Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation - Beach Beauty Bar and Acne Clinic
woman with glowing skin, how to get rid of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation isn’t as difficult to treat as one may think. Perhaps you had a pimple that you couldn’t resist popping. Maybe you scraped your skin or burned yourself on the stove. Whatever the cause, you can’t help but notice that you still have a little dark spot weeks later.

Dealing with hyperpigmentation—those pesky dark spots caused by excess melanin production—you know it can be a nightmare to deal with. Just about everyone who has acne suffers from the effects of the condition.

Do you want clear skin?

So why do pimples leave us with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and what is it exactly?

What Is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)?

PIH is a temporary condition that starts with a pimple, rash, scrape, burn, or any other type of skin trauma that causes inflammation. As a result of this inflammation, the skin over-produces a skin pigment called melanin.

This extra melanin pigment gets deposited in the skin and is what causes the dark patches to remain long after the initial injury or inflammation has healed.

The simplest way I can describe it is to think of acne as a wound on the skin. This triggers an inflammatory response. That inflammatory response includes the production of melanin (the pigment that gives skin its color). Your skin produces melanin when it is damaged or has experienced trauma as a way of protecting itself from the sun (as melanin absorbs most of the UV radiation that hits your skin).

The accumulation of melanin in the specific area where the skin was damaged by acne forms a noticeable dark (brown or black) mark or spot – a not so pleasant reminder of the breakout we just went through.

The darker your skin tone, the more susceptible your skin is to PIH (due to overactive melanin-producing cells called melanocytes).

Using AHA’s and BHA’s to treat PIH

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a staple ingredient in many people’s skincare routine when they are dealing with PIH.

This ingredient is a type of chemical exfoliant that speeds up the rate of skin turnover by breaking up the substance that holds dead skin cells together. The words ‘chemical’ and ‘acid’ conjure some fears towards using AHAs in your skincare routine, however you shouldn’t worry as they are very gentle unless you use them too often.

The most common type of AHA used in skincare products is glycolic acid, followed by lactic acid.

Mandelic acid is commonly used as it is a gentler acid and therefore it takes much longer to see results. However, people using mandelic acid long-term to fade their post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation have achieved excellent results. We love mandelic and it’s the superstar of our Clarify 5, Clarify 10, and Clarify 15 serums.

It’s important to note that AHAs are more suitable for dry skin types. Oily skin types benefit more from using a BHA.

Also, AHAs temporarily thin the top layer of your skin, so you’ll need to be extra thorough with your daily application of sunscreen. I apply sunscreen every morning, even if it’s overcast outside or if I’ll be inside most of the day.

Is Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) Permanent?

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation isn’t permanent; however on its own it takes about 6-12 months to fade. Also, the darker the PIH, the longer it will take to go away. There are two important factors to consider when trying treating post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

It can take weeks, months, or even years to fade the marks left behind due to PIH. Sun exposure without sunscreen or sun protection can make PIH worse by stimulating cells in the skin to produce additional pigment, which is why it’s important to wear sunscreen or avoid sun exposure when you have a skin injury.

  • Increase the turnover rate of skin cells – so that the acne marks fade faster.

This just means that you’re increasing the speed at which your skin cells renew (you’re shedding off old skin cells at a faster rate to reveal new skin cells without hyperpigmentation).

  • Wear sunscreen every single day – to prevent any further production of melanin.

 If you could only choose one of these three steps, I’d say this one is the most important. In fact, all other steps would be useless without the use of sunscreen – simply because UV radiation leads to the production of melanin in skin cells, especially if the area of skin has been damaged by acne.

Who Gets PIH?

Since PIH occurs after skin injury or inflammation, anyone can get this condition regardless of gender or age. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can develop in all skin types, but it can be more common and more intense in people who have darker skin tones.

How Is PIH Treated?

Post-inflammatory pigmentation spots can fade on their own over time. However, this process can take weeks to months, and sometimes years.

Fortunately, there are many treatment options for PIH, including:

Topical creams: Topical creams inhibit the formation of additional melanin and promote new skin growth, accelerating how quickly PIH spots fade.

Sun protection: UV rays cause certain cells in your skin to create additional pigment, making PIH worse. Sun protective measures can improve the effectiveness of treatment as well as speed up how quickly PIH spots fade on their own. We love UV Shade and Ultra UV Shade for helping to heal the skin while offering Sun Protection 40.

Lasers: Laser treatments use precise, focused beams of light energy to damage pigment-producing cells and fade PIH spots.

Chemical peels: Chemical peels work by ‘peeling off’ the topmost layer of skin, which includes PIH spots. We include a chemical peel with almost all of our in-clinic treatments.

Everyone’s skin is different, and what works for one person may make PIH worse in another. It’s important to consult with your dermatologist or skincare therapist to determine the best treatment for you.

Protect yourself from the sun

I’ve mentioned this a few times – I just want to point out how important it is to remember your SPF if you want to get rid of your post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Not only will sunscreen prevent any new hyperpigmentation from forming, but some skincare ingredients (especially actives such as AHA and BHA) actually make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation.

Not to mention, it would be pointless to spend your time (and MONEY!) on skincare products to fade your PIH only to do more damage when you’re out in the sun without sunscreen.

Look here for a great guide to choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type.

The Bottom Line

PIH can be effectively prevented and managed with a skin care routine that emphasizes sun protection, moisturizing with non-comedogenic ingredients and the use of gentle, non-irritating cleansers, toners and exfoliants.

When you’re ready to begin treatment, you have plenty of options. But be prepared to be patient. PIH takes a long time to fade, no matter which treatment option you choose. Think in terms of months rather than weeks. Steady and consistent treatment is your friend.

Schedule your initial consultation with us & we will get you on the road to clear skin and freedom from your post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Cheers to clear!


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