Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Arpita Singh (Beauty Expert)  on 16th  Sep 2020

Say Goodbye To The Dark Spots On Your Face With These Magical Ingredients

Vitamin C with Hyaluronic Acid

changing weather, increasing pollution, and direct exposure to sun rays can affect our skin. This can make it look dull and blemished and affect our self-confidence. To hide these dark spots, using layers of concealers can get annoying after a point. Though these spots are not a cause for serious concern and may not need any treatment, there’s no denying to the fact that these dark spots can make you feel less presentable. But you don’t have to worry as there are a few self-care tips and some magical ingredients that can help you deal with these dark spots without undergoing any painful procedures.

If you have tried a lot of products to get rid of those stubborn black spots on your face and haven’t seen much of a difference, then this might be the right article for you. Just read along to know why your dark spots and how to treat them with super powerful ingredients. 

Why do dark spots appear?

Dark spots occur when melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, get hyperstimulated. Melanin is overproduced due to this. This makes our skin appear darker than usual and causes hyperpigmentation. 

What causes dark spots?

Before beginning with any treatment, you first need to understand the underlying cause as to why your skin is getting dark spots in the first place. Once you understand the root cause, you can effectively treat them and even prevent new ones from occurring.
Although there are several different causes of dark spots, some major factors which can cause dark spots are: 

Sun exposure:

The most important reason for the appearance of dark spots can be prolonged UV exposure. Hyperpigmentation often appears in the areas most likely to be exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, or arms, especially when sunscreen has not been applied. 


Dark spots are also likely to develop due to conditions such as melasma. Melasma is a common hyperpigmentation disorder that appears as dark, discolored patches on the skin. It is also known as a “pregnancy mask” since pregnant women are more prone to developing this skin condition.


Studies have suggested that certain medications can result in hyperpigmentation. This is because they can make our skin more sensitive to photodamage. Medicines with steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, estrogens, psychotropic drugs, antibiotics, amiodarone, and oral contraceptive pills cause hyperpigmentation.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 

Drug-induced pigmentation represents 10 to 20% of all cases of acquired hyperpigmentation

Inflammation / Wounds:

Whenever there is any inflammation or wound, our skin's healing process involves a chemical reaction by hyper activating our melanocytes and producing more melanin. This process of darkening of the skin after any kind of inflammation is known as Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. Sometimes, a pimple or acne flare-ups can also leave behind dark spots on the skin, which generally fade away with time.

Skin products:

Certain products and creams in the market can be harmful to your skin. You must always be cautious while choosing a product because some may contain harsh chemicals that can end up causing more harm than good to your skin and can leave behind dark spots.

How can dark spots on your face be treated?

Although dark spots are harmless and do not associate with any health risk factor, people may choose to treat them due to cosmetic reasons.

The best treatment option depends on the extent of dark spots, underlying cause, and how deep they are rooted within the skin. People are advised to do a small analysis of their skin type and concern and choose the right treatment or ingredient accordingly.

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) products, ingredients, and clinical treatments available that can help your dark spots fade away to a great extent. Take a look at them below:  

Topical Treatments


Hydroquinone is one of the most popular skin lightening agents that are widely used in medicated creams and lotions. It is a powerful ingredient to lighten dark areas of the skin, but there are a lot of controversies around its usage. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production of melanin in the skin by the breakdown of melanocytes. It also acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor, which is the enzyme required for the formation of melanin.

However, hydroquinone should strictly be used only after being prescribed by a dermatologist due to its side effects on the skin, such as bleaching, dryness, irritation, and inflammation. In some cases, it can be carcinogenic to the skin. For this reason, “The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has limited the concentration of hydroquinone to 3% - 4% in prescription products, and 2% in over-the-counter products.” It is recommended to use hydroquinone based products only for a short period and that too under an expert’s supervision. 

Kojic Acid:

Kojic acid is obtained from mushrooms and fermented rice. It is widely used in Asian skincare products to improve skin clarity by reducing pigmentation. It works by inhibiting the L-Tyrosinase enzyme required for the production of melanin.

It is a secret skin lightener that effectively fades away dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and stubborn post-breakout marks leaving a clear, brighter, and radiant skin. Although it is considered safe to use in concentrations of 1-2%, people with sensitive skin should be cautious while using it because it may cause some skin irritation or discomfort.

Alpha Arbutin is also one of the emerging ingredient which is equally effective but more less irritant. Read more about this ingredient and research done on it so far.


Retinoids are commonly used to diminish the appearance of wrinkles, scars, and dark spots. It has gained a lot of popularity because of its ability to treat almost every skin aging and hyperpigmentation related issues. It works by speeding up the pace of cell turnover and paves the way for new skin cells. This helps in the cell renewal process and reduces hyperpigmentation. It also stimulates collagen production and skin cell proliferation, which helps in restoring thickness to the skin.

Retinoids also have some typical side effects such as dryness, redness, and flakiness, especially when beginning usage. Therefore, people are advised to limit the initial usage to 1-2 times a week and gradually work their way up as per their skin tolerance. Minimalist 2% Retinol have used next generation Retinoid derivative that is effective yet does not cause dryness or irritation.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids:

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are organic acids that are derived from plant-based and animal-based compounds and are readily accessible. It is one of the most popular and well-praised skincare ingredients and comes in a variety of products such as creams, face washes, lotions, and serums.

Some commonly used AHAs are: 

  • Glycolic acid - derived from sugarcan
  • Lactic acid - obtained from fermented milk
  • Citric and malic acid - derived from fruits
  • Hydroxycaproic acid - derived from animal-based compounds

AHAs are widely used in chemical peels and peeling solutions. They aid in quick exfoliation of the skin and help in treating several skin conditions such as fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, age spots, post-acne scars, and discoloration. Repeated and routined use of AHAs helps in removing the damaged layers of the skin. Studies have revealed that routine use of AHA can entirely fade away pigmentation and scars by removing damaged and discolored layers of the skin.

AHAs also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that aid in the process of healing wounds and help suppress inflammation and reaction, thus, preventing hyperpigmentation

Glycolic Acid:

Glycolic acid is the most effective and well researched among all other AHAs. It functions as a potent exfoliant, and at a concentration of 5-10%, it causes the skin to lighten by melanin redistribution. Its peeling action helps in retexturizing the skin’s surface, lightening dark spots and acne scars, making your skin blemish-free and even-toned. 

Salicylic Acid:

Salicylic acid is a type of Beta-hydroxy acid.t is an age-old remedy that has been practiced for centuries to treat various skin disorders. It is widely popular for its ability to deeply exfoliate and intensely cleanse out the skin from within and works a layer deeper than AHAs.It works as a powerful peeling agent and causes the topmost layers of the skin to shed off, which helps in fading dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it helps in reducing the possibility of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Since it is an intense acid, it must be used with caution and should not be used on a wounded or peeling skin. It can dry up your skin and may cause slight irritation; therefore, it should be avoided on sensitive skin.

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Cosmetic Procedures

Cosmetic procedures can be performed under an expert’s supervision and are often used along with other topical treatments to effectively treat dark spots. This is done through targeted action, which works on the specific areas of the body that are pigmented.

Some primary medical procedures include: 

Laser Treatments:

For this, light energy in the form of lasers effectively targets the specific areas containing dark spots. They burn the topmost layers of the skin containing discoloration. It helps in removing the damaged and hyperpigmented skin and thus resulting in clearer and flawless skin.

Laser therapies are usually very expensive and may not work for every skin type. Therefore, it is recommended to seek a dermatologist’s advice before undergoing any such treatment. Possible risk factors include swelling, redness, irritation, infections, or alterations in the skin’s texture. 

Chemical Peels:

Chemical peels containing the blend of acids, such as AHAs, BHAs, or TCA, works wonders in treating dark spots and hyperpigmentation related issues. They work as a powerful exfoliant and cause stripping off of the superficial layers of the skin, exposing the newer and fresher skin beneath. As a result, the topmost layer containing pigmentation and dark spots gets peeled off, and your skin looks bright.

Chemical peels containing strong acids may cause redness and irritation to the skin; therefore, a patch test before using it on the face is highly recommended.


Microdermabrasion is a medical procedure that involves physical scraping off of the skin cells. It helps remove dark spots by rubbing against the skin with the help of an abrasive machine, which gently pushes away the skin cells containing pigmentation. This results in skin rejuvenation and replenishment. It is a low-risk procedure and is generally considered safe to use. 


All the above treatments and procedures are known to make your skin more susceptible to photodamage; therefore, applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen while undergoing these treatments is non-negotiable. You are advised to deal with patience and persistence as the fading process may take some time and not give up halfway through the treatments.


Lastly, always remember, “Prevention is better than cure,” so the first and the foremost important aspect of the treatment is controlling your sun exposure and following a very strict sun protection measures. Always apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and above and use protective clothing while stepping out in the sun.

Treatment of dark spots can be challenging and requires long term planning. People should not expect a quick fix or cure for dark spots since the condition did not occur overnight.

One should consider their skin type and how their skin is responding to the treatment and continue accordingly. If your dark spots have not become manageable even after using these products and treatments for 6-12 weeks due to any underlying cause, consider seeking a dermatologist’s advice, as he/she may suggest you with another option as per your condition.