How frustrating is it to finally heal a breakout and be left with a dark spot that lingers on the skin for months?!
Post acne hyperpigmentation or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is our skin’s natural response to inflammation. Skin of colour and those in warm climates are more prone to this pigment irregularity in the skin.
The longer your acne breakout is red and inflamed (in the form of a papule or pustule), the longer these acne marks will stick around.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Is post acne hyperpigmentation permanent?
- How to avoid post inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks
- Post acne hyperpigmentation treatments that work
Is post acne hyperpigmentation permanent?
Thankfully, these stubborn acne marks won’t scar your skin forever! Post acne hyperpigmentation isn’t a true scar and will fade over time, even without topical treatment.
Speeding up the brightening process tends to be a confusing topic, one that often results in over exfoliation and skin damage.
Let me share how to avoid post inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks and the treatments that have worked in my professional skin care practice.
How to avoid post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
De-stress and stay calm
Stress prolongs the inflammatory phases of acne and worsens post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. When we’re feeling stressed, inflammation is created in the skin that prevents our breakouts from healing quickly. This is why chronically stressed individuals may notice that the discolouration from healed breakouts tend to be darker and more pronounced. Finding ways to destress, such as exercise and meditation, can help your skin heal faster.
Don't pick and apply ice
We’re often quick to pick… especially when there’s a juicy whitehead on the horizon! Thing is, papules and pustules should not be extracted. With so much visible inflammation and redness, the risk of damaging the pore lining in trying to extract these types of breakouts is too high. Once the pore lining is broken, bacteria from these breakouts can transfer to other skin areas, not only creating more acne but also more post acne hyperpigmentation. It’s too easy to accidentally cause more inflammation!
Instead of going to pick, focus on reducing the amount of inflammation in your skin. When you notice redness presenting itself around a breakout, it’s time to ice your acne! Ice your breakouts in intervals to avoid freezing your skin. This will bring down the swelling, redness and significantly lessen the time it takes to heal your breakouts and fade any post acne hyperpigmentation.
Always wear sunscreen
Without sunscreen, every other topical treatment for post inflammatory hyperpigmentation will be ineffective. This is because UV rays cause our skin to produce melanin, a surge of pigment in effort to protect us. Sunscreen prevents this overproduction of pigment to be created in our skin.
Sunscreen is even more important if you use alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) in your skin care products as they make the skin photosensitive to UV rays. Find a sunscreen you love so that you can benefit from these acids and prevent premature skin aging. Plus, this formulation with 20% zinc oxide has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that will keep your skin calm and moisturized:
Ultra Zinc SPF 40
This day cream and mineral sunscreen comes in tinted and non-tinted formulas to provide gentle yet powerful UV protection to all skin types and tones. With 20% zinc oxide, this formula also calms and soothes sensitive and reactive skin. If...Read more
Wear pigment preventing products
If you have skin of colour, live in a warm climate or are chronically stressed, you will be more prone to developing post acne hyperpigmentation that linger for months.
Consider layering a serum under your sunscreen to prevent pigment from being created in the first place. It’s like a secret weapon you can use to fight back against post acne hyperpigmentation, age spots and melasma!
These specific skin care ingredients inhibit the melanosome transfer from melanocytes to keratinocytes. This group of ingredients are called tyrosinase inhibitors and they work with your sunscreen to prevent post inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other pigment irregularities such as melasma.
My favourite tyrosinase inhibitors that you can apply under your sunscreen (do not exfoliate the skin) are vitamin C, niacinamide, arbutin, curcumin and licorice root.
Lemon Lightening Serum
This corrective serum brightens hyperpigmentation, melasma and discolouration on the skin. Watch sunspots, hyperpigmentation, redness and inflammation fade thanks to this serum’s lemon and licorice root extracts. Natural hydroquinone alternatives leave you with smooth, calm and bright skin.Read more
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation treatments that work
Treating post inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks involves gently sloughing off pigment from the surface of the skin. This is how to fade acne marks and brighten your complexion.
However, this requires careful consideration for your skin barrier. Over exfoliating hinders the skin’s ability to heal itself, which is exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
My favourite exfoliating ingredients with brightening and antibacterial properties include mandelic acid, lactic acid, phytic acid, azelaic acid and retinol.
One treatment I particularly like to fade post acne hyperpigmentation that is also safe for skin of colour is this 10% blend of lactic and mandelic acid:
$72.00 From the treatment room to your bathroom, this professional-strength exfoliant smooths, brightens and imparts radiance with a blend of 5 alpha and poly hydroxy acids at a 10% concentration. Clinically proven to improve skin texture by 25% after just one...Read more
Pro 5 Liquid Exfoliant
From the treatment room to your bathroom, this professional-strength exfoliant smooths, brightens and imparts radiance with a blend of 5 alpha and poly hydroxy acids at a 10% concentration. Clinically proven to improve skin texture by 25% after just one...Read more
Start introducing this exfoliant to your skin once a week. Allow your skin to adjust for a week before increasing your use of exfoliants. Redness, tightness and visible flakes are signs you may be exfoliating too often.
On the nights you aren’t exfoliating, apply a pigment inhibiting product such as this Vitamin B3 + Zinc Serum to support your skin barrier and prevent unwanted melanin production while you sleep.
Retinol can also be a very effective treatment for both acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This formulation contains ceramides, antioxidants and the perfect amount of retinol to brighten, refine and moisturize your complexion:
$88.00 This retinol serum and moisturizer visibly corrects signs of aging by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with little to no irritation. This 0.85% retinol gel-cream helps even out pigment irregularities while improving skin firmness and texture. Formulated...Read more
PM Restore Retinol Complex
This retinol serum and moisturizer visibly corrects signs of aging by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with little to no irritation. This 0.85% retinol gel-cream helps even out pigment irregularities while improving skin firmness and texture. Formulated...Read more
Giving your skin a break for a night or two in between exfoliating treatments will allow your skin to heal, regenerate and reveal brighter looking skin. Once you build up a tolerance to exfoliating acids, you can try increasing your use to every other night. This is as long as your skin permits. Always check-in with how your skin is feeling. Pair back if redness, tightness and or flakes become visible.
The key to treating hyperpigmentation is to be diligent with your sunscreen, use products with tyrosinase inhibiting ingredients and exfoliate appropriately for your unique skin.
Visit the brightening collection to shop for my professional collection of post acne hyperpigmentation treatments.