincare routine?
‘Always use a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen,’ advises Dr Wedgeworth. ‘Then add one active, slowly adding others over time. I always layer products according to consistency; with lighter textures first, and those that are heavier on top. Sunscreen should be the last step before any make-up.’
Still feeling unsure? It could be worth speaking to a dermatologist.
‘With so many skincare products available in the market, it can be overwhelming,’ agrees Dr Benito. ‘I find patients often overuse or combine products, which can worsen the skin. The best way to choose your skincare regime is to discuss with a dermatologist or skin specialist who has the knowledge and expertise to tailor your skincare products to your individual needs.’
The importance of prevention
‘Prevention is always better than cure,’ clarifies Dr Benito. ‘It’s essential when it comes to avoiding pigmentation issues – and if you already have dark spots, sunscreen may reduce the likelihood of them darkening. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of SPF30 or greater.’
Dr Wedgeworth agrees, stating: ‘Pigmentation can take a while to fade once it has developed, so it’s important to try and prevent it where possible by seeking shade, wearing hats and applying daily sun protection.’
It’s also worth noting that sun protection should be topped up every two hours ideally throughout the day and especially just after swimming, even when wearing water-resistant sunscreen.
If you do want to cover your pigmentation, what can help?
‘Concealing pigmentation can actually be helpful, particularly because the iron oxides in some foundations and concealers may help to reduce visible light exposure, particularly for darker skin tones,’ says Dr Wedgeworth. ‘I advise using cosmetics with more pigment.’ Dr Benito agrees, adding: ‘Products with a highly saturated coverage and a natural finish work well.’
Without further ado, here are the skincare products to add to your daily routine that can help reduce the appearance of pigmentation and dark spots. From vitamin C serums to suncreams that offer high protection, as well as top-rated must-buys, hidden gems and new launches, there's something for every skin type.
Our pick of the best products for dark spots & pigmentation
Best brightening serum
Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum Complexion Correcting (£46)
• Size: 30ml
• 100% recyclable glass bottle
Brimming with goodness, it’s no wonder that Caudalie’s Vinoperfect Radiance Serum has become a favourite among beauty editors. Just a sweep across your face before bed helps give your complexion a brighter appearance come morning, with dark spots appearing reduced over time.
Best luxury option
Lancôme Rénergie H.C.F Triple Serum (£95)
• Size: 50ml
Pricey, yes, but those five-star reviews don’t lie. Bursting with ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, this dreamy serum is designed to help smooth and even skin’s appearance with continued use, as well as help improve firmness and overall glow.
Best hydrating SPF
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Age Correct SPF50+ (£25)
• Size: 50ml
Enriched with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water, this broad-spectrum sunscreen hydrates and helps give the appearance of plumped-up, beautiful skin. The SPF50 provides strong protection from the sun’s rays, while the niacinamide helps reduce the appearance of any existing damage.
Best day cream
Nivea Cellular Luminous 630 Anti-Dark Spot Day Cream Face Moisturiser SPF50 (£26.99)
• Size: 40ml
Just a pea-sized amount distributed across the complexion leaves behind a beautiful sheen that looks both even and luminous. It’s dermatologically approved and is rated SPF50, making it a pigmentation hero in our eyes.
Best SPF for oily skin
Ambre Solaire Super UV Anti Dark Spots & Anti Pollution Face Fluid SPF50+ (£8)
• Size: 40ml
Anticipating some sunshine? Don’t forget the importance of an effective SPF. This pick offers very high protection, and is ultralight and hydrating, too – a sunscreen you can look forward to applying and reapplying throughout the day.
Best hydrating serum
Eucerin Anti-Pigment Dual Face Serum for Pigmentation & Dark Spots with Thiamidol & Hyaluronic Acid (£38)
• Size: 30ml
This luxurious serum absorbs quickly and isn’t greasy – ideal for warm, humid weather. Containing skin-beautifying thiamidol and hyaluronic acid, it’s a must for helping support skin's natural moisture levels.
Best multifunctional SPF
Ultrasun Face Anti Pigmentation SPF50+ Sun Protection (£32)
• Size: 50ml
This multifunctional sun protectant is designed to work as a primer, moisturiser and sunscreen all in one. Formulated without oil, its lightweight texture leaves skin feeling soft, while its matte finish shields skin against UV rays, making it particularly well-suited to shine-prone and sensitive skin types on hot days.