When left unblocked, the sun's UV rays can stimulate melanocytes, the pigment-making cells located in the epidermis, which can make your moles darker and cause freckles and large dark patches. "These marks are your skin's attempt at shading and protecting itself," Dr. Moy says.
Trade In: A basic wash whisks away dirt and oil, but it can't lighten pigment. "Without active ingredients, dark spots can take months to fade away," says David Colbert, MD, a New York City dermatologist and a FITNESS advisory board member.
Trade Up: Once a day, reach for a cleanser with both microbeads and chemical buffers like citric and salicylic acids. "These ingredients help loosen the 'glue' that holds the damaged, mottled skin cells together," Dr. Colbert says. (One that packs a double punch: Olay Dual Action Cleanser + Pore Scrub, $6.99, drugstores.)
Trade In: A day cream without SPF is like an open window, allowing UVA and UVB rays to enter and spur the production of skin spots. And anything below SPF 15 is like a screen with random holes, sometimes blocking the sun's rays, other times not, Dr. Colbert explains.
Trade Up: "SPF 15 or higher prevents further darkening from the sun," Dr. Colbert says. Make sure your moisturizer offers broad-spectrum protection against both types of rays: UVA (the aging, spot-creating ones) and UVB (the burning types). A good one: Murad Essential-C Day Moisture SPF 30 ($60, murad.com), which is also made with freckle-fading vitamin C.
Trade In: Applying self-tanner at night will get you glowing by morning. But dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the darkening ingredient in self-tanner, can also intensify sun spots. "They sit high in the epidermis and contain clumps of dead cells, attracting DHA," Dr. Colbert says. (A few exfoliating sessions, however, bring skin tone back to normal.)
Trade Up: Instead of going darker with a tanner, brighten trouble zones with a lotion made with 2 percent hydroquinone, a melanin blocker, Dr. Colbert says. You'll see results in eight to 12 weeks. If skin is sensitive, opt for natural lighteners like vitamin C (look for airtight packaging, which keeps it stable) and yeast extracts. Find both in Origins Brighter by Nature Skin Tone Correcting Serum ($39.50, origins.com)
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