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Dark spots 101: What is the best concealer for dark spots?

The best way to cover under eye shadows and sunspots, according to skincare experts.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
concealer for dark spots on white background
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Meredith Hartle, DO
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What causes dark spots? 
More

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our rigorous standards.

Dark spots, known as hyperpigmentation, are a common skin concern. Whether caused by acne scars, sun damage, or hormonal changes, these spots can be a source of frustration—which is why you may want to conceal them for a more even complexion. 

Here, we’ll explore what causes dark spots to begin with and share the best concealer options—in our expert opinion—that are specifically designed to camouflage and minimize their appearance.

What causes dark spots? 

Dark spots are often caused by two main factors: post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and melasma.

Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation happens when too much melanin (skin pigment) is produced or deposited abnormally in the skin after inflammation.¹ Inflammation triggers melanocytes, which are responsible for melanin production, to make more melanin. This increases pigmentation in the top layer of your skin (epidermis).

PIH can occur for various reasons, such as acne, eczema, dermatitis, injuries, or certain skin treatments. The severity of pigmentation varies depending on whether it affects the top layer of your skin or the deeper layer (dermis).²

Melasma

Melasma, on the other hand, is primarily caused by exposure to sunlight, among other factors.³ Sunlight triggers the production of certain substances in your skin, which increase melanin production and lead to darker pigmentation. Prolonged exposure to sunlight also causes inflammation and activates specific cells in your skin, further increasing melanin production. Melasma appears as darker patches on the skin, typically in areas that receive a lot of sun, such as the cheeks, upper lip, chin, and forehead.⁴ Protecting skin from the sun is crucial in managing and helping prevent melasma.

Genetic influences and hormonal factors can also contribute to the development of melasma.⁵ 

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma emphasize the importance of sun protection in preventing and managing dark spots. Regularly using a good sunscreen, seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing can help minimize the risk of developing or worsening these conditions.⁶ 

If you notice any dark spots on your body, it’s a good idea to consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment options.

Treating dark spots 

Dark spots can be effectively treated using various methods. Your dermatologist may recommend different treatments including:

Superficial chemical peels: Chemical peels with ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid (TCA), or Jessner’s solution can help manage postinflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma. Some studies show that topical pretreatment with hydroquinone 4% can further improve the results.⁷

Laser therapy: Ever tried saying 'Low-fluence Q-switched Nd:YAG laser' three times fast? Nope, me neither—it's a tongue-twister for sure! But pronunciation challenges aside, this laser, along with the thulium fiber fractional laser have shown impressive results in reducing hyperpigmentation, especially with melasma spots. And, many patients experience great results. But, as with many popular treatments, researchers are still diving deep into just how effective they are in the long run.⁸

Topical products: Using products containing ingredients like niacinamide and azelaic acid can help reduce dark marks. Niacinamide is well known for its ability to lighten skin. It achieves this by blocking the transfer of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, from melanocytes (specialized skin cells) to keratinocytes (the outermost layer of skin cells).⁹ By inhibiting this transfer, niacinamide helps reduce the appearance of dark spots and may promote a more even skin tone.

It’s important to consult with a dermatology provider to determine the most suitable treatment plan for your specific case. They can assess your skin condition, recommend appropriate treatments, and guide you on how to use them effectively. 

Following a consistent skincare routine and protecting your skin from sun exposure with sunscreen can help prevent further dark spot formation.

What’s the best way to conceal dark spots? 

When concealing dark spots, using the right concealer is key. Opt for concealers and cosmeceuticals specifically formulated to address dark marks and pigmentation. Mineral makeup foundations can also be effective in camouflaging undesirable darker pigments.¹⁰ 

One technique you can employ is using opposite colors from the color wheel to minimize color irregularities.¹¹ For example, to counteract a red or pink area, you can apply a green pigment to the base to neutralize the discoloration. 

A skincare professional or makeup artist can teach you valuable tips and techniques tailored to your specific needs. Finding the right concealer and color-correcting method can help you conceal your dark spots and achieve a more uniform skin tone.¹²

Concealers for dark spots: Our picks 

Out of the web of available concealers, our picks include:

1. Jane Iredale Enlighten Concealer: This mineral concealer is specifically formulated to target and correct dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and discoloration. It provides buildable coverage and offers shades that cater to various skin tones.

2. Pur Disappearing Act 4-in-1 Concealer: This concealer takes a multi-functional approach by combining coverage, color correction, and skincare ingredients. It may address color correction concerns associated with dark spots.

These makeup concealers are regarded for their ability to provide coverage and address color irregularities. However, individual preferences may vary, so it’s recommended to test different shades and formulas to find the best match for your skin tone and specific color correction needs.

Choosing the best concealer for you

When selecting the best concealer for your needs, there are several factors to consider. First, assess your skin type and specific concerns. Next, determine the level of coverage you desire, ranging from light to medium or full coverage. It’s key to choose a shade that closely matches your skin tone to ensure a seamless blend. 

Consider the formula’s suitability for your skin type, such as opting for oil-free options for oily skin. Reading reviews and seeking recommendations can also provide valuable insights. 

Don’t forget to test the concealer on your skin before purchasing to ensure the color and texture work well for you. Last, consider factors like longevity, finish (matte or radiant), and ease of application to find the perfect concealer that meets your unique needs and preferences.

Take care of your skin with Curology 

Start fading dark spots with Custom Formula by Curology.

Start fading dark spots with Custom Formula by Curology.

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With personalized skincare formulations tailored to your unique skin needs, Curology offers a convenient and effective solution. Whether you’re dealing with acne, dark spots, or other skin concerns, our dermatology providers can prescribe a customized formula for your skin goals. Sign up for a 30 day trial* with Curology today! 

FAQs

Which color concealer is best for dark spots?

Choose a concealer that matches your skin tone or is slightly lighter. If you want to color correct, use the opposite color on the color wheel, such as green for pink or red spots.

How do you hide dark spots with concealer?

Prep your skin by cleansing, moisturizing, and using a primer, if desired. Then, you have the option of applying a corrector that neutralizes the undertone of the dark spot. Then, select a concealer that matches your skin tone or is slightly lighter. Dot and blend the concealer onto the dark spots, layering, and building coverage as needed.

Can concealer remove dark spots?

No, concealer cannot remove dark spots. It can only provide temporary coverage. For the treatment of dark spots, consult a dermatology provider who can recommend appropriate options.

They can assess your specific skin concerns and recommend appropriate treatment options. This may include topical creams or serums containing ingredients like hydroquinone or niacinamide, which can help fade dark spots over time. In some cases, procedures such as chemical peels and laser therapy may be recommended for more severe or stubborn dark spots.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1.  Lawrence, E. and Al Aboud, K.M. Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation. StatPearls. (2022, October 3).

  2.  Lawrence, E. and Al Aboud, K.M. Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation. StatPearls. Ibid.

  3.  Basit, H., et al. Melasma. StatPearls. (2023, April 16).

  4.  Basit, H., et al. Melasma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5.  Basit, H., et al. Melasma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  6.  Basit, H., et al. Melasma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  7.  Desai, S.R. Hyperpigmentation Therapy: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  8.  Desai, S.R. Hyperpigmentation Therapy: A Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  9.  Hakozaki, T., et al. The effect of niacinamide on reducing cutaneous pigmentation and suppression of melanosome transfer. Br J Dermatol. Ibid.

  10.  Vrcek, I., et al. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. (April-June 2016).

  11.  Vrcek, I., et al. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. Ibid.

  12.  Vrcek, I., et al. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. Ibid.

Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Meredith Hartle, DO

Meredith Hartle, DO

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