After acne clears, there’s often dark spots where the acne used to be. Many people confuse these spots with scars, but they are not scars. According to the Derma Network, these spots come in three different forms: post-inflammatory erythema, which are pink and purplish spots; post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or brown and black discoloration; and post-inflammatory hypopigmentation, or white marks. The good news is, left alone, they will eventually fade over time, but it can take a year or more. To advance the healing of your skin, certain treatments can lighten dark acne spots.
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According to the Skincare Physicians website, avoid the sun when trying to heal dark acne spots, regardless of your natural skin tone. The sun can cause the spots to become more dramatic and take a longer time to heal. It is recommended to apply sunscreen daily with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher to all exposed areas of skin 20 minutes before going outdoors. Look for the words "oil free," "water-based" or "noncomedogenic" on the label to prevent further acne breakouts.
Hydroquinone is the primary ingredient used in over-the-counter creams to fade dark spots on the skin. If using an over-the-counter cream, look for products with 2 percent hydroquinone, which is the maximum amount allowed in an OTC cream. Prescription creams are also available, and a dermatologist may prescribe one or a combination of medications to treat your dark acne spots.
Chemical peels are a form of skin resurfacing treatment. A dermatologist will select an acid appropriate for your skin type and a depth of peel needed and apply it to the appropriate areas of skin. The acid will cause your skin to peel, revealing new skin underneath. Deeper peels may require some downtime to allow new skin to form and heal. Light peels are typically used, however, to treat dark acne spots, requiring little, if any, downtime, though several treatments may be required.
Microdermabrasion is a light or superficial form of dermabrasion. Aluminum oxide crystals are rotated over the skin’s surface to slough off dead skin cells and the very top layers of skin to reveal new skin underneath. Multiple treatments may be required. Home microdermabrasion kits are available, but they are less effective. If you use a home kit, follow the manufacturer's directions carefully to avoid overtreating the skin and causing further damage.