Acne affects the vast majority of teenagers; in any given year, up to 85 percent of teens and young adults will have acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Pimples don't always leave scars. But when they do, those scars can make sufferers feel like they make it more difficult to get dates or jobs, the AAD says. Bleach creams can fade particular types of acne scars, making them less noticeable.
When acne clears, it can leave behind several different types of scars. The most common acne scars are pockmark scars, which appear as depressions in the skin. Raised acne scars, also known as keloids, are less common although potentially more disfiguring, and also can cause pain, the AAD says. Bleach creams only treat the third type of scar: red, pink, purple, brown or tan skin spots or discolorations.
Discolored spots left behind by acne technically aren't scars and eventually will fade, according to the AAD. However, most people they affect consider them to be acne scars, and they can cause the same psychological discomfort as the other types of acne scars. Fading takes months or years, and many people affected by these colored spots aren't willing to wait that long. That's where bleach treatments come in.
Bleaching creams that contain up to 2 percent of the ingredient hydroquinone potentially can fade these colored spots, according to the AAD. These products are available over the counter in drugstores. However, consumers should use caution when purchasing and using hydroquinone products, because some can contain far more than 2 percent hydroquinone, and these potentially could permanently discolor the skin.
Dermatologists can prescribe creams that contain up to 4 percent hydroquinone, and these are considered safe if used under a doctor's supervision, according to Cleveland Clinic. However, prescription creams that contain several active ingredients, instead of just hydroquinone, may be more effective in bleaching these acne spots, the AAD says. Effective creams often include a corticosteroid and tretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A, along with hydroquinone. Tretinoin, which is sold by itself under the brand name Retin-A, among others, can be very effective at lightening acne scars.
Both over-the-counter hydroquinone cream and prescription products designed to fade acne scars can irritate the skin, the AAD warns. In addition, these products may take up to two months or sometimes even more to fade colored acne scars. The AAD also reminds patients that sun exposure can make the spots appear darker, so those actively treating their acne scars with bleach should stay out of the sun as much as possible and wear a high-quality sunscreen when they must be outdoors.