What’s the Best Skin Care to Fade Sunspots?

Cynthia Bailey, MD|September 22, 2014

fade sunspots of Woman applying beauty cream   There are three main types of skin care products to control, lighten, and get rid of sunspots. Use them all and you will get the best results.

Your three main types of products to fade sunspots should include:

  1. Exfoliating products that remove existing skin pigment in your sunspots.
  2. Products that turn down skin pigment production to help prevent future darkening of your sunspots. 
  3. Broad spectrum sunscreens that block the UV rays that are the cause of these annoying sunspots in the first place.

In my dermatology practice, when I create a skin care routine for my patients who want to control their sunspots I usually incorporate all of these types of skin care products into a comprehensive and powerful skin care routine. Their skin also looks younger and is softer because these products provide those benefits too! Below are the details of how we do this.

Step 1.  Exfoliate to fade sunspots.

Exfoliating skin care will help lighten your sunspots because the pigment of the spots are carried up from the living cells into the dead cells above. Exfoliating removes the dead cells - pigment and all!

Exfoliation isn't just about using a rough skin scrub or shower sponge though. The best exfoliation comes when you use both physical exfoliation and “chemical” exfoliation to do the job.

You are probably familiar with “physical” exfoliation. This is the use of rough sponges or scrubs to remove the outer dead cells on your skin. “Chemical” exfoliation is more complicated. This is the use of creams like AHAs and BHAs to loosen the glue that holds the dead cells onto your skin. When you loosen the “glue” the cells come off better, giving you even greater results. My favorite way to do this is with the combination of products in my Anti-Aging Body Skin Care Kit and my AHA Facial Skin Care Kits. It's why I made the kits in the first place. I've used them for years on my own skin. My patients and I are testaments to how well they work.  

 "It really works for age spots" I've used it for 2 weeks, not every day. I put it on one of my hands too and that one has less age spots now than the other.” RAM

My Glycolic Acid/AHA kits are complete exfoliation skin care routines. They combine strong, professional-level AHA/glycolic acid that loosens the glue with just the right amount of physical exfoliation with specially selected sponges and cloths. Dead skin cells and the pigment in sunspots are sloughed and polished and your skin takes on a dewy, youthful, and more even luster. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day and you’re set for some of the best anti-aging skin care to fight your brown and unwanted sunspots. Best products to fade sunspots on arms and legs and chest AHA Body Skin Care Kit Best products to fade facial sun spots AHA Facial Skin Care Kit                      

Step 2. Add skin pigment faders to lighten your sunspots even more.

Faders are products that actually decrease the amount of pigment produced by your pigment-producing melanocyte skin cells. As I mentioned in my first sunspot post, it’s these cells that are focally making excess pigment. Along with avoiding the UV rays that stimulate pigment production in the first place, you can also use specific ingredients to turn off the biochemical steps of pigment production even more. The best product options to do this include:



best retinol product to fade sunspotsThese include retinol products like my Retinol Intensive Night Cream with the strongest retinol levels available without a prescription. They also include prescription retinoids like Retin A, Tazorac, and Renova. Retinoids also exfoliate skin so you are getting a two-fer in terms of how they will help lighten sunspots. Additionally, they are powerful collagen-production stimulators, which means they help reduce wrinkles and other signs of skin aging. If you are unfamiliar with retinoids and retinol to fade sunspots click here to see why retinoids are such an important part of the best anti-aging skin care routines.    

"My favorite product is the vitamin C anti-aging serum." "My friend bought me the replenix eye cream and the green tea antioxidant skin therapy replenix (power of three). So I went on the website and purchased the vitamin C and also the daily moisturizing face cream and the retinol intensive anti-wrinkle night cream. So happy I found these products!! It’s been 2 months and a few friends have even asked what I’ve been doing different and I told them about Dr. Cynthia Bailey skin care line." Allison M 6/14/14


Vitamin C

best products to fade sun spotsAdding a skin care product with high concentrations of stable vitamin C can help to turn down pigment production, which lightens sunspots. The effect is mild, but vitamin C products have other anti-aging benefits, such as the ability to stimulate collagen formation when you use a powerful professional product such as my Vitamin C Anti-Wrinkle Treatment Serum. They are also excellent antioxidants to help protect your skin from additional damage from aging free radicals.


This is the classic “skin bleaching” ingredient in skin lightening creams and lotions. The 4% prescription strength works best to lighten sunspots. For best results, hydroquinone should be used in combination with retinoids, AHAs (like glycolic acid), and sunscreen. The Obagi NuDerm kit is, in my opinion, the most effective combination skin care routine to lighten these age spots. In my dermatology practice we often use a 4-month session of Obagi NuDerm in the fall to improve the sunspots (aka solar lentigines) that inevitably worsen during the summer. Our doctors work together with our clinical aestheticians to help our patients get the most from their 4-month Obagi commitment. Click here to learn more about our aesthetician skin care services.


Non-hydroquinone skin lighteners

There are other skin lighteners, such as kojic acid, azelaic acid, licorice, and arbutin that can be used in skin care products to lighten solar lentigines. I find that they don’t work quite as well as 4% hydroquinone. They work best when combined with sunscreen, a retinoid, and/or an AHA such as glycolic acid.

Step 3. Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

5 tipsSun up to sun down, 365 days a year, on the entire planet earth, UV rays will create and darken your sunspots.  Yep, your sunspots are not safe in winter, on the North Pole, at dawn, or at dusk. It's true that at those times and places the UVB sunburn ray is weaker. However, the UVA ray is out as intensely as it is at 12 noon on the equator, and UVA darkens sunspots! It means you need to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen all year during the daylight hours. Put it on your face and all exposed skin when you get ready for your day in the morning. For intense exposure, reapply it as directed. Pick a product with 5% or more zinc oxide listed as an active ingredient for trusted UVA protection. I've written extensively about how to use sunscreen in my blog and on my web site.   Need a refresher or more information so that you're sure to do it right? Click the links here: Are Zinc Oxide Sunscreens Better? Sun Protection: A Dermatologist's 5 Best Tips Sunscreen and Sun Protection Products


What are my top sunscreen picks to help prevent sunspots?

Facial tinted products: Suntegrity 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face SunscreenSuntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream for dry skin           mdsolarsciences mineral tinted creme to fade sunspotsMDSolar Sciences Mineral Tinted Creme for oily skin        

Facial untinted sunscreen products:

Elta MD UV Daily SPF 40EltaMD Daily SPF for dry skin         Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46EltaMD Clear SPF for oily skin        

For face and body all-over coverage that's water resistant and perfect for all skin types:

Citrix Sunscreen to fade sun spotsCitrix Sunscreen           Don't miss the other posts in this series: Post 1. What Causes Sunspots on Skin?  Post 2. How Can You Get Rid of Skin Sun Spots?     Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Laura Doss/Corbis and  © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

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