Don’t we all feel disgruntled when we wake up with spots when the night before, our skin looked so smooth and spotless? Not only are the zits annoying, when they grow and turn red, they often leave behind dark spots. These dark marks are called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PHI) and are often as dispiriting and vexing as the pimples themselves.
Depending on the skin tone and the depth of the discolouration, this post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can range in color from pink to red, purple, brown, or black. They can appear on all skin types but for people with darker skin tones, they are frequently longer-lasting and have a deeper colour. Since PIH is “just” skin pigmentation and doesn’t damage the follicle, collagen, or elastin, they are flat or smooth and thus are not called acne scars.
You can tell if you have acne scars or marks when you run your fingers over the area with acne. If the skin feels smooth without any textural changes like pits and bumps, then you’re having acne marks. If you want to know more about acne scars and how to take care of them, read the 8 tips on how to remove them.
What Causes Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation?
When our skin gets a wound, zit, or any other skin trauma or irritation arises, such as a rash, even an insect bite, the area around the irritation can become inflamed. The more inflamed the area is, the redder it will appear.
Picking, squeezing, scratching, or just too much handling of the skin leads to a skin response that will extend the inflammation period. And making things worse, this will also put dust, oil, dirt, even bacteria on your skin. All of which will make your skin even redder. This redness comes from an increase in the local blood flow, it’s the immune system response by letting white blood cells into the area to fight the infection.
Even when the skin heals, the redness can remain and we’ve our new pimple mark. The PIH can last up to 6 months and it’s a sign that the skin is trying to repair itself after the inflammation. How long the redness lasts depends on several factors. These can be your skin tone, your skin type, your genetic makeup, your skincare, the size and depth of the inflammation of the zit, and how much you touched it.
In the aftermath, after one or two months, the redness subsides. Since white blood cells were called into the areas an immune response to fight bacteria and clear of debris, the surrounding area was in stress mode. In this stage, melanin is released as a byproduct of stressed cells. This is melanin – or pigment – leaves a visibly darker mark than the surrounding skin even after the zit has cleared.
Piling on concealer to cover up zits or the aftermath of them, dark spots are not the way to go. But since we now know how a red mark appears when our skin gets inflamed, the best way is prevention.
You’ll want to start with controlling and treating acne, or you may be just aggravating the situation with more scars and marks.
Prevent and calm down inflammation
Since we know that the area around a zit is red because it’s irritated and inflamed, it stands to reason that anything you can do to calm your skin is going to reduce the redness and later the pimple mark.
You can spot-treat the area with acne treatment, especially with products containing salicylic acid. This ingredient not only clears the acne but also has soothing and calming effects. Follow up with a cream formulated to reduce redness and ingredients that are calming such as
- Aloe vera
- Centella asiatica (also known as pennywort)
Unfortunately, PIH doesn’t always disappear when left alone. Then you’ll want to look into how to fade dark spots.
Use skincare products that contain lots of antioxidants, most notably vitamin C. This will not only further calm down your skin but also target discolouration. Also, incorporate formula with vitamin A which will help restore your skin. Another strategy is to regularly use AHAs to exfoliate.
If you want more in-depth tips about how to target discolouration, read about how to lighten dark spots.
Protect Your Skin From UV Rays
Not only will sun exposure slow down the skin’s healing process, but it will also steadily damage the skin and the acne marks will linger longer. Lastly, UV rays and visible light from the sun stimulate pigment production, resulting in the red areas formed by acne to darken. So always wear sunscreen every day without exception. It will help keep your skin healthy and is key to fading discolouration.
Be consistent with your skincare, since it takes time until you see results.
Do you have any tips for fading acne marks? We’d love to hear from you.