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How to Get Rid of Dark Spots (And Prevent Them from Forming In the First Place)

Be On the Lookout

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Dark spots accumulate with age, and if you have darker skin, are taking certain medications, or are pregnant or going through any other hormonal changes, you're more likely to get them. But they can affect everyone, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun. Dark spots can appear in a few weeks to a few months after sun exposure, says Howard Sobel M.D, a dermatologist based in New York City. And sun damage, which can lead to skin cancer, can take years to develop. (P.S. This Is What the Perfect Skin Care Routine Looks Like)

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Protect Yourself

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The best way to keep new dark spots from forming—and to keep existing ones from growing, darkening, or ever turning into skin cancer? Wear SPF every day, on your face and body. "Sunscreen is essential—it's the most effective way to prevent dark spots," Dr. Sobel says. For steamy summer days, choose an oil-free sunscreen for your face, like Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion ($10; drugstore.com), or multitask and wear a mattifying powder with SPF, like Colorescience Loose Mineral Sunscreen ($57; Sephora). (See also: We have The Best Sunscreens for Working Out)

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Boost Skin Cell Turnover

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After you've been out in the sun, Dr. Sobel suggests applying both a product that encourages cell turnover, like prescription Retin-A or a retinol serum, like Dr. Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution ($88; Sephora), and an exfoliant with glycolic and salicylic acid, like philosophy Clear Days Ahead overnight repair pads ($42; Sephora).

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Use a Lightener

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"An effective dark spot remover should have two functions," Dr. Sobel says. "It needs to exfoliate the top layers of skin and also inhibit melanin production." Look for a product that contains hydroquinone, which inhibits melanin production, and alpha hydroxy acids, which are powerful exfoliants. We like Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum ($60; Sephora). Want something less potent? Look out for gentler ingredients like kogic acid, alpha-arbutin, licorice extract, and vitamin C.

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See Your Derm

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To completely zap dark spots for good, spring for a laser session, Dr. Sobel says. The Clear and Brilliant laser replaces damaged skin with healthy tissue, and Fraxel is a more aggressive treatment that removes hyperpigmentation from both your skin's top layer and deeper layers.

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