The right skincare products can help fade dark spots for a more even complexion. Below, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to the best products for dark spots.

Our Recommendations

1. Vitamin C Serum

Mad Hippie Product for Anti-aging and brightening

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

This natural vitamin C serum contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate (a stable form of vitamin C) and other effective skincare ingredients to help brighten, hydrate, and provide anti-aging benefits.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Anti-aging and brightening
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply four to five drops of the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This effective yet affordable vitamin C serum contains antioxidant-rich vitamin E and ferulic acid, which have been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C. It is also packed with additional ingredients that help hydrate, soften, and smooth the skin, including konjac root and hyaluronic acid.

Pros

  • Natural
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers noted it felt sticky on the skin

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this vegan and cruelty-free vitamin C serum contains chamomile, grapefruit, and clary sage, which provide antioxidant protection and calm the skin.

Water Deionized, Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate), Alkyl Benzoate, Vegetable Glycerin, Water, Glycerin, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate, Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea), Grapefruit (Citrus Grandis), Hyaluronic acid, Amorphophallus Konjac Root Powder, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Vitamin E (Tocotrienol), Ferulic acid, Chamomile Flower Extract (Recutita Matricaria), Sodium Phytate, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethylcellulose

  1. National Center for Biotechnology. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Nov. 11, 2021.

2. Power 10 Formula LI Effector with Licorice

It’s Skin Power 10 Formula

It’s Skin Product for Brightening and Evening Skin Tone

It’s Skin Power 10 Formula LI Effector with Licorice

This affordable serum contains a high concentration of licorice extract, which works to brighten and promote a more even skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Evening Skin Tone
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply two to three drops of the serum all over the face and neck. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This Korean serum is perfect for those looking to even out their skin tone. Licorice (glycyrrhiza uralensi) extract is known to help fade hyperpigmentation and melasma, improve skin texture, soothe the skin, and reduce redness.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Gentle
  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free

Cons

  • None

This daily serum can also be combined with other It’s Skin Power 10 serums to target specific skin concerns you’re looking to address.

Water, Glycyrrhiza, Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin,Polyglutamic, Acid, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Cosmeceuticals for Hyperpigmentation: What is Available?"

    Accessed Nov. 10, 2021.

3. Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream

Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream

Neutrogena Product for Moisturization and Anti-Aging

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream

This cream moisturizer combines the power of retinol and hyaluronic acid to fight the signs of aging while also plumping and moisturizing the skin.

Skin types: Normal, Dry and Combination
Best for: Moisturization and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply the cream to your face, neck, and chest.
See on Amazon

This anti-aging moisturizer is a great way to add retinol to your routine, as the addition of moisturizing ingredients may help mitigate some of the irritation often associated with retinol. The cream contains retinol SA, which works to smooth lines and even skin tone. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which pulls moisture to the skin for healthy hydration levels.

Pros

  • Anti-aging
  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-greasy
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • May cause irritation

In addition to the hydrating benefits, hyaluronic acid has been shown to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which makes this drugstore moisturizer even more effective for anti-aging. Even though the hydrating ingredients may mitigate the irritating effects of retinol, if you’re new to this skincare ingredient or have sensitive skin, you may want to start by using this cream every other day or every two days to see how your skin reacts.

Water, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Glycerin, Dimethicone, PPG 15 Stearyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Behenate, Ceteareth 20, Isohexadecane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polyethylene, Sodium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Crosspolymer, Polyacrylamide, PTFE, C13-14 Isoparaf n, Chlorphenesin, Polysorbate 20, Hydrolyzed Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, Retinol, BHT, Sodium Hyaluronate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Laureth-7, Ascorbic Acid

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

4. C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

SkinCeuticals Product for Anti-aging and brightening

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid

This brightening and anti-aging vitamin C serum is often considered one of the best of the best. It helps improve signs of aging while fighting environmental aggressors.

Skin types: Normal, Dry, Combination and Sensitive
Best for: Anti-aging and brightening
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply four to five drops of the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This fragrance-free vitamin C serum contains a potent 15% concentration of l-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that helps neutralize free radicals, defend against oxidative stress, and brighten and fight signs of aging. It is formulated with antioxidant-rich vitamin E and ferulic acid, which both further protect against environmental stressors. These ingredients have also been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Pros

  • Anti-aging
  • Brightening
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Some reviewers complain about the smell

This anti-aging serum remains effective for at least 72 hours after being absorbed into the skin. It also contains additional ingredients that help hydrate the skin, including glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Alpha Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine, Ferulic Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate

  1. National Center for Biotechnology. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Nov. 9, 2021.

5. Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Product for Fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and minimizing large pores

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

This drugstore retinol serum is specifically formulated to tackle post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and large pores, and helps promote an overall even and clear complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and minimizing large pores
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply a pump of the serum evenly all over the face, neck, and chest. Use once a day (or less frequently to prevent irritation).
See on Amazon

This is an excellent choice for those looking for an affordable retinol. This fragrance-free retinol serum not only helps with acne scars and large pores, but it can also help fight signs of aging and brighten the skin.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Developed with dermatologists

Cons

  • May cause irritation or dryness

This non-comedogenic retinol serum also contains ceramides and niacinamide, which work to calm and restore the skin while maintaining its barrier. Additionally, this formula contains licorice root extract, which gives a brightening boost. That extra benefit may further help lighten discolored scars.

Aqua/Water, Propanediol, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Niacinamide, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Potassium Phosphate, Ceramide Np, Ceramide Ap, Ceramide Eop, Carbomer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Dimethiconol, Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Retinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cholesterol, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Pentylene Glycol, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Ethylhexylglycerin

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

6. Discoloration Correcting Serum

Good Molecules Discoloration_Correcting Serum

Good Molecules Product for Lightening Dark Spots and Brightening

Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Serum

This affordable serum is perfect for those looking to lighten discolored spots (like post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne or melasma) for a more even complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Lightening Dark Spots and Brightening
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a few drops of the serum to affected areas. This serum can be used up to two times per day.
See on Amazon

This fragrance-free serum contains two star ingredients that help fade dark marks: tranexamic acid (AKA cetyl tranexamate mesylate) and niacinamide. Tranexamic acid is known to brighten and lighten dark spots, while niacinamide addresses uneven tone and texture.

Pros

  • Brightening
  • Affordable
  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

In addition to the key ingredients mentioned above, this daily serum contains glycerin, which helps keep the skin hydrated.

Water, Butylene Glycol, Propanediol, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Cetyl Tranexamate Mesylate, Cetyl Alcohol, Ceratonia Siliqua (Carob) Gum, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Tranexamic Acid for Melasma: Evaluating the Various Formulations"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "New topical tranexamic acid derivative for the improvement of hyperpigmentation and inflammation in the sun-damaged skin"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

7. RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream

Avene_RetrinAL_0.1_Intensive_Cream

Avène Product for Fighting the Signs of Aging

Avène RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream

This over-the-counter anti-aging retinol contains retinaldehyde, a potent retinoid, as well as other ingredients that help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, plump the skin, and protect against free radicals for a youthful complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: At night, after cleansing and drying the skin, apply to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

The star ingredient of this over-the-counter, fragrance-free retinol treatment is retinaldehyde. This kind of retinoid is one of the strongest that you can get without a prescription, and it has been proven to stimulate collagen production, smooth the appearance of wrinkles, and brighten skin tone. It also contains peptides that help plump the skin.

Pros

  • Anti-aging
  • Fragrance-free
  • Formulated to minimize the risk of allergic reactions

Cons

  • Contains color additives
  • May cause irritation (especially for those new to using retinoids)

In addition to the peptides and retinaldehyde, this anti-aging treatment cream contains vitamin E, an antioxidant, as well as Avène thermal spring water, which is meant to soothe and soften the skin.

Water (Avène Thermal Spring Water), Triethylhexanoin, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Ceteareth-20, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Ceteareth-33, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ammonium Acryloyl Dimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer, Benzoic Acid, Bht, Caramel, Disodium Edta, Mica, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Oleoyl Dipeptide-15, Oleoyl Tetrapeptide-31, Phenoxyethanol, Red 33, Retinal, Silica, Sodium Hydroxide, Titanium Dioxide, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Glucoside

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin E in dermatology"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

8. AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon Product for Gentle Exfoliation

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

This toner is an excellent product if you’re looking for gentle daily exfoliation. It contains AHAs, BHAs, and papaya enzymes that exfoliate to unclog pores and smooth tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gentle Exfoliation
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, soak a cotton pad with the toner, and then swipe all over the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This exfoliating toner contains glycolic acid and lactic acid, which are alpha hydroxy acids. These AHAs work on the surface of the skin to improve tone and texture and minimize signs of aging. It also contains salicylic acid, a BHA that works deep in the pores to unclog and prevent acne.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the AHAs and BHAs, this toner contains glycerin, which hydrates, and papaya fruit extract, which further exfoliates.

Water, Glycerin, Sodium Lactate, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium (Mugwort) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Common Yarrow) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Yellow Gentian) Root Extract, Salicylic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.

9. Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Product for Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

This 8% AHA product exfoliates the skin while also lightly hydrating to keep the skin smooth, calm, and moisturized.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the lotion over the entire face. Those with drier skin may choose to use an additional moisturizer on top. During the day, follow up with an SPF.
See on Paula's Choice

The star ingredient in this exfoliating lotion is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid – is an exfoliant that reduces the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps smooth the skin for a more even tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this lotion contains a variety of ingredients that help soothe and moisturize the skin, including glycerin, vitamin E, matricaria flower extract, and sunflower seed oil.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (exfoliant), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing/hydration), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Beheneth-5 (emulsifier), Behenyl Alcohol (fatty alcohol/emollient thickener), Dimethicone (silicone slip agent), Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate (emollient thickener), Polyglyceryl-3 Stearate (emollient emulsifier), Undecane (emollient), Phospholipids (skin-replenishing fatty acids), Allantoin (skin soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant),Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (soothing plant extract), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (non-fragrant skin-replenishing emollient), Bisabolol (soothing plant component), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock root; antioxidant and soothing plant), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (licorice-derived soothing agent), Panthenol (hydrating B vitamin), Sodium Acrylates Copolymer (film-forming agent), Tridecane (emollient), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene (emollient), Sclerotium Gum (emulsion stabilizer), Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate (emulsifier), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

10. AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon Product for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

This exfoliating serum combines the power of glycolic acid with other calming ingredients to reveal a smoother skin tone and texture while soothing the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage the product into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This serum contains an 8% concentration of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). Glycolic acid improves skin tone and texture while minimizing signs of aging.

Pros

  • Contains soothing ingredients to counteract irritation
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the glycolic acid, this serum contains a variety of ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin, including aloe, allantoin, castor oil, centella asiatica (tiger grass) extract, and papaya fruit extract.

Water, Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hyaluronate, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Panthenol, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium (Mugwort) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Common Yarrow) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Yellow Gentian) Root Extract, Alcohol, Polyquaternium-10, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

11. Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

The Ordinary Product for Exfoliating and Smoothing Tone and Texture

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

This product offers gentle exfoliation to smooth skin tone and texture, and includes hydrating and soothing ingredients to fight irritation.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Smoothing Tone and Texture
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage the product into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer. Use up to one time per day.
See on The Ordinary

This exfoliating product contains a 10% concentration of mandelic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that has a larger molecular size than other commonly used AHAs (like glycolic acid). This means it is gentler on the skin, but still helps to exfoliate and smooth tone and texture while minimizing signs of aging.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May not be strong enough for those experienced with stronger acids

In addition to the mandelic acid, this product contains glycerin, sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), and tasmannia lanceolata fruit extract, which hydrate and soothe the skin.

Propanediol, Aqua (Water), Mandelic Acid, Glycerin, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Effects of Topical Mandelic Acid Treatment on Facial Skin Viscoelasticity"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.

12. Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Product for Fighting Acne and Evening Skin Tone

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

This product from The Ordinary hosts an impressive variety of benefits. Azelaic acid is a brightening skincare ingredient known for minimizing acne, lightening hyperpigmentation, and reducing redness.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fighting Acne and Evening Skin Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This product contains a 10% concentration of azelaic acid, a gentle exfoliator that has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The lightweight gel-cream helps to improve and brighten skin tone, as well as unclog pores and reduce blemishes for clear, smooth skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers note that this product can be drying

In addition to its ability to fight acne, azelaic acid is often used to treat rosacea to promote a more even skin tone.

Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Azelaic Acid, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Isohexadecane, Tocopherol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Azelaic acid"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

13. Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

The Ordinary Product for Anti-Aging

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

This is a cult-favorite The Ordinary product, and one of the best for preventing and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without the irritation often associated with traditional retinol.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: At night, after cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

The unique, next-generation retinoid actives in this serum makes it one of the best The Ordinary products for those who want to use a retinol but are worried about irritation. Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) are well-known for preventing and reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Those with retinoid experience may prefer a stronger product

This product contains granactive retinoid, a complex of solubilized hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR). This form of retinoid offers anti-aging benefits without the irritation associated with retinol (which is also a vitamin A derivative). It also contains retinol that comes in a protective capsule to further prevent irritation, boost anti-aging benefits, and support the granactive retinoid.

Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethyl Linoleate, Propanediol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Bisabolol, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Retinol, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth-12, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Acacia Senegal Gum, Cetyl Palmitate, Sucrose Laurate, Polysorbate 20, Isoceteth-20, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Behentrimonium Chloride, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Disodium EDTA, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

14. Retinol 1% in Squalane

Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Product for Fighting the Signs of Aging

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

This product is the highest-strength retinoid serum from The Ordinary, and the brand’s answer to more traditional retinol products. It’s excellent for preventing and minimizing the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: At night, after cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

Retinol is the gold-standard for minimizing wrinkles, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation. Those who are experienced with retinoid products may prefer the Retinol 1% in Squalane over the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, as it is more potent. However, with the higher strength comes a higher risk of irritation, so it is best suited for those who’ve used retinoid products in their routine.

Pros

  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • High likelihood of irritation, especially as skin adapts to the product

This serum contains squalane and jojoba oil, two ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin. They may help minimize the irritation caused by the retinol.

Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Retinol, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, BHT.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

15. Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Product for Exfoliating

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This chemical exfoliator is one of the most-loved The Ordinary products, with an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA).

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, dispense the product onto a cotton round, and gently sweep across the face, neck, and chest.
See on Amazon

Regular exfoliation is necessary in order to maintain clear, smooth skin. This product contains an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid, which has been shown to reduce the signs of aging (including wrinkles and sun spots) and minimize texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight and non-greasy
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

This chemical exfoliator also contains Tasmanian pepperberry, which helps reduce irritation, as well as aloe vera and ginseng, which soothe the skin.

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

16. AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary Product for Improving Skin Texture and Tone

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This peeling solution is one of the best The Ordinary products, particularly for those looking for a high-strength but budget-friendly at-home peel.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Improving Skin Texture and Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Cleanse the skin, and wait for it to fully dry. Once dry, apply the peel evenly over the face and neck. Leave on for up to 10 minutes, and rinse with lukewarm water.
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This peel offers a range of benefits, thanks to a high concentration of alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid), as well as an effective concentration of beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid). The AHAs help to exfoliate the top layer of the skin to reduce the signs of aging, improve texture, and minimize hyperpigmentation, while BHA unclogs pores for a clear complexion.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • High probability of irritation (best used by those experienced with acids)

This peel contains ingredients to help counteract irritation, including Tasmanian pepperberry and vitamin B5. However, this peel is still very strong for an over-the-counter product, and is best suited for those who already have experience using chemical exfoliators in their routine.

Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.

17. 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

La Roche-Posay Product for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

La Roche-Posay 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum

This serum contains a potent concentration of vitamin C, which is known for its ability to brighten, diminish post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and even skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum all over the face, neck, and chest.
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Vitamin C is an incredibly effective skincare ingredient that is known to boost collagen production, which in turn brightens, fades hyperpigmentation, and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. This serum contains a potent 10% concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which will help even overall skin tone and texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to ascorbic acid, this serum contains salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates, and hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, which draw moisture to the skin.

Aqua/Water/Eau, Ascorbic Acid, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Potassium Hydroxide, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Polysilicone-11, Dimethicone, Propylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Tocopherol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Adenosine, Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester, Peg-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Poloxamer 338, Salicylic Acid, Polyacrylamide, Toluene Sulfonic Acid, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium Edta, Bht, Laureth-7, Parfum/Fragrance.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health"

    Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.

18. Lactic Acid 5% + HA

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA

The Ordinary Product for Gentle Exfoliation

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA

This chemical exfoliator gently exfoliates while soothing and hydrating the skin to reduce irritation.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gentle Exfoliation
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, gently massage a few drops of the serum into the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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All skin types need regular exfoliation in order to maintain smooth and clear skin. However, some may need a gentler exfoliation to minimize irritation. This option contains lactic acid, a mild alpha-hydroxy acid that gently exfoliates the skin to minimize hyperpigmentation, improve texture, and promote a clear complexion.

Pros

  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin (although milder than many other AHAs)

In addition to lactic acid, this product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), which increases moisture levels in the skin. It also contains Tasmanian pepperberry, which soothes the skin.

Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Isoceteth-20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin"

    Accessed Aug. 9, 2021.

19. Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Product for Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

This is one of the best The Ordinary products to add to your skincare routine, because it contains a potent concentration of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which brightens and evens out overall skin tone while fighting the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Skin Tone and Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

Those looking to brighten their skin tone while also fighting against the signs of aging should turn to this product, which has the highest concentration of antioxidant-rich vitamin C of any of the products the brand offers. Since vitamin C has been shown to help with hyperpigmentation, this option is also great for those looking to even out dark spots. In addition to vitamin C, this product contains sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid), which increases moisture in the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

Since this product contains such a high percentage of vitamin C, some users may experience tingling as their skin adjusts, particularly if they’re newer to topical vitamin C.

Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

20. 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Product for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

This gel exfoliant contains glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA), a chemical exfoliator that sheds dead skin cells to reveal smooth, younger looking skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the gel all over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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AHAs like glycolic acid are commonly used to reduce the signs of aging, including wrinkles. This gel exfoliant contains an effective 8% concentration of glycolic acid, along with other soothing ingredients.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this exfoliator contains soothing and hydrating ingredients, including chamomile, aloe, and green tea.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Chamomilla Recutita Matricaria Flower Extract (chamomile/skin-soothing), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (hydration), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (green tea/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin replenishing), Panthenol (hydration), Sodium PCA (skin replenishing), Propylene Glycol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Polyquaternium-10 (texture-enhancing), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Sodium Benzoate (preservative)

21. 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula's Choice Product for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This treatment combines retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient, with hydrating and brightening ingredients for an even, smooth skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage a pea-sized amount of the treatment into the skin. Initially, limit usage to three times a week to allow the skin to adjust.
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Retinol is the gold-standard for fighting signs of aging, so this is an excellent choice for those with wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of soothing and hydrating ingredients helps counteract some of the potential irritating side effects of retinol.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This serum contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin, as well as licorice extract and oat extract, which soothe and calm redness.

Water (Aqua), Dimethicone (skin-softening), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Butylene Glycol (hydrating), Isononyl Isononanoate (emollient), Castor Isostearate Succinate (skin-softening ), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Dimethicone Crosspolymer (texture enhancer), PEG-33 (stabilizer), Polysorbate 20 (texture enhancer), Behenyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), PEG-100 Stearate (texture enhancer), Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate (stabilizer), Polymethylsilsesquioxane (texture enhancer), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Retinol (skin-restoring), Ceramide NG (skin-replenishing) , Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (skin-restoring), Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12 (skin-restoring), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-replenishing ), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (antioxidant plant extracts/skin-soothing), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (licorice extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Avena Sativa Kernel Extract (oat extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Salix Alba Bark Extract (willow bark extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Glycine Soja Sterols (antioxidant/skin-softening ), Lecithin (skin-restoring), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (antioxidant/skin-softening), Sorbitan Laurate (texture enhancer), Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester (skin-soothing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture enhancer), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (skin-restoring), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Tribehenin (emollient), Caprylyl Glycol (skin-softening), Ethylhexylglycerin (skin-softening), Pentylene Glycol (hydrating), PEG-75 Shea Butter Glycerides (emollient), PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer (stabilizer), PEG-10 Phytosterol (fatty acid-based emollient), PEG-8 Dimethicone (skin-softening), PEG-14 (texture enhancer), Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (texture enhancer), Arachidyl Glucoside (texture enhancer), Arachidyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), Sclerotium Gum (texture enhancer), Carbomer (gel-based texture enhancer), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Benzoic Acid (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

22. 10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula's Choice Product for Refining Pore Size and Improving Skin Tone

Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster

This super light niacinamide product is one of the best Paula’s Choice serums. It delivers a multitude of benefits, including minimizing the appearance of pores, controlling sebum production, smoothing fine lines, reducing redness, and brightening.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Refining Pore Size and Improving Skin Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the booster to the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Niacinamide is a powerful skincare ingredient that offers a wide variety of benefits, which makes this another great multipurpose serum. In addition to minimizing the appearance of pores, it has been shown to control sebum production, smooth fine lines, reduce redness, reduce hyperpigmentation, and brighten the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May cause flushing in those sensitive to niacinamide (patch test prior to using)

In addition to the 10% concentration of niacinamide, this booster contains allantoin and licorice extract, which calm the skin. It also contains vitamin C, which brightens. It’s important to note that users should patch test niacinamide first, because some people are sensitive to it, and it may make acne or flushing worse.

Water (Aqua), Niacinamide (vitamin B3, skin-restoring ), Acetyl Glucosamine (skin replenishing/antioxidant), Ascorbyl Glucoside (vitamin C/antioxidant), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Phospholipids (skin replenishing), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration/skin replenishing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (skin-soothing), Glycerin (hydration/skin replenishing), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (skin-soothing), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (licorice extract/skin-soothing), Ubiquinone (antioxidant), Epigallocatechin Gallate (antioxidant), Beta-Glucan (skin-soothing/antioxidant), Panthenol (skin replenishing), Carnosine (antioxidant), Genistein (antioxidant), Citric Acid (pH balancing), Sodium Citrate (pH balancing), Sodium Hydroxide (pH balancing), Xanthan Gum (texture-enhancing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

23. 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice Product for Evening Tone and Texture

Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster

This booster combines azelaic acid with other brightening ingredients that work together to fade post-acne marks, minimize blemishes, brighten, and even out tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Tone and Texture
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the booster to affected areas or all over the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This is a great multi-purpose serum to have on hand. If you have hyperpigmentation, this is a particularly excellent product for you, as azelaic acid has been shown to help fade dark marks. It’s also great for smoothing the skin for a more even texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This booster contains salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliator that further minimizes the appearance of blemishes and evens out skin texture and tone. It also contains licorice root, which calms redness and brightens.

Water (Aqua), Azelaic Acid (skin-brightening/tone-improving), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing), Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Cetearyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), Dimethicone (hydration/texture enhancer), Salicylic Acid (exfoliant), Adenosine (skin-restoring), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (skin-soothing), Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (skin-soothing), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Cyclopentasiloxane (texture enhancer), Xanthan Gum (stabilizer), Sclerotium Gum (stabilizer), Propanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

24. Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Product for Acne, Blackheads and Dark Spots

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1%

This treatment gel contains adapalene, a retinoid that is commonly used to treat acne and prevent new breakouts from forming.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne, Blackheads and Dark Spots
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply a thin layer of the treatment all over your face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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Adapalene is incredibly effective when it comes to treating acne, and it can also help fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from past breakouts. It increases cell turnover rates, which in turn helps clear acne and improve tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Oil-free

Cons

  • May irritate the skin

This gel is free of fragrances, and is also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t contribute to clogged pores. You may initially experience some irritation as your skin adjusts to the retinoid.

Adapalene 0.1% (retinoid), carbomer 940, edetate disodium, methylparaben, poloxamer 182, propylene glycol, purified water and sodium hydroxide

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "A review of the use of adapalene for the treatment of acne vulgaris"

    Accessed Sep. 1, 2021.

25. 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

Timeless Product for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

This affordable vitamin C serum contains a 20% concentration of vitamin C, which helps brighten and fight signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
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This lightweight serum contains a 20% concentration of l-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C that works to brighten and provide anti-aging benefits. It also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, two skincare ingredients that protect the skin from environmental stressors and have also been shown to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some reviewers complain about the pump

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this serum contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts moisture to the skin to keep it hydrated.

Water, Ethoxydiglycol, L-Ascorbic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Alpha Tocopherol, Polysorbate 80, Panthenol, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Benzylalcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in Dermatology"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

26. Vitamin C Serum

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum

TruSkin Product for Brightening and Anti-Aging

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum

This gentle and affordable serum contains vitamin C, which brightens and fights signs of aging, as well as other soothing and hydrating skincare ingredients.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

This vitamin C serum contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C that helps brighten and provide anti-aging benefits. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts moisture to the skin, and vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against free radical damage to the skin.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Some acne-prone reviewers noted that it broke them out

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this serum contains jojoba oil, which moisturizes, and witch hazel, which soothes.

Organic Deionized Herbal Infusion, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), MSM, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid (Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), Vitamin E (d-alpha Tocopheryl Acetate), Carbomer, (2s)-2-Amino-5-guanidinopentanoic Acid, Organic Gotu Kola, Wildcrafted Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense), Wildcrafted Dandelion, Wildcrafted Geranium, Organic Jojoba Oil (Organic Simmondsia Chinensis), Phenoxyethanol, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Sodium ascorbyl phosphate in topical microemulsions"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

27. Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

Derma E Product for Brightening and Anti-Aging

Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum

This affordable vitamin C serum contains a stable and effective form of vitamin C, as well as additional ingredients that help hydrate and soothe the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Anti-Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the serum onto the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer, and an SPF during the day.
See on Amazon

Vitamin C – an antioxidant that fights free radicals that can damage the skin – is key for a rounded out skincare routine, and this option is affordable and effective. It contains sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a stable form of vitamin C that doesn’t deteriorate as easily as other forms. It is able to brighten the skin and fight signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to vitamin C, this serum contains a blend of ingredients that hydrate, soothe, and nourish the skin, including hyaluronic acid, green tea leaf extract, rosehip oil, and aloe vera extract.

Purified Water, Glycerin (Vegetable Derived), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C, Stay-C 50), Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Organic Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Microcrystalline Cellulose (Plant Derived), Cellulose Gum (Plant Derived), Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide (Vegetable Derived), Polymnia Sonchifolia (Yacon) Root Juice, Maltodextrin, Lactobacillus (Probiotic), Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil, Organic Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Extract *, Allantoin, Panthenol (Provitamin B5), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Plant Derived), Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Natural Fragrance Oils

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Pharmacological attribute of Aloe vera: Revalidation through experimental and clinical studies"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Sodium ascorbyl phosphate in topical microemulsions"

    Accessed Aug. 31, 2021.

28. C15 Super Booster

Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster

Paula's Choice Product for Brightening and Fighting Signs of Aging

Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster

The 15% concentration of pure vitamin C in this serum helps brighten the skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Brightening and Fighting Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Massage two to three drops of the serum into clean skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This lightweight serum is one of the best Paula’s Choice products, as it contains a powerful concentration of vitamin C, which evens out and brightens the skin tone while also minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

In addition to vitamin C, this serum contains ferulic acid and vitamin E. These antioxidants protect the skin, and are also known to increase the efficacy of vitamin C.

Water (Aqua), Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C/antioxidant), Butylene Glycol (solvent/texture enhancer), Ethoxydiglycol (solvent/texture enhancer), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), PPG-26-Buteth-26 (emulsifier/skin-softening), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (emulsifier/solubility enhancer), Pentylene Glycol (skin-softening slip agent), Tocopherol (vitamin E/stabilizing antioxidant), Sodium Hyaluronate (hydration), Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate (skin-restoring peptide), Lecithin (skin-restoring/hydration), Ferulic Acid (stabilizing antioxidant), Panthenol (vitamin B5/skin-softening, skin-soothing), Bisabolol (skin-soothing), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract (skin-softening/chelating agent), Propyl Gallate (antioxidant), Sodium Gluconate (chelating agent), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin C in dermatology"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

FAQs

Does vitamin C remove dark spots?

Yes, vitamin C has been shown to help fade dark spots. It can help with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (which is typically caused by previous breakouts), melasma (which is related to hormonal changes, often due to pregnancy), and sun spots. For the best results, you’ll want to use a vitamin C serum regularly, and have a bit of patience to allow it to do its work.

How do you get rid of dark spots fast?

There’s no quick fix to get rid of dark spots, but if you’re consistent with your skincare routine (and use the right products), you’ll be able to speed up the healing process, and should hopefully begin to see improvements within a few weeks. In addition to using targeted products, it is essential that you wear sunscreen daily. This is because damage from the sun can make these spots even darker and cause new spots to form. If you’re looking for quicker results, you can talk to your dermatologist about professional treatments, such as a chemical peel or laser treatment.

Is vitamin C or retinol better for dark spots?

Both retinol and vitamin C are excellent for fading dark spots. Since they are both effective – and since everyone’s skin will respond differently – it’s hard to say which is better. If possible, consider using both of these ingredients in your skincare routine for the fastest results. While you can’t layer vitamin C and retinol, you can alternate between using products containing these ingredients (for example, use a vitamin C serum in the morning, and then a retinol product in the evening).

The Bottom Line

While dark spots can be difficult to get rid of, the right skincare products may help you achieve a more even skin tone. If you’re dealing with dark spots, consider adding one (or more) of our recommended products to your skincare routine.