The dark spots left by a healed pimple are frustratingly difficult to remove. The best way to avoid them? Prevent them from forming in the first place. The biggest culprits of acne scars and hyperpigmentation (the fancy scientific term for those red or brown spots) are picking at zits (don’t do it!) and not wearing sunscreen (wear it every day—you’ll thank us later!). This guide will teach you about some of the different types of dark spots, and which treatments actually work.
Your skin naturally produces a pigment called melanin, which gives it its color. Dark spots are typically places where too much pigment is present (which is why they’re also called hyperpigmentation). Common causes of post-acne dark spots include skin inflammation (like acne!), prolonging inflammation by picking at the skin (hands off!), and sun exposure (wear sunscreen!).
Post-acne spots, like skin, come in all sorts of colors. If you have a darker skin tone, you may be more susceptible to post-acne brown spots known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH in medical parlance).
If you have a lighter skin tone, you may have pink and red spots — called post-inflammatory erythema, or PIE. Try pressing a clear glass to your spot. If it disappears or turns white under pressure, most likely you have PIE.
A note on scars
Post-acne scars often get bundled up with dark spots, but they’re a different beast. Scars change skin texture, not just color. Hyperpigmentation from acne can take 6 to 12 months to fade away—or sooner, if you wear sunscreen regularly!—but scars can be permanent.
While post-acne spots are harmless, don’t take it upon yourself to diagnose a dark spot. Melanoma, which is a potentially dangerous skin cancer, may appear as a very dark spot. If there’s a concerning change in a spot — such as irregular borders, multiple colors, increasing size — or if you have any doubts, always have a dermatologist examine the spot in-person. At times, a small biopsy may be required in order to make an accurate diagnosis. Get more information here.
Sun spots, age spots, and liver spots show up in sun-exposed areas, such as your face and the back of your hands. Known as lentigines, these dark spots often come with age or result from being in the sun too much without sunscreen. Middle-aged adults and older people are at most risk.
To help fade dark spots, apply your Curology cream every night! If you go with an over-the-counter product, make sure it includes ingredients such as niacinamide, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), or vitamin C.
For red post-acne spots, time is the best healer — though treatments involving lasers or intense pulsed light, like the V-Beam pulsed-dye laser, can speed the process along.
Applying your Curology cream is the easiest, most effective and affordable way to get rid of those pesky post-acne spots. In some cases, you may want to combine treatment with in-office procedures like the V-Beam and Laser Genesis. You can always ask your Curology provider what works best by chatting with them directly — they can offer advice based on your selfies.
But never forget: Nothing works better than preventing these spots in the first place. So don’t pick or pop zits, and protect your skin with sunscreen!