- The inflammation associated with an acne breakout can increase the production of melanin in the skin, leading to gradual hyperpigmentation.
- Skin care products that reduce melanin production, increase cell turnover and reduce inflammation can help treat post-procedural hyperpigmentation.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) products containing hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and retinol are effective treatments.
- Skin resurfacing procedures can correct post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, but these procedures can also cause it to develop in dark-skinned patients.
Hyperpigmentationis a condition characterized by the appearance of scattered areas of skin that are darker in color than the surrounding skin. This is caused by the build-up of excess melanin - the pigment that gives the skin its color - in certain areas.
The type of hyperpigmentation that occurs after an acne breakout is known as progressive hyperpigmentation.Acne arare common in this type of hyperpigmentation, but ultimately represent a separate skin problem with different causes.
Postural hyperpigmentering(PIH), although not a serious condition, is a cosmetic problem that can take years to resolve and in some cases will never go away without treatment. Fortunately, there are many topical agents and professional procedures available to reduce their appearance and even out skin tone.
What causes post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?
The formation of acne causes an inflammatory reaction in the body, which leads to an increase in the activity of white blood cells in the affected tissue. This activity promotes an increase in melanin production.
This excess melanin accumulates in clumps, darkening the skin. This results in the appearance of scattered dark spots on the skin that are characteristic of PIH.
Can procedural hyperpigmentation be treated?
PIH can go away completely over time, but it's usually a long and difficult process. A successful approach to treating procedural hyperpigmentation usually involves a combination of products and treatments.
Hydroquinone, vitamin C and aloe vera gel inhibit the production of melanin, which can lighten hyperpigmented areas of the skin. Topical retinoids increase cell turnover, remove dark, hyperpigmented cells and stimulate the growth of new, lighter skin cells.
Professional skin resurfacing procedures such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion also increase cell turnover. Laser treatments can be used to target and destroy clusters of dark pigmentation.
Certain ingredients can also fight PIH by suppressing the inflammatory response that causes it to develop. Corticosteroids and vitamin C creams are anti-inflammatory agents that can be used for this purpose.
Treatments without a prescription
OTC creams formulated to reduce the appearance of PIH usually contain a combination of ingredients that reduce melanin production, reduce inflammation, and increase cell turnover.
OTC products that treat PIH include:
- Hydrochinon creme
- corticosteroid cream
Topical hydroquinone isefficienttreatment of all forms of hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinonebrakesmelanin production by interfering with the activity of tyrosinase, the enzyme that activates melanin production. Over time, this produces a skin brightening effect that reduces hyperpigmentation.
OTC hydroquinone creams usually have a concentration of 2%. Stronger concentrations are available by prescription. An effective course of treatment usually consists of applying a thin layer of hydroquinone cream to the face once or twice a day for 3-6 months.
Visible results can take from two weeks to two months, depending on the strength of the hyperpigmentation and the strength of the cream. If you do not notice any results after three months, you should stop treatment and consult your doctor to discuss other options.
Hydroquinone can sometimes cause side effects such as irritation, inflammation, and photosensitivity. If you experience persistent side effects, you should discontinue treatment, as this may indicate an allergy to the product.
Corticosteroidssuppress inflammationby disrupting the molecular pathways involved in the body's inflammatory response. While applying corticosteroid cream has no effect on hyperpigmented areas once they develop, by reducing inflammation it can help prevent the development of PIH.
A studya study with a group of patients undergoing laser procedures found that application of corticosteroid ointment significantly reduced their risk of developing PIH. However, further research will be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of corticosteroids in the treatment of PIH caused by acne.
Abuse of corticosteroidsit is associated with a number of unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects: redness, irritation, unwanted hair growth, skin discoloration and more severe acne. Be sure to consult a doctor or dermatologist before applying a corticosteroid cream.
retinolis a low-potency retinoid that increases cell turnover. Topical application accelerates the formation of new cells and the removal of dead cells. Excess melanin is shed along with the layers of dead cells, and newly formed areas of the skin appear lighter. Over time, this results in reduced visibility of hyperpigmented areas and a more even complexion.
Despite its benefits, retinol alone is unlikely to be an effective treatment for PIH due to its low potency. Products used to treat PIH are usually formulated with a combination of retinol and other ingredients, such as hydroquinone and corticosteroids.
When performed correctly by qualified professionals, skin resurfacing procedures can be an effective method of treating all types of hyperpigmentation. In addition, procedures performed with inappropriate tools or settings are a common cause of PIH. Before considering such treatments, always discuss your options with a doctor or dermatologist.
Professional treatments for PIH include:
- Receive retinoid creams
- Laser treatment
- Chemical peeling
Tretinoinis a prescription retinoid, i.eprovedto reduce the incidence of PIH. It also plays a role in preventing the development of PIH through its anti-acne effects, including inhibition of comedone formation and reduction of inflammation.
Tretinoin works by speeding up cell turnover, just like retinol. However, it is a much more potent product, and while it may provide more noticeable benefits, it also carries a greater risk of side effects. It is known to cause a reaction called retinoid dermatitis, which is characterized by dry skin, irritation and scaling.
Laser skin resurfacingprocedures tailored to treat PIH usually involve a combination of ablative and pigment-selective lasers. Ablative lasers remove the surface layer of the skin, while pigment-selective lasers work by targeting and destroying accumulations of excess melanin.
As the targeted cells are destroyed, the new skin that regenerates appears less pigmented and closer to your natural skin tone. The end result is a more even complexion with less visible hyperpigmented areas.
When the right lasers and settings are used, laser treatments can be an effective treatment for PIH. But topical treatments are cheaper, less likely to have side effects, and they areequally or more effectively. As such, laser treatments should only be used if topical treatments have proven ineffective in treating PIH.
Chemical peelingtreatments exfoliate the surface skin using acidic solutions. Chemical peeling stimulates cell turnover, which leads to the development of new skin areas with a more uniform complexion and reduces the appearance of hyperpigmented areas.
However, chemical peels can worsen pigmentation problems if the wrong type of peel is used. They also carry the risk of other side effects, including irritation, inflammation and increased sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Like other skin rejuvenation procedures,microdermabrasioninvolves removing the top layer of skin to allow new skin to emerge, with improved texture and a more even complexion. Microdermabrasion procedures are performed with an attachment that uses a diamond tip or a jet of fine crystals to polish the surface of the skin.
Also microdermabrasionreduces the production of melanin, making it a suitable procedure for treating all types of hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C and aloe vera are natural ingredients that have shown some effectiveness in the treatment of certain types of hyperpigmentation. Their melanin-lowering and anti-inflammatory properties are thought to reduce the incidence of PIH and calm the inflammation that causes it to develop in the first place. However, further research will be needed to confirm these benefits.
C-vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant found naturally in citrus fruits and certain vegetables. It interferes with tyrosinase activity, reduces melanin production and therefore has skin lightening properties when applied topically.
Topical vitamin C shows promise as a safe and mildly effective treatment for pneumoniamelasma, and its skin lightening and anti-inflammatory properties also point to its potential for the treatment and prevention of PIH. However, further research will be needed to properly evaluate the effects of vitamin C on PIH.
Gel offaloe veraThe plant is rich in aloesin, an anti-inflammatory substance that also inhibits the activity of tyrosinase andreducesmelanin production. Topical application of aloesin has been shown to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation caused by exposure to UV radiation.
Aloe vera has also been shownfight acnepotential. A topical formulation containing a mixture of aloe vera gel and tretinoin has come a long waymore efficientlyin the treatment of acne than tretinoin itself. These effects can help reduce the chance of developing PIH by addressing the underlying cause.
The best hyperpigmentation treatments for dark skin
PIH occursMost commonin people withdark skin. This is because dark-skinned people have more active melanosomes - the cellular structures responsible for melanin synthesis - in their skin cells. As such, the inflammation caused by acne is more likely to cause overproduction of melanin, resulting in PIH.
Inflammation caused by professional procedures such as chemical peels, laser treatments and microdermabrasion are also more likely to cause PIH in people with darker skin. For this reason, if you have dark skin and suffer from PIH or any other form of hyperpigmentation, it is recommended that you use an OTC treatment cream.
If OTC products prove ineffective, talk to a dermatologist for help finding a topical or professional prescription treatment that is effective and safe for your skin.
How quickly do you see results?
How quickly you see results depends on the severity of your PIH and the effectiveness of the treatment method you choose.
- OTC creams containing hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and retinol require 1 to 6 months of use before results are visible.
- Professional treatments have faster results, but after these abrasive treatments, your skin needs time to heal before results are visible.
- It's unclear how long it takes to see results from home remedies like vitamin C and aloe, since they haven't been thoroughly studied.
A skin care routine for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Since acne is the primary cause of PIH, a skin care routine based on the prevention and treatment of this condition should primarily be one suitable for acne-prone skin.
While regular cleansing is essential, it's also important not to use products that can cause irritation and inflammation, as this can also make PIH worse.
Choose a cleanser that contains gentle, active ingredients, such ashyaluronic acid. If you use tonics or scrubs, make sure you choose products that do not contain astringent substances, such asHamamelis. Avoid products that contain perfume and preservatives, as these can also cause irritation.
Water-based moisturizers are preferable for acne-prone skin, but if you use an oil-based moisturizer, be sure to choose a non-comedogenic one to avoid clogging your pores. Comedogenic moisturizers increase the risk of breakouts, which can make PIH worse.
Topical creams containing ingredients with skin-lightening properties, such as hydroquinone, retinol, and vitamin C, can be incorporated into your skin care routine to treat areas of hyperpigmentation. When using these products, follow all instructions provided to ensure safety.
In the end likesun exposurecan make hyperpigmentation worse, be sure to apply sunscreensun protection factor(SPF) of 30 or higher if you plan to spend time outdoors.
Acne inflammation is one of the most common causes of PIH, a condition characterized by the appearance ofscattered dark spotsin the affected area of the skin. Although not serious, PIH is an aesthetic problem that can be difficult to treat. Those with dark skin are more likely to have PIH.
OTC topical creams containing ingredients such as hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and retinol have been shown to reduce the incidence of PIH. Topical application of vitamin C and aloe vera gel may also speed up the recovery process, but more research is needed to properly assess their effectiveness.
Prescription retinoids, such as tretinoin, and professional procedures such as laser treatments, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion can also be effective in treating PIH. However, these treatments also carry the risk of harmful side effects and can ultimately make PIH worse if administered incorrectly.
PIH can be effectively prevented and controlled with a skin care routine that emphasizes sun protection, moisturizing with non-comedogenic ingredients, and using gentle, non-irritating cleansers, toners, and exfoliants.
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- Vitamin C.
- Azelaic acid.
- Mandelic acid.
- Kojic acid.
- Chemical peel.
You may be able to treat hyperpigmentation with over-the-counter (OTC) skin acids and retinoids. A dermatologist can also perform procedures that may help reduce its appearance. Hyperpigmentation is a medical term used to describe darker patches of skin from excess melanin production.Why won't hyperpigmentation from acne go away? ›
PIH usually heals over time without treatment, but it can take up to a couple of years. Some spots may never fade. Treatments include OTC creams, prescription medications, and in-office procedures. To get the best results from treatment, be sure your acne is under control and use sunscreen.What fades dark acne marks? ›
Retinol: This can unclog pores and fade dark spots. You'll find benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinol in acne products that you can buy without a prescription. Retinol is a type of retinoid. Another retinoid that may be helpful is adapalene gel 0.1%.How long can acne hyperpigmentation last? ›
Inflammatory skin conditions like acne sometimes leave behind dark patches and spots after they heal. This is a condition called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and while these dark spots often fade on their own, it can take months or years.How do you get rid of acne pigmentation naturally? ›
- Aloe Vera Gel: The gel of this plant is used to manage many skin conditions. ...
- Green Tea: It is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. ...
- Soy: This remedy is an effective skin lightening agent. ...
- Rice Water: ...
- Turmeric: ...
- Pomegranate: ...
- Grape Seed Oil:
“The pigment in brown spots can move deeper into the skin over time,” Dr. Downie explains. Spot-eradicating ingredients to look for in OTC treatments include azelaic and glycolic acids, vitamin C, and retinoids, says the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).Does acne hyperpigmentation go away naturally? ›
When the breakouts or flare-ups stop, you get rid of what's causing the hyperpigmentation. Most dark spots will then fade on their own over time, but it may take a long time. Skin injury: As the wound heals, you may see a dark spot or patch. In time, the hyperpigmentation will fade if you don't re-injure your skin.What not to do with hyperpigmentation? ›
Limit touching your skin.
Scratching or picking a mosquito bite or a spot can result in inflammation and lead to darker pigmentation on your face, so it's best to avoid touching your skin. When you do touch your skin, for example when applying your skin care or makeup, make sure you wash your hands first.
Lemon and raw potato mask:
Potatoes have an enzyme called catecholase, which works really well at lightening hyperpigmentation patches. Lemon is popular because of its natural bleaching properties, which help lighten and prevent blemishes.
PIH can range in color from white, pink, and red to purple, brown, and black. As Dr. Weiser explains, persistent erythema (redness) is common in lighter complexions after acne, and pigment is more readily formed by medium and darker skin types.What does permanent hyperpigmentation look like? ›
Hyperpigmentation can appear as brown, black, gray, red or pink spots or patches. The spots are sometimes called age spots, sun spots or liver spots. The spots can occur in just one area of the body or all over.Why is my hyperpigmentation getting worse? ›
Triggers include sun exposure, hormonal changes, and trauma to the skin, for example, due to acne or an injury. Picking at scabs and spots may make it worse. Some face creams can irritate the skin, leading to further hyperpigmentation.What fades hyperpigmentation the fastest? ›
Dermatologists consider products with hydroquinone, alone or combined with other lighteners, to be the gold standard for fading dark spots because it slows the production of pigment.How do you fade hyperpigmentation overnight? ›
According to research, aloe vera includes aloin, a naturally occurring depigmenting substance that has been demonstrated to lighten skin and function well as a nontoxic hyperpigmentation therapy. For using this: Before going to bed, apply pure aloe vera gel on pigmented areas. The next morning, rinse with warm water.Can you fade hyperpigmentation in a week? ›
The time it takes for hyperpigmentation to fade can vary based on things like skin type, skin care routine, age, and genetics. The American Academy of Dermatology explains that milder patches (just a few shades darker than the rest of your skin) will typically take between six and 12 months to fade.How long does it take for hyperpigmentation to go away with vitamin C? ›
What It Does: This potent antioxidant interferes with the production of pigment in the skin, fading dark spots. When Youll See Results: Once you add vitamin C to your skincare regimen, you may start seeing noticeable improvements in three weeks. It can help significantly fade hyperpigmentation in about two months.