Top Skin Lightening Ingredients to Eliminate Age Spots and Sun Damage

Don’t Shop Blind! Know What Ingredients Work!

Do you want to get rid of age spots, melasma, or dark spots caused by sun damage but don’t know what to use?

Are you overwhelmed by the number of products that claim to even out your skin tone?

Of course you are! There are dozens of products on the shelf that claim to get rid of dark spots and make you look younger, and some of them are extremely expensive. It’s no wonder that you don’t just start trying products until one works; you’d have to mortgage your house.

Good news! I’ve done a ton of research for you and have made a list of ingredients to look for that are actually proven to get rid of those age spots. Let’s get started.

  1. Hydroquinone

    This industrially-produced chemical has been used for years as a skin whitening agent but has since been banned in many countries because it’s thought to be carcinogenic. The FDA, however, has tentatively determined that it’s safe to use topically but that you need a prescription for it.

    Because it actually shuts off your melanin production, you shouldn’t use it long-term because it can damage the enzymes that manage that process. Three months is generally the cut-off for use and the dark spots will often come back when you discontinue use.

    You should only apply hydroquinone directly to the dark spot, not your entire face. Just FYI, HQ is the main ingredient in photo developers. A more stable derivitave called arbutin is also commonly used and is less irritating but just as effective as hydroquinone.

    Click here to try Murad’s Environmental Shield Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Gel with hydroquinone.

  2. Azelaic Acid

    Naturally derived from the fungus that causes topical yeast infections, azaleic acid was shown to be nearly as effective as hydroquinone without any of the toxicity, and it gets rid of acne, too. Another advantage is that it only works on hyperactive meloanocytes, or ones that are abnormal, without negatively altering the ones that are functioning normally.

    In other words, it’ll get rid of your age spots but not your naturally-occurring tan or freckles. The standard strength for effectiveness is 15% for treatment of rosacea and 20% for treatment of acne and melasma.

    If you want a professional-grade product containing azelaic acid, click here to try Dr. Denese Firming Facial Light Resurfacing Peel.

  3. Kojik Acid

    This is also derived from various fungi and, unlike azelaic acid, can cause skin irritation. It’s often mixed with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation or irritation. Kojic acid acts, in a nutshell, by attaching to copper so that it doesn’t bind with the pigment enzyme, and by preventing the production of melanin to begin with.

    It’s also a powerful antioxidant so it destroys free radicals that cause sun damage. You’ll often find it in a 1-4% base and it’s pretty common for it to used with glycolic acid, hydroquinone, or both. If you can’t use hydroquinone, your doctor may recommend this instead because used alone, it’s less likely to cause irritation.

    Click here to try SkinCeutical’s Phyto + with kojic acid.

  4. Retinoids

    Retinoids are simply types of vitamin A that are used to treat age spots, sun damage, acne, wrinkles, and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Sometimes you’ll see them used in conjunction with hydroquinone, glycolic acid, or mequinol because they improve penetration. They can be irritating to your skin though modern forms are more stable and less irritating that the preliminary ones used years ago. Some types of retinoids include:

    • Tretinoin 0.01 to 0.1% cream or gel
    • Tazarotene 0.05 to 0.1% cream or gel
    • Adapalene 0.1 to 0.3% cream or gel
    • Isotretinoin (the more stable form or tretinoin)

    Tretinoin is a metabolite of retinol (vitamin A) and is a first-generation retinoid. Side effects include irritation, inflammation and peeling It’s effective but it takes a significant amount of time (as much as 6 months) to see results.

    Adapalene and tazarotene are third-generation topical retinoids and are synthetic. They aren’t as prone to cause irritation. Finally, Isotretinoin is a natural, first generation retinoid that comes in both topical and oral forms. The oral form is for treatment of acne.

    Of all the products that contain a retinoid, Olay’s Regenerist line is by far the best known and loved. Click here to try Olay’s Regenerist Intensive Repair Treatment with Pro Retinol.

  5. Mequinol

    Mequinol is a derivative of hydroquinone but is generally less irritating. It’s usually used in concentrations that range from 2 to 20% and is particularly known for its effectiveness on sun spots. Mequinol is typically paired with tretinoin or retinoic acid.

  6. Glycolic Acid

    This alpha-hydroxy acid may just lighten your skin in two ways instead of just one. It’s a derivative of sugar cane and is thought to act similarly to retinoids in the manner that it works. It may shorten the life of the cell so that the pigment is lost faster, and it’s also used at higher dosages (30 to 70%) as a facial peel. It removes the superficial layers of your skin so that other lightening agents can penetrate easier and work faster.

    Click here to try one of tne of the better glycolic acid products: Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads.

  7. Ascorbic Acid

    Also known as vitamin C, ascorbic acid reduces hyperpigmentation in a couple of ways. First, it interacts with the oxidation process at a few different stages of melanin production. It also neutralizes free radicals so that they can’t cause damage. Finally, ascorbic acid may actually protect your skin from damaging light. Concentrations run from 5 to 10%. Sometimes you’ll find ascorbic acid with other lightening agents because it may improve absorption.

    Click here to try Murad’s Essential-C Daily Renewal Complex.

Other Ingredients That Reduce Dark Spots

These are the main skin lightening agents that you should look for if you want to decrease age spots, eliminate dark spots caused by sun damage, or would like to get rid of melasma and even out your skin tone. There are a few other ingredients that are also really good, and they are:

  • Niacinimide, or vitamin B3
  • Hydroxystilbene
  • Corticosteroids
  • N Acetylglucosamine
  • Glutathione
  • Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

Final Word

Getting rid of age spots, sun damage, melasma, and uneven skin tone can make you look younger and, more importantly, feel good about yourself again. Many of these products do have side effects though, and you’re really not going to see effects over night. Any product that promises that is almost surely a scam.

If you’re willing to be patient and dedicated, though, it’s entirely possible to at least lighten those dark spots significantly to the point that they’re barely noticeable.

If you’ve had experience with any of these products, let us know about it in the comments section below! It’s always better to hear from our readers than depend on what a scientific study says!

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