Regardless of whether they popped up from sun exposure or acne that's left a mark behind, the good news is that most darks spots respond to the same ingredients. So, a couple of brightening products is all you need to target most kinds of hyperpigmentation. The best Korean skin care products for dark spots contain potent ingredients aimed at shedding discolored skin faster, encouraging new skin cells to form, and protecting that skin from the kinds of damage that cause dark spots to begin with.
Frequent exfoliation with a gentle formula is a must for anyone with dark spots. Products that contain mild chemical exfoliants — like lactic acid, BHA, AHA, and Vitamin C — all help slough off dead skin cells and take discoloration along with them. There are even natural ingredients like fermented yeast extract and rice that encourage skin cell turnover and stimulate the skin to replace older, discolored cells with new ones. Niacinamide, another name for Vitamin B3, is thought to have a similar effect, with the added bonus of strengthening skin's barrier function and fighting acne.
But shedding your dark spots is just half the battle: It's far more important to protect your skin from damage and discoloration in the first place. And the easiest way to do so is by applying a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every single day. Aside from causing sunspots, unprotected sun exposure also makes post-acne marks darker and longer lasting.
Another way to help protect your skin from dark spots in addition to sunscreen is applying a product with Vitamin C daily. We've already established that Vitamin C helps slough off dead skin cells, but the antioxidants present in Vitamin C actually help your skin regenerate faster, and it contains a compound that inhibits your skin from producing melanin, making dark spots less likely to form.
Everything takes time, but with a great brightening routine you can expect to see real results after about four weeks. These nine Korean beauty products are chock-full of ingredients designed to brighten your dark spots and even out your skin tone.
1. An Exfoliating Wash-Off Mask With Brightening Rice Powder
Rice is an age old secret for brighter skin — women in many countries have been washing their faces with rice water for centuries because of the skin-evening and nourishing effects it's believed to contain. Start by massaging this wash-off mask into the skin for a minute or two, and then let it sit on the skin for 10-15 minutes. This multi-tasking masks help fade dark spots in two ways: the gentle granules slough away dead, discolored skin cells, and the rice water in the formula contains antioxidants that help fade dark spots and fight free radical damage.
2. A Vitamin C Serum That Even Sensitive And Acne Prone Skin Types Can Use
Applying a Vitamin C serum is one the best ways to fade dark spots, but many people can't tolerate high concentrations of it. This gentle Vitamin C serum contains five percent Vitamin C, so most people should be able to apply it daily without irritation — which is great because consistently using Vitamin C is thought to be more effective than using a larger dose occasionally. Aside from Vitamin C, this serum contains Centella Asiatica extract to calm redness and inflammation.
3. A Hydrating Essence With 95 Percent Fermented Yeast Extract
Essence, an important step in any Korean skin care routine, is often overlooked in Western skin care. These liquidy formulas feel more like a toner, but contain highly concentrated ingredients you'd expect from a serum. And, their light texture allows them to be easily absorbed by the skin.
This essence contains 95 percent galactomyces, a fermented yeast extract believed to increase skill cell turnover, effectively brightening skin faster. The formula has just enough slip to spread easily over the skin and leaves a gorgeous, dewy finish. Consider this a worthy dupe of the super popular SK-II Facial Treatment Essence for a fraction of the price. It's important to note that in Korean cosmetics the unfortunate term "whitening" means "brightening," as in fading dark spots. This products contains no skin-whitening agents whatsoever.
4. An Alcohol-Free Sheet Mask That Brightens Skin In 20 Minutes
This brightening sheet mask from Mediheal — a brand known in Korea for their amazing, affordable masks — makes it easy to add moisture, plump the skin, and fade dark spots with Vitamin C in just 20 minutes. For best results, apply this mask two or three times a week after cleansing and toning.
5. A BB Cream With SPF 45 That Visibly Evens The Skin And Protects It From Future Discoloration
Dr. Jart is known for their all-around incredible BB creams that provide real skin care benefits and ample protection from the sun, while lending just enough coverage to mask pores and imperfections without looking caked on. And, the Premium Beauty Balm is the shining star of their line of BBs.
This BB cream boasts Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide sun protection (aka the best kind) and a natural, slightly dewy medium-coverage finish. It does a phenomenal job of covering sunspots and post-acne marks, while arbutin works to lighten them for good. Sensitive and acne prone skin types will love this BB, and the two adaptable shades blend to match light to deep skin tones. But, those with very fair or very deep skin would be better off reaching for something else. It's available in two shades: light-medium and medium-deep.
6. A Repairing Serum With 80 Percent Snail Mucus Extract
Made with 80 percent highly-concentrated snail mucus extract, this repairing serum will rapidly tighten and regenerate the skin. With a low viscosity that’s as smooth and nourishing as honey, this product works to heal acne scars while firming and toning the skin. With skin-regenerating and natural ingredients, this snail serum creates a vibrant, healthy complexion that’s protected from damaging pollutants. Folks with sensitive skin shouldn’t worry, this fragrance-free product is free of harsh chemicals and artificial colors making it a uniquely blended serum that truly restores the skin’s healthy glow.
7. A Balm Cleanser That Fades Dark Spots While Removing Every Trace Of Makeup And Sunscreen
Double cleansing is an essential aspect of the Korean approach to skin care. It consists of first cleansing your face with an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup, sunscreen, and excess sebum, and then following up with a gentle water-based or powder cleanser. In my experience, it really works and if you choose the right products you won't experience dryness or irritation, just well-balanced skin.
This mess-free balm cleanser melts into an oil cleanser when it comes in contact with your skin. Aside from doing an impeccable job of removing sunscreen and makeup, it also contains grape seed oil, vitamin C, and antioxidant resveratrol to fade dark spots and brighten the complexion.
8. An Enzyme Powder Cleanser With Rice Powder For Everyday Exfoliation And Brightening
Follow up your oil-based cleansing with this gentle, pH balanced enzyme powder cleanser. Rice bran and papaya enzymes gently exfoliate the skin, both chemically and physically, lightening discoloration over time. This cleanser is free of sulfates and alcohol, so it's safe for sensitive and acne prone skin.
9. A Peeling Gel That Exfoliates Without The Irritation
Using a peeling gel is a very common way to exfoliate in Korea. Instead of rubbing gritty, abrasive scrubs into the skin, which can cause irritation and even small tears, many people prefer the gentle chemical exfoliation that peeling gels provide. This brightening peeling gel combines light exfoliation with rose extract, licorice root, and willow bark to brighten the skin. It's designed to be used after cleansing, and is even gentle enough to use everyday.
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