Regardless of whether they popped up from sun exposure or acne that's left a mark behind, the best Korean
skin-care products for dark spots contain potent ingredients aimed at encouraging new skin cells to form and protecting that skin from the kinds of damage that cause dark spots to begin with (hello, sunscreen!).
Exfoliation with a gentle formula that contains glycolic acid is one great way of tackling hyperpigmentation, according to
Dr. Deirdre Hooper, a dermatologist and Associate Clinical Professor at Tulane and Louisiana State University in an interview with Bustle. Vitamin C is another ingredient Dr. Hooper recommends as are antioxidants.
However, when it comes to the “gold standard for treatment of hyperpigmentation,” and an ingredient Dr. Hooper uses herself,
look to hydroquinone. This has become a controversial ingredient as of late, but Dr. Hooper says that at the 2% strength and used for short periods of time (about three to six months), it's an effective choice. When it comes to Korean products, though, you're more likely to spot arbutin, a naturally occurring ingredient featuring hydroquinone.
Ingredients to avoid? "Irritation of any sort can lead to hyperpigmentation," said Dr. Hooper. While every person's skin is unique, some common irritants are alcohol, witch hazel, artificial dyes, and fragrance.
But shedding your dark spots is just half the battle. “The best beauty dollar you’ll ever spend is on sunscreen” which will protect from sun damage and discoloration. The easiest way to do so is by applying a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every single day. If your skin freckles after sun exposure, Dr. Hooper says either chemical or physical sunscreens are fine. However, if you're dealing with melasma, consider a physical sunscreen instead.
Brightening dark spots takes time, but these nine
Korean beauty products are chock-full of ingredients designed to tackle dark spots, even skin tone, and even prevent discoloration in the future.
A Vitamin C Serum Packed With Antioxidants
SeoulCeuticals Day Glow Serum, $17, Amazon
This best-seller packs a ton of powerful ingredients into an affordable bottle. First off, there's an impressive 20% vitamin C content. That's then boosted with antioxidants ferulic acid and vitamin E. There's also moisturizers in here to keep skin glowing. No wonder fans are leaving comments like: "Non greasy, lightweight, and potent! My skin is on the dry side so I put this under my moisturizer and it does brilliant things for the clarity and tone of my skin. Dark spots have faded away and I don’t need base makeup anymore. I’ve used more expensive brands before, but Seoul Ceuticals always gives me the best results. I’ve repurchased many times and will continue to until they stop making it." However, because it has an extra-potent 20% vitamin C, those with sensitive skin might want to try the next vitamin C serum.
The Best Vitamin C Serum For Sensitive Skin
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop Serum, $21, Amazon
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 5% vitamin C, so it works for even sensitive skin. This serum also contains centella asiatica extract to calm redness and inflammation. "I’m in love with this product. It my new best friend for my morning and night routine my skin has cleared so much even dark spots. I have sensitive skin and also rosacea on my [cheeks] and it hasn’t [cause] any trouble," one reviewer wrote.
An Exfoliating Wash-Off Mask With Glycolic Acid
I DEW CARE Berry Groovy Brightening Face Mask, $25, Amazon
With exfoliating glycolic acid to help diminish dark spots and packed with berry-derived antioxidants and moisturizing hyaluronic acid to keep skin happy,
this brightening mask isn't just fun, it also seriously tackles dark spots. Just be aware that this is a mask that won't completely dry, so you might want to set a timer for five to 10 minutes. However, because tiny strawberry seeds are used to add a physical aspect to the exfoliation, it might not be the best choice for very sensitive skin.
A Brightening Sheet Mask With Vitamin C & Arbutin
Mediheal I.P.I Lightmax Ampoule Mask , $15 (10-Pack), Amazon
brightening sheet mask from Mediheal — a brand known in Korea for amazing, affordable masks — makes it easy to add moisture, plump the skin, and fade dark spots with extra-stable vitamin C and arbutin in just 10 to 20 minutes. For best results, apply this mask two or three times a week after cleansing. At less than $2 per sheet mask, they're also a great deal. "My skin had a glow without any effort. I even used some on my neck as well," one fan noted.
A BB Cream With SPF 45 That Evens The Skin & Protects It From Future Discoloration
Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45 , $21, Amazon
Dr. Jart is known for their all-around incredible BB creams that provide real skin care benefits and ample protection from the sun, and the
Premium Beauty Balm is the shining star of its line of BBs.
This BB cream boasts titanium dioxide and zinc oxide physical sun protection and a natural, slightly dewy medium-coverage finish. It does a phenomenal job of covering sunspots and post-acne marks, while arbutin works to rid 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. However, 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.
These Alcohol-Free Toner Pads Brighten Without Irritating
Goodal Green Tangerine Vita C Toner Pad, $24 (70-Pack), Amazon
Skip the irritating alcohol and opt for these
soothing toner pads packed with moisturizing glycerin and brightening vitamin C to help with dark spots. There are two sides, one smooth and one textured, so you can customize your routine. It's so gentle, it's even safe for all except the most sensitive skin types. However, since it has a few fruit extracts, it might not be the best choice for those sensitive to fragrance. This even comes with tweezers to keep things sanitary. "It is also very hydrating and doesn't irritate my skin when I use it in either my morning or evening routine. I have notice my light acne scars to fade somewhat, nothing like its gone completely but less noticeably," one reviewer noted.
A Balm Cleanser That Fades Dark Spots While Removing Every Trace Of Makeup & Sunscreen
Banila Co. Clean It Zero Revitalizing, $20, Amazon
Double cleansing is an essential part of the Korean approach to skin care. It consists of first cleansing your face with an oil-based cleanser (like this one) to remove makeup, sunscreen, and excess sebum, and then following up with a gentle water-based cleanser.
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. "I think that my skin is improving, I have oily skin. When I wake up in the morning my skin feels really soft," a reviewer wrote.
A Glycolic Cream That Exfoliates Without The Irritation
A'pieu Glycolic Acid Cream, $14, Amazon
effective exfoliating cream combines AHA glycolic acid with deep-cleaning BHAs for a thorough but gentle treatment of dark spots and dullness, as well as acne. This formula also includes 30% birch sap for moisture (a K-beauty favorite) and antioxidant niacinamide. Use it after cleansing, and it is even gentle enough to use every day. "My skin feels so soft now. It also significantly reduced the active pimples I had, and has already faded the acne scars I developed from this recent breakout. I also notice that my skin is plumper and more hydrated overall," one customer wrote.
A Non-Greasy SPF 50+ Physical Sunblock
Purito Comfy Water Sunblock SPF 50+, $15, Amazon
To prevent dark spots, it's sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. And this 70% water-based pick feels light on the skin is the rare sunscreen you'll actually want to wear while it provides a powerful
SPF 50+ physical protection. On top of that, the formula features multitasking superhero ingredient niacinamide and the soothing antioxidant madecassoside. Especially impressive is that this sunblock doesn't leave a white cast, a common issue with physical sunscreens. "This sunscreen is AMAZING. I'm a black woman, with a medium-dark complexion with hyperpigmentation and read that physical sunscreens are much better than chemical. Every physical sunscreen I've tried leaves a ghostly white cast. Except for this one. There is no white cast, and blends in perfectly," one fan raved. Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments. This article was updated on November 22, 2019. Additional reporting by Jen Fiegel. Experts: Dr. Deirdre Hooper, dermatologist with Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans and an Associate Clinical Professor at Tulane and Louisiana State University.