How to correct and prevent sun spots, according to dermatologists

Ingredients like vitamin C can make all the difference.
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By Rylee Johnston

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There's nothing better than soaking up the sun on a hot summer day. However, whether you're relaxing on the beach or going for a walk around the neighborhood, it's important to keep your skin protected from excess sun exposure.

While some sun exposure is good for you, chronic exposure can lead to unwanted skin issues, including sun spots. If you're wondering how these spots occur, New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner told us they form due to the skin's overproduction of melanin, which is the skin's natural pigment.

"Exposure to environmental aggressors like UV light, infrared radiation, and pollution can stimulate skin cells to produce extra pigment, causing sun spots, " Zeichner said.

These harmless spots typically appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin, and New York-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King says that lighter skin tones and genetic background also play a part in susceptibility.

"They are caused by sun exposure, plus a susceptible genetic background," King said. "Lighter skin types are more vulnerable to solar lentigines."

In general, dermatologists suggest looking for serums that contain antioxidants to help protect the skin. The key ingredients in these serums will depend on whether you're trying to correct sun spots or prevent them.

"It is important to distinguish some serums that are specifically designed to lighten dark spots, such as those containing hydroquinone, tranexamic acid or other lightening ingredients," Dr. Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, told Shop TODAY. "Those that are trying to prevent sun spots are generally relying on sun-protective ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or chemical sunscreen filters or ingredients that help to neutralize free-radical damage, including antioxidants such as vitamin C."

While sunscreen is the best preventative measure, those who already have sun spots should consider using a reliable serum in order to get an extra boost of antioxidants. Take a look below to see the exact serums dermatologists recommend.

Dermatologist-recommended serums for sun spots

1. Aveeno Positively Radiant Overnight Hydrating Facial

Zeichner recommends this overnight cream by Aveeno, which was created to give you the same results as a professional facial. The serum features hyaluronic acid and "Total Soy Complex" to deeply nourish and hydrate skin while you sleep. It was also designed to be non-greasy so you don't have to wipe it off in the morning.

2. Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum

Garshick suggests looking for serums with vitamin C. She especially loves the Vichy LiftActiv Serum for its antioxidant properties.

"Serums containing antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, are a great way to help prevent sun spots from developing," Garshick said. "The antioxidants help protect the skin from free-radical damage which can trigger the changes seen in the skin with sun spots."

3. SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic

This serum comes recommended by all four dermatologists that Shop TODAY spoke with. Dr. Anglea Lamb, a dermatologist for Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology, specifically recommends using this serum in combination with retinols to help lock in moisture and provide protection against the sun and skin pollutants.

4. La Roche-Posay Anthelios AOX Daily Antioxidant Serum

Combining SPF with antioxidants, this serum aims to protect skin from the sun while helping to smooth fine lines and improve the appearance of dark spots.

Garshick recommends this serum because it incorporates a sunscreen component, which she says is one of the most effective ways to protect your skin from sun damage.

"The most important topical you can apply to your face to prevent sun spots is sunscreen or sun protection, and it is important to reapply throughout the day," Garshick said. "So making sure to incorporate SPF into your daily routine is essential."

5. Supergoop! City Sunscreen Serum

If you're in the market for a serum that both primes and moisturizes, this might be the one for you. Made with SPF to protect against UV damage and antioxidants including vitamin E and B5 to help smooth fine lines, the formula was also designed to moisturize and help reduce water loss.

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