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A buyer’s guide to the best serums for treating dark spots and other blemishes

How does a serum treat dark spots?

Hyperpigmentation is often caused by excess melanin production, which is the pigment that gives skin its colour. Melanin acts as a safety barrier for the skin, absorbing harmful UV rays and protecting cells from sun damage. However, too much sun exposure causes an increase in melanin production, leading to sun (or liver) spots. In addition, as we age, the outer skin layer (epidermis) becomes thinner and more susceptible to dark spots.

We love all things skincare, and our top pick to help address these issues is a facial serum. A serum focuses on hydrating the skin and targets specific concerns with active ingredients. Their smaller molecular structure allows the lightweight mixture to penetrate the skin effectively and delivers high concentrations of ingredients to treat the matter at hand. In this case, serums help boost the skin’s texture and lighten the discoloured cells, featuring hero ingredients like glycolic acid and vitamin C.

Which active ingredients should you look for in a serum to address dark spots?

For an effective approach to tackling discolouration issues, such as acne scarring and dark spots, consider serums that contain active ingredients. These ingredients may work in different ways, including lightening the skin, slowing melanin production, and evening out the skin tone.

Look for face serums containing the following ingredients:

  • Vitamin C: This active ingredient is a favourite in most serums, particularly to hydrate and soothe skin. Vitamin C is also useful for fading dark spots and brightening the skin; whilst helping increase collagen production to even skin tone damaged by hyperpigmentation. Try this Pure Vitamin C 10 Serum 30ml from La Roche-Posay.

  • Kojic acid: This antioxidant is a natural skin lightener, helping slow pigment production and lightening dark spots. Try this SkinCeuticals Discolouration Defence Serum 30ml, containing 1% kojic acid.

  • Niacinamide: A form of vitamin B, niacinamide helps reduce melanin production in the skin to prevent further dark spots from forming. It also helps reduce inflammation, which causes redness and other blemishes. Try this Niacinamide Serum 30ml by The Inkey List to help reduce breakouts and balance oily skin.

  • Glycolic acid: This alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) helps to penetrate the deepest skin layers and dissolve dead skin cells, fading dark spots in the process. Glycolic acid helps promote thicker and plumper-looking skin by stimulating collagen production. Try this Murad Brightening Serum 10ml, containing vitamin C and glycolic acid.

  • Glycerin: Often used to treat dark spots due to its exfoliation properties, both hydrating and attracting moisture to the skin. Glycerin benefits those with dry and flaky skin problems, removing dead skin cells to help improve the appearance of dark spots and scarring. Try this Dermalogica Dark Spot Serum 30ml, containing glycerin that helps prevent future dark spots.

Our top picks on the best serums for dark spots

At Meaghers, we stock some of the best and sought-after skincare products that help address pigmentation concerns. It can be difficult to find the best serum, particularly if your major issue is fading and reducing dark spots. That’s why we are here to offer our best insights for your skin.

Compare the serums by looking at their active ingredients, benefits and potential side effects. Here are our top picks for dark spot serums:

SkinCeuticals Discolouration Defence Serum 30ml

SkinCeuticals provides skincare products that operate in different ways: preventing, correcting, and protecting the skin. Our top pick is their Discolouration Defence Serum helps correct discolouration, such as dark spots, and prevent further hyperpigmentation. This is great for evening out skin tone and reducing the appearance of concerns such as acne scarring, brown patches, and sunspots.

One of the key ingredients is kojic acid, which is a natural antioxidant derived from fungi and sake, the Japanese rice wine. Kojic acid prevents the formation of tyrosine, an amino acid that helps produce melanin, making the active ingredient a key skin-lightening tool perfect for fading dark spots.

SkinCeuticals Discolouration Defence Serum 30ml

Price: €110.00

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Key benefits

  • Reduces skin discolouration and minimises reoccurrence

  • 60% average improvement in reducing brown patches

  • Dark spot corrector

  • Helps brighten dull skin and create a more even-looking skin tone

Possible downsides

  • High potency – suggested to be used with other serums

Key ingredients

  • Niacinamide (5%)

  • Kojic acid (1% - inhibits tyrosinase)

  • Glycerin

  • Tranexamic acid (1.8%)

  • Hydroxyethyl urea (a strong moisturiser)

La Roche-Posay Mela B3 Anti-Dark Spot Serum 30ml

La Roche-Posay formulates skincare products suitable for all skin types, focusing specifically on sensitive skin prone to acne, blemishes and dark spots. With constant use, their Anti-Dark Spot Serum can help the reappearance of dark spots and other hyperpigmentation, whilst also hydrating and moisturising the skin.

This lightweight serum’s hero ingredient is the multi-patented Melasyl™, which, after 18 years of research, helps reduce persistent dark spots with long-lasting results. Working alongside niacinamide, Melasyl™ targets discolouration and helps intercept melanin before it makes the skin with further usage.

La Roche-Posay Mela B3 Anti-Dark Spot Serum 30ml

Price: €48.00

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Key benefits

  • Suitable for all skin types

  • Dermatologically tested

  • Helps reduce hyperpigmentation, including dark spots and acne scars

  • Hydrates the skin

Possible downsides

  • One of the more expensive products La Roche-Posay offers

Key ingredients

  • Melasyl™ active

  • Niacinamide (10% - a form of vitamin B3)

  • Retinol

  • Hyaluronic acid

  • Glycerin

Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Dark Spot Serum 30ml

As mentioned in our top picks on radiating and brightening serums, Caudalie’s Vinoperfect Serum helps prevent dark spots and tackles concerns such as acne marks, scarring, and sunspots.

Caudalie’s hero ingredient is their patented Viniferine™, derived from grapevine stalks. In fact, Viniferine™ has been clinically proven to be for evening out skin tone and addressing dark spots.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Dark Spot Serum 30ml

Price: €52.00

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Key benefits

  • Suitable for sensitive skin

  • Doubles as a primer

  • Brightens and illuminates the skin, including hyperpigmentation

  • More powerful than vitamin C serums

  • Targets dark spots and acne scarring

Possible downsides

  • May have a thicker consistency than other serums

Key ingredients

  • Glycerin

  • Bisabolol

  • Viniferine™

  • Squalane (a natural mimic of human sebum)

  • Palmitoyl grapevine shoot extract

Vichy LiftActiv B3 Serum Dark Spot & Wrinkles 30ml

With 20+ years in scientific research, Vichy provides skincare products focusing on improving mature skin through menopause and helping to nourish dry skin. Their LiftActiv B3 Serum helps reduce dark spots and wrinkles with a combination of dermatological ingredients such as glycolic acid and between 4 and 5% niacinamide.

Vichy LiftActiv B3 Serum Dark Spot & Wrinkles 30ml

Price: €43.50

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Key benefits

  • Visibly fades dark spots

  • Reduces the look of wrinkles

  • Suitable for all skin tones

  • Dermatologist tested

  • Fragrance-free and allergy-tested

Possible downsides

  • People with acne acne-prone or sensitive skin should apply a daily SPF while using this product

Key ingredients

  • Niacinamide

  • Glycerin

  • Glycolic Acid

  • Tranexamic acid

What are the best serums for different skin types prone to developing dark spots?

Different skin types may be more prone to dark spots and hyperpigmentation, and it is important to identify your skin type when finding a dark spot serum:

Sensitive skin

Sensitive skin requires gentle yet effective serums that provide hydration without causing irritation. Look for serums with soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides to replenish moisture while calming any potential inflammation. Make sure to look for dark spot serums that contain no alcohol and are fragrance-free to ensure no skin reaction.

The best dark spot serum for sensitive skin

Oily skin

Oily skin tends to produce excess sebum, leading to blocked pores and acne breakouts, which can cause hyperpigmentation, such as dark spots. For this skin type, it's essential to maintain a consistent skincare routine focused on oil control and balancing.

Look for lightweight serums with ingredients like salicylic acid or niacinamide, which help to regulate oil production, unclog pores, and prevent new breakouts.

The best dark spot serum for oily skin

Combination skin

Combination skin requires a balanced approach that addresses dryness and excess oil production. Similar to oily skin, dark spots may occur in combination skin in areas that are prone to breakouts or sun exposure.

Serums suitable for this skin type should offer hydration without adding too much oiliness.

The best dark spot serum for combination skin

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a dark spot serum and a corrector?

Dark spot serums are typically formulated with active ingredients like vitamin C or niacinamide to target and reduce the appearance of dark spots over time. They're designed to be applied all over the face or specific areas affected by hyperpigmentation.

Conversely, correctors are usually tinted products meant to be applied directly onto individual dark spots or areas of discolouration to instantly camouflage them.

If you are interested, try this NeoStrata Enlighten Dark Spot Corrector, which features vitamin C kojic acid, and a 10% AHA and PHA blend.

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