Acne scars and over-aggressive facial scrubbing can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or dark spots on the forehead, nose, and chin, says Dr. David E. Bank, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. "Applying a spot treatment with salicylic acid twice daily will gradually exfoliate the excess pigment in the skin and reduce marks," he says.
Try: Vichy ProEven Total Dark Spot Corrector, $42;
During these years, hormonal changes due to pregnancy or birth-control pills often produce brown patches known as melasma, says N.Y.C. dermatologist Anne Chapas. "It's difficult to treat, as the patches often reappear with the slightest UV exposure." Look for a treatment with resorcinol or hydroquinone. If you're pregnant, choose a formula with a natural brightener, such as licorice root.
"More serious photo damage from years of sun exposure starts to emerge now in the form of dark clusters on the face, upper chest, and hands," says Dr. Bank. Soy combined with vitamin C will help even out your complexion and neutralize free-radical damage. Another option is Elure, a nonprescription yeast-enzyme cream that helps remove spots in two to three months ($125; at dermatologists' offices).
Try: Prevage Clarity Targeted Skin Tone Corrector, $125;
Shifts in estrogen and progesterone levels, along with the natural breakdown of DNA that occurs with age, often set off pigmentation changes, says Dr. Bank. "Applying a night cream with retinol helps increase cell turnover to minimize discoloration with the added benefit of stimulating collagen production to firm skin," says L.A. dermatologist Ava Shamban.
Try: Roc Retinol Correxion Sensitive night cream, $23; at drugstores.