Acne Pigmentation Treatment
Acne lesions can leave behind a long-term reminder of their presence, even after they heal. Dark red or brown spots can linger for months or even years on former pimple sites, say experts at the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). These are not scars, but a skin condition called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). While these undesirable reminders ultimately fade with enough time, there are measures that you can take to avoid making them worse and perhaps rid yourself of them.
More About PIH
Red and brown spots remain after a pimple heals due to excess amounts of melanin (pigment) that gets left behind after a wound has healed--in this case, an acne lesion. PIH can occur not only as a result of acne, but due to burns, cuts, scrapes and even insect bites, says the Skin Sight website. Medical conditions that affect the skin, such as eczema, can also cause PIH.
Who's Most at Risk
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation affects males and females. However, the Hampton University Skin of Color Research Institute indicates that patients of certain races and ethic groups are more likely to experience it. These include African-American, Asian, Native American and Hispanic individuals. Caucasians may also notice changes in pigmentation due to acne, but are in a lower risk group.
Avoiding Sun Exposure
The AAD stresses that those with PIH should always use sunscreen, regardless of their skin color. Exposure to the ultraviolet rays can make post-acne spots darker and more pronounced. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 and apply it to all areas of the skin exposed to the sun at least 20 minutes before going outdoors.
The AAD indicates that you may be able to resolve HIP by applying a fading or bleaching cream. Products that contain 2 percent hydroquinone are available without a prescription at most drugstores and pharmacies. The AAD advises you to eschew bleaching creams that don't specify the amount of hydroquinone on the product's labeling. Using a cream with too much hydroquinone can cause irresolvable skin discoloration.
There are numerous medications and treatments used to treat PIH caused by acne. A topical cream that contains 4 percent hydroquinone may be appropriate for some patients. Other topical applications may employ use of a corticosteroid, tretinoin, tazarotene, adapalene or azelaic acid. Other in-office treatments may include a series of laser treatments, microdermabrasion or chemical peels. The AAD notes that some do-it-yourself treatments may not be appropriate for those with darker skin tones. Microdermabrasion kits and chemical peel marketed for home use may exacerbate PIH. The AAD states that it's a far safer bet to entrust your skin to a dermatologist, who can design a treatment protocol that's best for you.
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