14 Best Natural Dark Spot Correctors of 2021, by Beauty Experts
PUBLISHED: 06/17/2019 | LAST UPDATED: 07/15/2021
It seems like almost everyone is looking to remove dark spots. In fact, our editors surveyed 500 women on their skin care habits and goals. Of those women, 55% rated “fading dark spots” as one of their top beauty objectives; outranking other skin goals such as “clearing acne” and “reducing redness.” As a result, there is no shortage of beauty brands promising quick and powerful dark spot removers and skin lightening treatments. Unfortunately, these potent treatments can lead to serious permanent skin damage.
Luckily, there are natural and effective products on the market to correct dark spots. In this article, we’ll review the causes of dark spots and how to prevent them, the most powerful natural brightening ingredients, and our tested picks of the best natural dark spot removers around.
What Are Dark Spots and What Causes Them?
Hyperpigmentation, the technical name for dark spots, is a condition where an accumulation of melanin pigment causes the skin to be darker than the natural skin tone. Dark spots are a common complaint because there are many innocuous and unpreventable causes behind the formation of dark spots on the skin. Four of those common causes include:
- Sun Exposure: Exposure to UV rays (whether from the sun or tanning beds) can both increase the accumulation of melanin on the surface of the skin and cause damage deep beneath the skin which can result in dark pigmentation (1)(5). The real danger with sun damage is that it is cumulative; thus, the damaging effects of sun exposure may not appear until later in life. This is why dark spots are sometimes referred to as “age spots.”
- Hormonal Changes: During periods of extreme hormonal fluctuation (for example, puberty, pregnancy, or disruptive hormonal conditions), melanin can permanently or temporarily accumulate in certain areas of the body. Melasma and linea nigra, who pregnancy-related melanin conditions, are some common examples.
- Scarring & Skin Damage: Melanin deposits can form when your skin is stressed or damaged by physical means.
- Other Health Issues: Melanin deposits can form as a result of using certain medications, liver diseases, dermatitis, and others.
Can You Prevent Dark Spots?
Contrary to popular belief, the formation of dark spots as we age is not as inevitable of a process as we once thought. What we commonly refer to as “age spots” or “liver spots,” may actually be the result of years of sun damage or poor health as opposed to the natural aging process. Here are some great skin care habits to build if you want to do your best to keep dark spots at bay:
- Wear a Non-Toxic Sunscreen Daily: By and far the largest cause of dark spots and hyperpigmentation is the sun. Wearing a natural mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) will deflect the sun’s UV rays away from your skin and protect it from further damage. Remember, UV rays can penetrate windows so be sure to wear sunscreen when in exposed indoor areas.
- Don’t Pick or Pop! Sometimes, we can be the biggest source of our own problems. In the case of pimple poppers, you may be the source of your own dark spots! Picking pimples and blackheads can cause scarring and bruises which leave behind dark spots. If you can fight the temptation, it’s best to leave your blemishes alone.
- Don’t Over Exfoliate: “Too much of a good thing” is real. Excessive exfoliation with scrubs and chemical peels can easily cause skin damage ranging from mild redness to dark spots. Try using a gentle natural exfoliator 2-3 times per week at the max (once per week or less for more powerful exfoliation methods).
What is the Best Way to Remove Dark Spots & Brighten Skin Naturally?
A little too late for preventative tips? As mentioned above, sun damage is cumulative and often goes unnoticed until “age spots” begin appearing on areas typically unprotected from UV rays. That’s good news and bad news. The bad news is, you may already have accumulated some sun damage. The good news is that there are natural treatments to fade your existing dark spots and treat sun damage. You don’t have to use harsh chemical peels, bleaches, and other instantaneous skin lighteners to achieve a glowing, even complexion. With a little time (roughly 2-6 weeks) and a consistent routine you will start to notice the brightening effects of simple natural treatments.
At the end of this article, you’ll find our recommendations for the best organic and all natural dark spot removers and skin brightening serums that you can mix into your skin care routine.
Not all natural brighteners are created equal. Just because a chemical peel is made from natural AHA fruit acids, doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly potent! On the flip side, there are also a ton of natural ingredients are ineffective at best and potentially dangerous at worst (hello, pure lemon juice?) When shopping for a natural skin brightener, be sure to look for these stand out ingredients:
- Hydroxy Acids: Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) are gentle exfoliants which help to remove dead skin on the surface of the skin and penetrate below the skin’s surface to reverse the effects of photoaging (2). These acids are commonly derived from fruit such as papaya, pineapples, apples, and grapes.
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): A 2002 study found that niacinamide, when applied at 2-5% concentrations within moisturizers, effectively reduced hyperpigmentation by 35-68% (6).
- Aloe Vera: Tyrosinase which is the catalyst behind the production of melanin has been shown to be inhibited by Aloesin, a compound in Aloe vera (3).
- Vitamin C: A particularly effective antioxidant for controlling hyperpigmentation while protecting against sun damage (4). Vitamin C has also been shown to inhibit Tyrosinase and prevent the production of melanin.
- Gentle Physical Exfoliants: Exfoliation is a great way to remove dead skin cells and stimulate new cell production. This process slowly cycles through the old skin cells until the melanin deposits have been removed. However, be sure to use gentle physical exfoliants to avoid damaging your skin. Great ones to look for are almond powders, clays, jojoba wax beads, and oatmeal.
- Omega Fatty Acids: According to an article published in the Archives of Dermatological Research, a decline in hyperpigmentation was observed after a 3 week period of topical application of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Other Natural Brighteners: Other natural brightening ingredients include almond oil, tomato, cucumber juice, willow bark, lactic acid, citrus oils, and yogurt.
Which Dark Spot Removers Should Be Avoided?
You don’t have to search long on the internet before discovering that “10 items in your kitchen” can dramatically lighten your skin overnight. Unfortunately, many of these beauty tips can easily damage your skin. Even commonly recommended over the counter lighteners (such as hydroquinone) have negative potential side effects worth serious consideration. Here are some skin lighteners that you may want to avoid:
- Pure Lemon Juice: Even though the citric acid found in lemon juice is very effective at reducing dark spots over time (and you should look for dark spot treatments with citric acid), it’s not a great DIY tip to try yourself. If done improperly you could risk causing acid burns and serious sun hypersensitivity/ sun damage.
- Undiluted Apple Cider Vinegar: Just like pure lemon juice, applying pure apple cider vinegar directly to your skin can actually burn your skin.
- Hydroquinone: Another potent ingredient that has some serious downsides. Hydroquinone is a highly effective whitening agent. However, the substance causes cell death and has been banned in certain countries due to concerns (7).
- Harsh Chemical Peels: Professional level and highly concentrated chemical peels can cause serious skin damage if used improperly. The speedy promise of deep peels often comes with a side of raw skin, painful spots, sun sensitivity, and flaking skin.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Another powerful lightening agent which may cause permanent scarring and burns.
- Kojic Acid: Again, effective, but usage commonly leads to contact dermatitis, redness, irritation, rash, swelling, and itching.
How to Find a Natural Dark Spot Remover & Brightener?
We thought you’d never ask! With a little consistency, patience, and the right products you can significantly brighten your skin and fade dark spots. Give any natural brightening routine you adopt at least 30 days to begin to noticeably work its magic (you may want to snap a before and after photo for comparison).
Finding an organic dark spot remover that is free from synthetics, mineral oils, parabens, and harsh chemical whitening agents is the best long-term approach to brightening skin naturally. As always, our team researched and tested over 100 natural dark spot removers and skin brighteners from the best organic brands. We scrutinized every ingredient, tested products on women with dark spots and dull skin, and even analyzed customer reviews from across the web for each product. In the end, only the very best were selected for this list. We hope that you find something to brighten your day!
Price : $48
This natural dark spot remover from 100% Pure is super effective for brightening the skin. It visibly reduces reduces dark spots and hydrates the skin thanks to a medley of potent natural ingredients. Red algae brightens dark spots, papaya encourages skin renewal, lime fades acne scars, matsutake mushroom reduces hyperpigmentation, aloe soothes the skin, while bearberry protects against sun spots and free radicals. This natural skin brightener works best when used consistently over time.
Shop *100% PURE – ALL NATURAL DARK SPOT REMOVER
Price : $42
Created especially to target hyperpigmentation, this natural skin brightener helps reduce the appearance of dark spots while rejuvenating aging skin. It's packed with skin-brightening ingredients like papaya seed oil (filled with fruit enzymes to diminish dark spots and get rid of dead skin), as well as organic geranium oil and lemon oil (promote an even skin texture). This serum is super concentrated, so a little goes a long way. No more than 2-3 drops are needed in the morning and evening.
Shop *ODACITE – PA + G ORGANIC HYPERPIGMENTATION & DARK SPOT SERUM
Price : $119
This wild fruit serum from Annmarie is a fantastic product for brightening and hydrating the skin. It's formulated with a concentrated blend of potent ingredients that work wonders on the skin. Kakadu plum and apple help rejuvenate, while knotweed, plant-cell extracts and copper work together to help keep skin hydrated and supple. A natural dark spot remover, it's very effective for brightening skin and revealing a radiant complexion. It absorbs quickly and has a lovely scent.
Shop *ANNMARIE – WILD FRUIT ORGANIC BRIGHTENING FACIAL SERUM
Price : $19.48
Affordable yet effective, Acure's Brightening Glowing Serum is a great natural skin brightener. It's packed with a bunch of nourishing, organic ingredients, but the stars in this facial oil include Argan oil (restores moisture) borage oil (soothing), and cranberry + pumpkin seed oils (antioxidant protection). This natural dark spot remover is great for brightening the complexion, and should be applied after moisturizing. It has a nice, light fragrance and absorbs well.
Shop *ACURE ORGANICS – USDA ORGANIC BRIGHTENING SERUM
Price : $68
If you're looking to brighten your complexion, fade hyperpigmentation, and even out your skin tone, Osea's brightening serum is just the product. This lightweight serum works as an effective natural dark spot remover thanks to its powerful botanicals and antioxidants. Organic red algae deeply hydrates and firms, vitamin c brightens and evens skin tone, bearberry leaf extract helps fade dark spots, while mushroom extract brightens and reduces hyperpigmentation. Ideal for all skin types.
Shop *OSEA MALIBU – ORGANIC FACIAL BRIGHTENING SERUM
Price : $38
A lightweight, natural skin brightener that creates some serious anti-aging results! Its star ingredient is the ever-potent prickly pear seed oil, which when combined with argan oil is super effective for smoothing wrinkles, repairing sun damage and lightening dark spots. This illuminating serum also helps calm inflammation, brighten under-eye circles and promote collagen production. Suitable for all skin types as a daily natural dark spot remover and under eye treatment.
Shop *MUN – AKNARI BRIGHTENING YOUTH SERUM
Price : $49
A lovely, natural skin brightener from 100% Pure. It's crafted with a yummy blend of gentle plant-based lighteners including bearberry, kojic acid, sake, fruit acids, licorice, vitamin C, lemon juice, and strawberry. All of these ingredients work together to brighten the skin, fade dark spots, and promote a healthy, radiant glow. This lightweight serum works best when applied before moisturizing, and should only be used in the evenings. Follow up with a good SPF the next day.
Shop *100% PURE – ALL NATURAL BRIGHTENING SERUM
Price : $165
Originally formulated as a custom blend for the founder's mom, this potent-anti aging serum has now made it to Odacité's private collection. It's a natural dark spot remover that also helps smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. It's packed with loads of vitamins A, C, & E, omegas, and fruit enzymes that help fight the signs of aging and fade dark spots. Star ingredients include wild carrot seed oil, papaya enzymes, buriti oil, and blueberry seed oil. Can be mixed into a cream, or used on its own.
Shop *ODACITE – A SUMMER IN HOSSEGOR NATURAL DARK SPOT REMOVER
Price : $54
If you're using a Vitamin C serum in order to treat dark spots, hyperpigmentation, or a dull complexion, then this may be the serum for you. This formula uses a stable form of Vitamin C that can easily penetrate the skin (ascorbic acid polypeptide). On top of that, ingredients like rosehip (brightening), aloe (anti-inflammatory), rose oil (redness reduction), and aspen bark (mild exfoliant) all work together to create an even toned complexion. The serum is super light-weight and absorbs effortlessly into the skin. Best of all, it contains 100% natural and 84% organic ingredients.
Shop *URSA MAJOR – BRIGHTEN UP VITAMIN C SERUM
Price : $70
Carefully curated by Osmia, this skincare duo works to brighten up the complexion and revitalize dull skin. The Pumpkin Facial Soap gently exfoliates with organic pumpkin and tomato enzymes to reveal soft, smooth skin. The Brighten Facial Serum is a natural skin brightener powered by pumpkin and papaya extracts to promote healthy cell turnover and held fade the appearance of dark spots. This natural cleanser + serum duo is fantastic for dull, dehydrated, or normal skin types.
Shop *OSMIA ORGANICS – BRIGHTENING ORGANIC STARTER SET
Price : $165
This vitamin C serum is a work horse! Made with 15% vitamin C, this is one of the most potent all natural vitamin C serums available. Not only does it have a high concentration of vitamin C, it is also packed with antioxidant rich fruits like acai, wheatgrass, goji berries, wild carrot seed oil, and rose geranium. It has a beautiful lemongrass scent and silky feel. Whether you have dry skin or oily skin, your skin will gobble this serum right up. Results we experienced include dramatically brighter and firmer looking skin.
Shop *ODACITE – C FOR COLETTE 15% VITAMIN C SERUM
Price : $185
Wondering if all of the hype around Vintner's Daughter is worth it? Sorry to break it to you, but their stuff is good--real good. The formula behind this potent brightening serum took years to develop and the results speak for themselves. After just one week of use, our testers experienced noticeably brighter, plumper, and literally glowing skin. When combined with the brand's Active Treatment Essence (like a toner), people will start to notice the difference in your skin. Again, it's that good.
Shop *VINTNER’S DAUGHTER – NATURAL ACTIVE BOTANICAL BRIGHTENING SERUM
Price : $110
Crafted with 99% certified organic ingredients, the star of this natural dark spot remover is prickly pear seed oil. It's a rare oil that works wonders for hydrating, promoting collagen production and cell regeneration, and brightening dark spots. The rest of this formula contains 85% naturally-occurring Vitamin E and 60% omega 6 linoleic acid, which help nourish the overall appearance of the skin, diminish lines, and soothe inflammation. It has a slightly herbal scent that fades once absorbed.
Shop *LILFOX – PRICKLY PEAR BRIGHTENING BEAUTY NECTAR
Price : $188
A concentrated blend of natural vitamin C that's clinically proven to correct dark spots in 8 weeks! This luxurious vitamin C serum does not skimp on the good stuff. It's packed with fermented vitamin C-rich amla fruit, hyaluronic acid, antioxidant rich spirulina and rose oil, and many more. The best part about this vitamin C serum is how easily it absorbs into the skin. Simply apply after cleansing and toning (while the skin is still a bit damp) and massage until fully absorbed before layering on other serums or moisturizers.
Shop *AMALA – ORGANIC CORRECTIVE VITAMIN C CONCENTRATE
Price : $108
An ultra-potent formula designed to visibly brighten skin, fade dark spots, correct uneven skin tone, and clear clogged pores. The star ingredient is pure vitamin c, but this natural skin brightener also includes other powerhouses like probiotics (reduces redness), bamboo extract (physical exfoliant), and rice powder (exfoliant). Can be used multiple times per week for radiant skin. Sensitive skin types may use this polish by mixing it with a gentle cream cleanser first.
Shop *OSEA MALIBU – VITAMIN C PROBIOTIC ORGANIC BRIGHTENING POLISH
Price : $36
We're pretty sure that this is the most powerful vitamin c facial mask available. In fact, Vitamin C is the very first (and second) ingredient in this 50% Vitamin C mask! Everyone knows that vitamin C is one of the best ingredients for boosting collagen and fighting wrinkles. This organic mask combines the anti-aging power of vitamin C with soothing skin boosters such as rosehip seed oil, turmeric, hyaluronic acid, and a hint of fruit acids for exfoliation. The result is super bright, smooth, and firm skin that you can feel.
Shop *100% PURE – 50% VITAMIN C ORGANIC MASK
Price : $86
This duo of natural dark spot removers includes two best-selling Juice Beauty treatments that are a perfect combination for brighter skin. The Brightening Essence contains a blend of malic acid from organic green apples, alpha lipoic acid & CoQ10 to help improve skin texture and clarity. The Brightening Emulsion is a lightweight moisturizer with caviar lime to help brighten and fight free radical damage. Both products work together to diminish the appearance of dark spots and discoloration.
Shop *JUICE BEAUTY – GREEN APPLE SOFTEN & MOISTURIZE BRIGHTENING DUO
Q: Does lemon really work for dark spots?
A: Yes, due to the natural acidity and skin brightening Vitamin C content of lemon juice, it is technically effective at reducing hyperpigmentation (4). However, lemon juice can cause irritation, burning, and even scarring if used directly on the skin in high concentrations. Lemon juice should be used carefully and at low concentrations to avoid potential skin irritation.
Q: What is the best home remedy to get rid of dark spots?
A: Aloe vera, vitamin C, honey, AHA & BHA gentle peels, omega fatty acid oils have all been proven as great natural remedies for getting rid of dark spots over time (2, 3, 4). To prevent potential skin irritation from home remedies, we find it best to use a professionally formulated natural dark spot treatment.
Q: How long does it take for dark spots to fade?
A: The time it takes for your dark spots to fade depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the hyperpigmentation and the underlying cause. If using chemical-based dark spot treatments, the time to fade is typically much faster than when using natural dark spot remedies. Some people have reported results in as little as 1 week with chemical treatments like hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide. Keep in mind however that chemical-based treatments are extremely harsh and potentially damaging to both your skin and health. Natural treatments can be just as effective, but require a bit of patience, with results being seen in as little as a few weeks.
1. (2013) Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3790843/
2. (2012) Hydroxy Acids, the Most Widely Used Anti-aging Agents https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3941867/
3. (2013) Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and Strategies https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3569896/
4. (2017) Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605218/
5. (2009) The Protective Role of Melanin Against UV Damage in Human Skin https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671032/
6. (2002) The Effect of Niacinamide on Reducing Cutaneous Pigmentation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12100180
7. (2004) Toxicological Aspects and Health Risks Associated With Hydroquinone in Skin Bleaching Formula https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15129564