7 Under-$25 Ways To Fade Dark Spots — Without A Trip To The Dermatologist

Nobody asks to end up with hyperpigmentation, but plenty of people find themselves dealing with it anyway. The story is always the same: An uninvited pimple, bug bite, or patch of eczema sets up shop on your skin, way overstays its welcome, and leaves behind a mottled mess of post-inflammatory dark spots.

You can easily lose hours and rack up debt on chemical peels, trips to the dermatologist, and fancy pigment-fading creams in the name of spot-free skin. But while most of those methods are effective (and pro-approved), they aren't the end-all-be-all for treating the condition. "Products containing hydroquinone, tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and arbutin all help to treat hyperpigmentation," says Corey L. Hartman, MD, a dermatologist at Skin Wellness Center in Alabama. "Glycolic and salicylic acid also increase exfoliation and help to treat the acne that can lead to hyperpigmentation."

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The good news for people sticking to their 2020 budgets (and taking skin care seriously as we social-distance)? Drugstore shelves are packed with products containing these powerful ingredients. Ahead, seven ways to clear dark spots — without destroying your bank account.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Dark Spot Corrector



"This product has the two most important components of any anti-aging skin care regimen to fade dark spots and treat wrinkles, so it works double time," says Dr. Hartman. He's referring to retinol and vitamin C, both of which help resurface uneven skin tone and improve the appearance of dark spots over time.
Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Dark Spot Corrector, $22.99 Buy

Ambi Fade Cream


"Hydroquinone remains the gold standard for treatment of hyperpigmentation," Dr. Hartman tells us. This O.G. drugstore formula contains 2% of the spot-fading ingredient, compared to the 4% usually prescribed by dermatologists, he explains. "It provides effectiveness with a lower risk of adverse side effects, but it should not be used for longer than three months without consulting a professional," he says. A word of warning: Hydroquinone can cause hypopigmentation, or excessive lightening of the skin, so be sure not to overdo it.
Ambi AMBI Fade Cream Oily Skin, $4.99 Buy

Specific Beauty Advanced Dark Spot Corrector Pads Facial Treatments


Most spot treatments pack a mean punch for fighting pigmentation, but you aren't limited to serums and creams: You can also incorporate potent exfoliators, like these corrective pads, to aid the fading process. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, founder of Specific Beauty, tells Refinery29 that each pad is soaked in vitamin C and kojic acid to target spots and improve the brightness of your complexion overall.
Specific Beauty Advanced Dark Spot Corrector Pads Facial Treatments , $19.98 Buy
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Urban Skin RX Dark Spot Rapid Repair Retinol Treatment 


Consider this serum a triple threat against your lingering dark marks: Retinol, kojic acid, and niacinamide all work together to lighten spots and keep your skin texture smooth and fine line-free.
Urban Skin RX Dark Spot Rapid Repair Retinol Treatment , $22.99 Buy

Garnier Dark Spot Corrector Treatment


Thanks to a formula rich in vitamins C and E, this dark-spot treatment works to brighten your skin and encourage a healthy complexion overall. Exfoliating lipohydroxy acid (LHA) also increases cell turnover, so dull, scarred skin fades — fast.
Garnier Dark Spot Corrector Treatment, $17.48 Buy

L'Oreal Paris Youth Code Dark Spot Corrector Serum


Michelle Henry, MD, dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, recommends this potent niacinamide-packed serum to nix hyperpigmentation. It melts into a smooth, silky finish and leaves any skin type newly glowing after a few uses.
L'Oreal Paris Youth Code™ Dark Spot Corrector Serum, $17.98 Buy
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