Can You Use Retinol To Diminish Dark Spots?

No skincare routine is complete without at least one powerhouse skincare ingredient — and retinol is one of the best. Derived from vitamin A, over-the-counter retinol is often added to skin serums and creams for the treatments of acne and aging lines, according to Cleveland Clinic. Retinol benefits the skin by unclogging pores to reduce acne breakouts, and it increases collagen production to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and give your skin an extra bounce. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, topical application of retinol has a significant impact on the cellular and molecular properties of the epidermis and dermis — the two main layers of the skin, resulting in a sizable reduction of facial wrinkles in as early as four weeks following treatment.

There's no denying the versatility of retinol. It looks like this all-revered skincare ingredient can tackle every nuisance that crops up on the skin. But, can you use retinol to diminish dark spots too? Here are some insights from experts.

How dark spots form

Generally speaking, dark spots form as a result of the overproduction of melanin — a pigment responsible for darkening your skin, your hair, and your eyes. An unusually high melanin content can happen as a result of genetics, sun damage, pregnancy, skin injuries, or acne scars, according to Eucerin. These external and internal factors inflict damage on skin cells, forcing them to produce more melanin into the deeper level of the skin to defend themselves. An increase in melanin results in uneven pigmentation — often known as hyperpigmentation. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, hyperpigmentation is also common among women who take birth control pills, which causes their bodies to experience a similar kind of hormonal change that takes place during pregnancy.

Hyperpigmentation can affect any skin type, but it is more common in people with skin of color. Those with darker skin tones already have a high level of melanin in their skin, so hyperpigmentation will make their skin look more shadowed. Meanwhile, lighter skin can form noticeable darkened skin patches and freckles as a result of sun damage. 

Dark also spots usually get more pronounced as you age. To avoid getting dark spots, it's important to slather up with sunscreen before walking out the door, cover up and seek shades while outdoors, and avoid going out during peak sun hours. In case your skin has developed dark spots, look no further — retinol can effectively improve your condition.

Retinol is excellent in fading dark spots

According to dermatologist Dr. Stacy Chimento, since retinol is able to stimulate collagen synthesis — which enhances skin tone and skin texture — it can certainly help bring down dark spots. "Collagen helps promote skin cell turnover, which helps peel and fade away dark spots," Dr. Chimento tells Bustle. Echoing the sentiment, dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman tells Bustle that all skin types and tones can benefit from retinol when it comes to battling hyperpigmentation, especially those with darker skin tones.

To incorporate retinol into your skincare routine, Dr. Chimento suggests using products powered with the ingredient only once to two times per week at night, and moving up to three times per week if your skin can tolerate it. Meanwhile, dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco recommends using retinol in conjunction with vitamin C for two nights per week to amplify the anti-hyperpigmentation effects of retinol. A combination of retinol and vitamin C does wonders in fading dark spots, Dr. Fusco tells Allure

Although dark spots are typically harmless, widespread hyperpigmentation can indicate underlying diseases, such as lung cancers and systemic disorders. If you notice any abnormal skin changes, it's wise to consult a dermatologist right off the bat to get an accurate diagnosis and a targeted treatment plan.