Hyperpigmentation acne and scars can often linger for a prolonged period, which can be frustrating and overwhelming. If a pimple must exist, it should also do you the courtesy of going away. Yet, hyperpigmentation acne often requires more attention and patience to clear up.
If you’re looking to learn more about hyperpigmentation caused by acne, by the end of this article, you’ll know how and when those spots will fade. Read on for more.
What Is Hyperpigmentation Acne?
When you break the word ‘hyperpigmentation’ down, you get ‘hyper,’ which means excessive or over and ‘pigmentation,’ meaning the coloring of skin tissue. Together, hyperpigmentation is an excess of pigment in the skin.
When the production of melanin in your skin is more than usual, it manifests as patches, dark spots, discoloration, or darker skin. You can consider hyperpigmentation as a blanket term for darkened pigment.
Your skin’s natural pigment or the production of melanin is the defense mechanism that transpires when your skin experiences trauma. Skin trauma can occur in multiple forms - a cut, a scratch, or any other wound that arises on the skin’s surface, including sun exposure.
As a result of the trauma, the skin retaliates by stimulating melanin-forming skin cells, melanocytes, to shelter itself from further damage. When stimulated, these cells move to the skin’s surface leading to patches of darkened skin, dark spots, sunspots, darker pigments, and discoloration. In other words, hyperpigmentation.
Inflammation frequently appears from acne, blemishes, pimples, and some skin conditions such as eczema. Post acne hyperpigmentation emerges on the skin as a response to inflammation. It is one of the many ways your skin heals from wounds. 
Typically, acne hyperpigmentation affects both men and women of all skin types, particularly individuals prone to acne. These darkened spots can pop up in brown, red or pink color and appear on not just the face, but anywhere on the body.
Post acne hyperpigmentation is also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). It can often be more aggravating and distressing than pimples.
Acne Scars Vs Hyperpigmentation
Often, people confuse the term post-acne hyperpigmentation and acne scarring. Acne scarring is used to describe any disturbance to the skin post-spot.
While it's true that both post-acne hyperpigmentation and acne scarring can occur after a breakout, the two are very different.
An acne scar occurs when there's a physical alteration in the texture of the skin. Unlike acne scarring, post-acne hyperpigmentation is simply a form of skin pigmentation, and it doesn't disrupt the skin's texture.
Why Does Hyperpigmentation Occur After Acne?
Hyperpigmentation acne marks form towards the end of the healing process or once the acne blemish heals.
Whiteheads and blackheads don't 'heal.' Instead, the dead skin and the oil are eliminated, and the pore quickly returns to its normal state. Cysts and pimples, on the other hand, require some healing. This is where hyperpigmentation steps in.
One of the first steps in the healing process is to increase blood flow to the wound site. And acne, to some extent, fits the definition of a minor skin wound, so blood flow increases when acne forms.
The wound releases certain chemicals that travel through the bloodstream and begin the healing process but also cause inflammation. These chemicals stimulate the cells that produce the skin's pigment.
Both researchers and dermatologists agree that inflammation plays a significant role in hyperpigmentation. But, there's a lot more to study what causes hyperpigmentation acne.
As you read earlier, melanin produces pigment and melanin is produced by melanocytes. The longer a wound takes to heal, the longer the stimulation of melanocytes and more the release of melanin. This is how acne turns into hyperpigmentation acne marks.
One of the biggest culprits of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by acne is picking zits. The best post-acne hyperpigmentation treatment is to avoid it in the first place.
When Should You See A Doctor?
While most post-acne spots and hyperpigmentation are harmless, do not take it upon yourself to diagnose a dark spot. Most spots may look ordinary, but some can turn out to be more.
If you notice changes in an existing spot, you should have a dermatologist or physician examine it.
How To Treat Hyperpigmentation Acne?
No treatment can clear hyperpigmentation caused by acne overnight. In actuality, you have to treat your acne first to successfully tackle pigmentation. The good news is that with the right approach, these dark marks will fade and disappear with time.
Here are a few things you can do to speed up the healing process.
While the sun isn’t the cause of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation acne, it can aggravate symptoms, darken the affected areas, and prolong the fading time.
A few acne hyperpigmentation treatments help handle the pigmentation, of which sun protection holds high-ranking. Treating hyperpigmentation goes hand in hand with protecting your skin from the sun. With sun exposure, pigmentation can get worse. So you have to protect your skin while you correct it.
2. Use Anti-Inflammatory Skincare Regularly
Whether you face hyperpigmentation because of acne, dermatitis, or eczema, inflammation is your body's natural healing response.
This healing response is vital. However, sometimes it's called upon when unneeded due to conditions like acne. Chronic inflammation can ravage the skin with hyperpigmentation.
The best way to tackle hyperpigmentation due to acne is by incorporating anti-inflammatory skincare products into your daily routine.
3. Micro Needling
Micro-needling is the process that involves using a stainless-steel roller covered with several tiny spokes to create a series of micro-injuries on your skin. This forces your skin to produce new and healthy collagen and elastin, which reforms the skin.
When you break down the skin barrier, it gets easier to infuse ingredients into your skin that lighten pigmentation. Typically, you need to pair micro-needling with a good topical cream.
For the best results, you will need at least three or more treatments every six weeks.
4. Chemical Peels
For less severe pigmentation, don’t undermine the power of chemical peels. A minor clinical treatment with a low-pH acid can make a big difference.
Chemical peels are exfoliating treatments that help eliminate dead and darkened skin cells from the top layers of the skin. This helps diminish dullness and allows your skin to reflect light better, resulting in a noticeable glow.
Treatments like this from time to time, can stimulate the production of collagen and decrease dark spots. There are also plenty of at-home peels that you can purchase, but chemical peels can be harsh, so you should buy one after consulting with your dermatologist.
Chemical peels work on renewing the surface of your skin and decreasing the intensity of pigmentation. Like other skin procedures, peels too require three to six treatments spaced out by three to four weeks to witness results.
5. Vitamin C
One of the key weapons in your skincare arsenal for hyperpigmentation should be Vitamin C. It bears endless benefits, including brightening and revitalizing of the skin while stimulating the production of collagen.
Vitamin C helps break up and lighten pigmentation spots that you already have and prevents dark spots from forming in the future.
Retinol (vitamin A) reduces post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation by increasing skin cell turnover rates. Meaning, it allows your skin to shed old cells that clog your pores and prompts them to generate new cells.
One of the most common types of hyperpigmentation is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by clogged pores and acne. So, a significant factor to lighten and even out the skin tone is clearing the pores and stimulating cell regeneration.
Visit your dermatologist to get the right strength of retinol for yourself.
Pigmentation in the second layer of the skin is almost like a tattoo. It's tough to get rid of.
Lasers use low heat and energy to break up pigment particles in the skin, thereby eliminating dark pigmentation. Your dermatologist or laser technician will be the best guide on the kind of treatment you need.
Like other procedures, anticipate six treatments or more with a gap of three to four weeks in between each sitting, for the best results.
How To Prevent Acne Hyperpigmentation?
Typically, to prevent acne hyperpigmentation, you have to prevent acne, but that’s not always possible. The next course of action is to heal the acne as swiftly as possible.
Here a few ways to prevent acne hyperpigmentation:
1. Treat The Acne As Well As The Dark Spots
In comparison to acne, dark spots linger for longer. Hence, it’s essential to treat the acne too. When you do away with acne, you put an end to what is causing the dark spots.
2. Treat The Acne Early
According to several studies, you can prevent acne from getting worse if you treat it in its early stages. If treatment commences in the moderate to severe stage, there are higher chances of developing pigmentation spots.
3. Never Pop Pimples
You increase the chance of getting marks or scars if you pick, pop, or squeeze a pimple.
4. Use Products That Don’t Clog Pores
One of the reasons for breakouts can be your skincare products. Products with high oil content like shea butter or cocoa butter can clog your pores, and clogged pores result in acne.
5. Be Gentle With Your Skin
Unfortunately, you cannot scrub your acne or pigmentation away. The harsher you are, the worse it is for your skin. It’s hard to believe, but scrubbing can make acne worse. According to science, gentle skincare is what you need to clear acne.
6. Don’t Use Heavy Makeup To Cover Marks
While makeup is an effective means to cover your blemishes, it also leads to new ones. Similar to cocoa butter and shea butter, makeup also clogs pores. Pick mineral makeup or lightweight products.
How Long Does It Take For Acne Hyperpigmentation To Fade?
The good news is that pigmentation will eventually fade. The time it takes to fade depends on the intensity and depth of trauma. Some spots may disappear within a month, while others take up to a year.
To get a feel of recovery time, think of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by acne as a wound that scars over time.
Your skin changes every day. Every day you grow new skin cells that push the old ones out. The average cycle of this process is 30 days, and hence, depending on severity, acne-induced hyperpigmentation has the potential to fade in just a month.
Remember, even if skin renews itself in 30 days, it retains around 20% of its old character. With 20% of your pigmented cells remaining, it takes longer to correct the pigmentation.
When you’re ready to begin treatment, you have plenty of options. The only thing you need to have is patience. There are several post-acne hyperpigmentation treatments out there. No matter what you choose, it takes time. Steady and consistent treatment is key.
Your dermatologist can also help guide you in finding the right treatment for your skin.
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