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The prices alone are what make The Ordinary one of today’s most successful skincare brands. What was once an underrated darling has grown into a beauty juggernaut, with products sold at all of the biggest retailers (Ulta, Sephora) in addition to its own website. In short: we’ve had no excuse but to try it all. The downside of such an accessible brand at an even more accessible price is deciding what to actually buy. Personally, I’ve found it’s easiest to start by focusing on your biggest concern. That’s what led me to a list of what I think are the best The Ordinary products for dark spots.
Hyperpigmentation is notoriously difficult to banish and if you’re dealing with dark spots on top of that, prepare for the long haul because reversing marks requires next-level patience. Those of us with a little more melanin are all too familiar with this long-winded struggle because we tend to experience hyperpigmentation and dark spots more than most. Personally, I’ve tried it all and only found a few solutions that actually did what they promised (like this spot treatment). However, what makes The Ordinary’s products stand out is the fact that you aren’t limited to one type of formulation.
For that same reason, it’s important to read beyond the price tag because if you get something that doesn’t agree with your skin’s tolerance, you’ll end up doing more harm than good. For instance, there are a slew of direct acids that may irritate sensitive skin types while the brand’s hydrators and oils could turn oily skin into breeding ground for breakouts. When it comes to treating dark spots or uneven skin tone, the best The Ordinary products are a surprisingly wide spectrum of serums, water-free formulas, and even sunscreen that can be divvied into whatever combo suits you best. Keep reading to see all 12.
Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
If traditional vitamin C products prove to be volatile and reactive on your face, this gentle vitamin C derivative is a soothing alternative. The super lightweight serum format is easy to apply and of course, can help to brighten the skin for a more even complexion.
Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
Regular exfoliation with proper sun protection will help to reduce the appearance of dark spots, making this solution an ideal treatment. In addition to glycolic acid, the formula also includes aloe, Tasmanian Pepperberry and ginseng root, all of which help reduce the irritation associated with acids.
Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane
AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
Consider this a facial in a bottle. The formula, meant to be applied and worn for just 10 minutes, is a powerhouse blend of alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids for exfoliation on and beneath the skin’s surface. AHA’s are prime ingredients for not only improving skin’s radiance but diminishing spots with continued use as well. This peel is also formulated with a handful of ingredients meant to ease irritation and replenish moisture after use. They include vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, and tasmanian pepperberry.
Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
Arbutin has long been touted for its ability to limit the production of excess melanin without causing as much harm and ironically, scarring, as its equally popular counterpart hydroquinone. This serum combines hyaluronic acid with arbutin to reduce the appearance of dark spots without drying out the skin. Apply a few drops to the skin before your moisturizer and be sure to use sunscreen during the day, too.
Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
The Ordinary offers a couple different versions of Vitamin C formulations since the ingredient is notorious for being unstable in water. This version is a water-free solution combined with arbutin to target dark spots and signs of aging. However, because you’re dealing with two incredibly powerful ingredients into one product, it’s important to patch test on your skin in case it’s too strong. If that ends up being the case, a similar version with silicone may be gentler, but just as effective.
Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
This lightweight cream-gel feels more like a moisturizer, though you should definitely combine with SPF if you’re using during the day. Azelaic acid is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that mainly combats acne, but because it’s sort-of getting ahead of the problem, prevents dark spots from forming, too. Though azelaic acid is generally described as “gentle,” this particular formulation is 10 percent azelaic acid, so patch testing and starting with small amounts are best advised.
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%
Because this cream brightener, meant to be applied between serums and moisturizer, contains water, its vitamin C derivative isn’t as potent as direct ascorbic acid. However, it more than makes up for providing other benefits that affect skin brightness, including antioxidants for protection against the elements.
Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 With Antioxidants
One of the most underrated pieces of advice when it comes to addressing uneven skin tone and dark spots is wearing sunscreen. By protecting your skin from the growing strength of UV rays (hi, global warming), you can prevent a slew of issues besides the more obvious, like skin cancer.
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Niacinamide is often described as being a must-have ingredient for replenishing moisture to the skin, but it’s also a prime brightener. This blemish formula balances oil production and brightens tone. Just be sure to never combine with another vitamin C product and use between heavier skincare products, like your serum and moisturizer.
Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
If you have resilient skin and want a brighter tone by (almost) any means necessary, this water-free, silicone-free formula is a whopping 23 percent vitamin C. Expect a slight tingling sensation and be sure to patch test first.
Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2%
Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that stimulates collagen production to leave the skin firmer. Another lesser-known benefit is its ability (with regular use, of course) to diminish spots. Because this is a peel, you may want to dilute with another complementary product until your skin builds its tolerance.
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