how to fade away dark spots left behind by pimples

Pimples love revenge.

Dare give them the boot and they’ll leave a dark mark where they used to be. Ugh.

It’s like you’re fixing a problem only to cause another. *sighs*

FYI, this pimple revenge has a scientific name: post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (I know, it’s a mouthful!).

It sounds like something horrible, doesn’t it? Good news, it’s nothing to worry about. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (or PIH for short) goes away on its own.

The bad news? It can take months. If you’re the impatient kind (I SO am!), here’s how you can speed up the process and fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation away faster:

What The Heck Is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation?

PIH is a type of discolouration left behind by inflammation.

Short version: something inflamed your skin. Your skin reacts by leaving some pigment behind.

Long version: your skin is under attack. Something is hurting it. To protect itself, your skin triggers inflammation. Inflammation sends plenty of white blood cells (your body’s natural police force) into the bloodstream. This increases blood flow to the injured area, which now turns red.

Problem is, your body’s police doesn’t come alone. Your body sends melanocytes to the scene of the crime, too. Melanocytes are the cells that make melanin, the pigment that turns your skin dark.

Melanin is the reason your skin tans. Its job is to protect the skin from UV rays by turning it a darker hue (yes, that beautiful tan you crave is skin DAMAGE. The more you tan, the more damage you’re inflicting to your skin). Plus, melanin is also an antioxidant that gets rid of those harmful free radicals.

No wonder your body asks it to help out, too!

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What Causes Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation?

I’m focusing on pimples here, but they aren’t the only thing that gives you PIH. Other culprits are:

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Injury
  • Pimples
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea
  • Scratches
  • Shaving

Basically anything that triggers inflammation can give you PIH.

How To Prevent Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigemtation

PIH isn’t a done deal. Just because your skin is inflamed, it doesn’t mean melanin needs to leave behind any dark patches. I’ve had plenty of occasional zits and no PIH. In fact, I had to deal with PIH from a zit only once (lucky, I know).

So how you prevent PIH?

Easy. If PIH is caused by inflammation, it follows you need to load your skincare routine with anti-inflammatory ingredients. Here are a few of my fave:

Best Picks:

Related: 9 Soothing Ingredients That Calm Down Irritated Skin

the ordinary glycolic acid toning solution

How To Treat Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

I bet you know by now how to deal with PIH. If melanin is the culprit, you need to use skin-lighteners that can stop its production in its tracks. Here are a few of my fave picks:

I’ve listed these in the order I would use them to deal with PIH. I’d start with gentler remedies like glycolic acid or vitamin C and move on to the big guns like arbutin if they worked too slowly. I’d leave hydroquinone as the last resort. It’s the most effective but the most “dangerous” (all powerful weapons are double edged, aren’t they?).

There are plenty more options to deal with hyperpigmentation if these don’t work for you. Click here for the full list of skin-lighteners with their pros and cons.

Best Picks:

The Bottom Line

Inflammation + melanin = post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation galore! Fade it away with skin-lighteners and keep it from coming up with anti-inflammatory ingredients.

How do you deal with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation? Share your fave tips and products in the comments below.