Tip #3: Lighten Up, Strategically
Once you've taken steps to prevent additional breakouts, you should incorporate spot-fading ingredients into your routine. One of the most common is hydroquinone, but before you jump for products with the potent additive, be careful. "It gets a bad reputation because in a lot of countries, especially a lot of Caribbean and African countries, people are using it excessively," Dr. Henry said.
"You're only supposed to use it for a short period of time. When you use it consistently, you can get something called ochronosis, which is the permanent darkening of the skin and the exact opposite of what you want it to do."
Dr. Henry explained that mixing hydroquinone with topical steroids to increase its potency is common in some countries. "These dangerous mixtures can cause unwanted stretch marks and give the skin an orange tint. So I would definitely recommend using it sparingly and talking to your doctor first."
If you can't make it to a doctor's office, she suggests using products with vitamin C to lighten spots. Don't forget to test all new products and prescriptions on soft patches of skin to get an idea of how you'll react to them before applying all over your face.
Tip #4: Slather On the SPF
The most important step in any skin-care routine is protecting it from further damage, and this is especially true in the case of hyperpigmentation. Apply sunscreen daily, since UV rays can also worsen existing dark spots or make them more pronounced. (Just remember: in many cases, the sun is the culprit behind brown spots in the first place, so if nothing else, wearing SPF prevents new ones from forming.)
Tip #5: When in Doubt, See a Pro
For more intensive treatments, see a dermatologist. Dermatologist Anna Guanche, MD, recommends a pulse dye layer for superficial red scars. "VBeam is best to reduce the redness and remodel collagen," she said. You can also try pro-grade microneedling to boost collagen production, as well as fraxel resurfacing or chemical peels to fade existing spots.