We Asked Dermatologists To Share How to Finally Eliminate Dark Spots

Melanin can be a gift—and a curse.

What’s the one roadblock getting in between you and a flawless complexion? Likely dark spots.

Despite conflicting explanations, dark spots are actually caused by overproduction of melanin pigment. “Sun exposure is main cause of hyperpigmentation (or dark spots) as it triggers excessive melanin pigment production,” explains Dr. Fran Cook-Bolden.

However, there are many other factors that cause the overproduction of pigment can occur. The top three include genetics, hormones and inflammation due to trauma (i.e. popping your pimples.) Tempting, we know, but the effects are long-lasting — and can cause something even worse: a bacterial infection.

In terms of ingredients, derms rank products with vitamin C, kojic acid and hydroquinone as hard-working favorites.

“My favorite over-the-counter product with hydroquinone is Ambi Skincare Fade Cream,” shares Dr. Cook-Bolden. “It is tried-and-true and has been around forever! With time, it has become even more effective. It’s not your mama’s Ambi!”

The latest formulation uses AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) to enhance the penetration of hydroquinone for accelerated exfoliation of excessive pigment. This is especially helpful for older spots possibly from your teens.

But clearer even skin isn’t an overnight success story. On average, it takes about four weeks to start to see the effects clinically, explains Dr. Cook Bolden. “In some, the effects can be seen as early as two weeks. However, it is not uncommon for it to take eight to 12 weeks to see the visible difference depending on several factors,” she further clarifies.

As a tip, when starting skincare treatments that contain ingredients like hydroquinone, they are best applied at night. After you assess your skin’s reaction, you can slowly incorporate it into your morning routine but you must apply sunscreen.

Dr. Sumayah Jamal, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC, emphasizes this greatly. “Using sunscreen is a must to help prevent sun damage, however many people stay out in the sun longer when they use it. [They] incorrectly believing they are completely protected from sun damage.” 

“While sunscreen certainly helps, it’s also important to avoid peak sun intensity hours and to use a broad spectrum, photo-resistant and photo-stabilized sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30,” she continues.

We admit, finding a sunscreen for brown skin can be tricky. Many formulas are too thick, too greasy or leave behind a unsightly blue-ish cast. But please don’t skip — beyond sun damage, you can increase your chance for fine lines, wrinkles and skin cancer.

According to a study from 2016, African-American patients were most likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages than any other group in the study, and they also had the worst prognosis and the lowest overall survival rate.

Those stats are scary, so remember to protect yourself 365, even when the clouds are out. Looking for product recos? The BET staffers have found success in brands like SkinMedica, SuperGoop, Glossier, Elta MD and Coola.

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