How To Even Out Your Skin Tone Once & For All

One of the most common skin-care woes we hear from both readers and friends is an uneven complexion — more specifically, those dark spots left over from our acne-ridden teenage years. To make matters worse, they are seriously difficult to get rid of (and challenging to conceal) once you’ve got them.

Enter the dark spot corrector. If you don’t already have one in your skin-care regimen, it’s time. There are plenty of over-the-counter options out there, but it’s important to know what kind of formula to look for and how to use it properly. Hydroquinone is still considered the gold-standard lightening agent, says dermatologist Sejal Shah, MD, and you can find it in a variety of products. The over-the-counter strength tends to be 2%, while prescription-strength is somewhere around 4%.

But there are other options: Dr. Shah says you can also look for kojic acid, licorice root extract, vitamin C, niacinamide, soy, and retinoid when battling dark spots. Jessica Weiser, MD, of New York Dermatology Group, suggests formulas with turmeric, lactic acid, and papaya for their skin-brightening properties.

Once you’ve made your selection, there are some things to be cautious of: “The most common issue with many lightening agents is that they can irritate the skin, leading to redness, flaking, dryness, or even itchy or burning sensations,” Dr. Shah says. Women with darker skin tones need to take extra care. “Whether citric, lactic, or glycolic, using acid on dark skin tones should be done with caution, as excess peeling of the skin can conversely lead to hyper-pigmentation, or can cause burns that may lead to lightening or darkening of the skin,” Dr. Weiser says.

Both doctors agree that before starting any lightening regimen, it’s important to discuss with your dermatologist what course is right for you. Dr. Shah also stresses the importance of using sun protection in conjunction with your dark-spot treatment, as the active ingredients can make your skin more vulnerable to burns.

With all this in mind, we’ve rounded up a handful of dark spot correctors and broken them down by the number of brightening ingredients they contain — some utilize just one, the others comprise a few. Click through to find the product that’s right for you, consult with your derm, and you’ll be kissing those dark spots goodbye in no time.

Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel, 3.4 Ounce

Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel, 3.4 Ounce

Both acne-prone and sensitive skin types will rejoice over this formula. Why? It’s loaded with gentle AHAs and BHAs. So while it fights active acne and prevents future blemishes, it also helps repair leftover acne marks and dark spots, so your complexion will appear smooth and clear.

Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Clearing Gel, $16, available at Amazon


  1. 10% glycolic acid (AHA) exfoliates surface dead skin cells and stimulates cellular turnover
  2. 2% salicylic acid (BHA) helps to loosen sebum within the pores and prevents future breakouts
  3. Apply only to congested and/or oil areas

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster, 1.0 Fluid Ounce

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Anti-Aging Collagen Booster

Have scars or dark spots? A product packed with vitamin C is the best place to start. This formula brightens, even tone, and creates a radiant complexion that only gets better with time.

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Anti-Aging Collagen Booster, $56, available at Amazon.


  1. Totally weightless, this aromatic serum is absorbed instantly and penetrates to the deeper layers of the skin where it goes to work to provide long term results
  2. A must,have preventative and corrective product
  3. Sensitive skin, prone to irritation will benefit immensely from the calming properties of this serum

Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution 30 ml.


Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution

This little bottle contains activated vitamin C to clarify your skin and help to prevent future dark spots. Plus, it’s 100% fragrance-free, making it ideal for those with sensitive skin. Win-win.

Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution, $69, available at Amazon

  1. A fast-acting serum that evens skin tone and diminishes dark spots to impart overall radiance and luminosity to the skin
  2. Treat and correct with Dark Spot Solution (with Activated C, White Birch & Peony Extract) to visibly diminish the number and intensity of discolorations while deterring the formation of spots on the skin™s surface.

Origins Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Bright Skin Tone Correcting Serum 1.7 oz

Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Bright Correcting Serum

The active ingredient in this serum is rosa roxburghii, an extract from the chestnut rose, which is a good source of antioxidants. The serum helps to reduce dark spots, as well as correct and balance the skin tone.

Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Bright Correcting Serum, $75, available at Amazon.


  1. UV damage? Post acne marks? Age spots?
  2. Before considering a derm or drastic measure, discover Dr. Weil’s revolutionary approach instead.
  3. Although it’s not the same as a medical treatment, 83% of those tested showed a visible reduction in the appearance of dark spots in just 4 weeks.
  4. It works so powerfully because nature’s radiant Rosa Roxburghii complex helps correct visible discoloration and quell irritation to help prevent it from reappearing.
  5. Skin stays clear, bright and luminous. For all its potency – it’s safe and gentle on all skin tones.

Proactiv+ Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Serum, 1 Ounce

Proactiv+ Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Serum

The active ingredient in Proactiv+’s dark-spot correcting serum is hydroquinone, which helps battle everything from acne scars to sun damage.

Proactiv+ Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Serum, $47, available at Amazon.


  1. Gradually fades dark brownish discoloration, pigment, spots, and blotches
  2. Helps lighten post acne marks
  3. Helps calm and soothe the skin with sea buckhorn
  4. Can also be used for the gradual fading of freckles and age and liver spots
  5. Clear, gel-like serum formula; Paraben-free; Non-Comedogenic; Dermatologist tested

Peter Thomas Roth De Spot Skin Brightening Corrector, 1 Fluid Ounce

Peter Thomas Roth De-Spot Skin Brightening Corrector, $75, available at Peter Thomas Roth.

While Peter Thomas Roth’s brightener uses a bunch of ingredients, niacinamide is the main active. It’s also safe to use on your hands and décolletage.

Peter Thomas Roth De-Spot Skin Brightening Corrector, $34, available at Amazon


  1. Dramatically helps visibly reverse the appearance of dark spots and discoloration due to aging, sun damage, pregnancy mask, and post-acne discoloration.
  2. See results that appear visibly comparable to prescription strength ingredients in as little as 2 weeks and increasingly dramatic results in up to 12 weeks.