That’s right. I don’t get extremely dark spots anymore. I don’t think it’s genetic because I used to get them every after a pimple heals.
I have a feeling that what I’m doing now is preventing dark spots from occurring. I’m usually left with a faint brown mark that I’m comfortable not concealing. To my friends who are asking how I don’t get dark spots, this is for you.
Before, I used to dry the hell out of my pimples. I used to use very drying spot treatment products like benzoyl peroxide (e.g. Panoxyl) cream, salicylic acid, and other alcohol-based spot treatment products. I always get dark spots afterwards.
From reading a lot of articles about acne, I found out that post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is the skin’s response to protect itself — like how skin produces melanin when exposed to the sun.
To quote Dr. Anne Chapas, MD:
“The dark spot that forms when a pimple disappears is called post-inflammatory pigmentation,”
“Your skin has just been damaged and hurt, so the area is inflamed. Then, when it hits sunlight, the inflamed area immediately turns dark.”
This intensity in color is caused by melanin, a molecule in your skin that turns brown when it is trying to protect itself.
Of course this is a very simple discussion of the hows and whys of PIH and skin darkening in general. I won’t delve on it further because it is a topic for professionals. But my takeaway from this is — if that area of the skin is already inflamed and ‘hurt’, why would I hurt it even more by super-drying topicals?
I noticed that I wasn’t getting dark spots anymore when I was still using the Jason Ester C skin care line. I didn’t use anything else. When I get a pimple, I just wait it out. I don’t treat it with anything to make the healing go faster. Initially, I thought it was the Vitamin C derivative in the moisturizer that’s helping, but I had a feeling that there was more to it than that.
My theory is that I’m not getting dark spots because my skin was kept moist — and moist skin means stronger skin barrier. In other words, I gave my skin some guns and ammo to fight irritants.
I also think that it helped that the main occlusive in the Jason Ester C moisturizer is sunflower seed oil which is clinically proven (naks) to help strengthen the skin barrier (one other ingredient I know that does that is niacinamide).
If I want to feel like I’m doing something about my zit, I will spot treat with pure tea trea oil (Zen Nutrients) or clindamycin phosphate cream (S.O.S).
Most of the time, I leave my pimple in peace. My skin can be a b*tch sometimes, the more I irritate it by pricking or drying it out, the more it retaliates as if saying “you hit me one more time, I’m going to leave you with a spot that is as dark as dark can get.”
I’m not sure how effective this will be for those who have moderate to severe acne. But if you only get a few pimples at a time, I really recommend that you try not drying it out with spot treatment products and making sure your skin is moisturized. You can always just conceal a pimple anyway. I find it easier to conceal active pimples than dark spots. Dark spots — like diamonds — are forever.
The likelihood of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is also relative to skin darkness/lightness. People with darker skin are more likely to get dark spots. But that’s not always the case with us Asians. Apparently, the pale people among us are prone to PIH too, which is sad because pale skin + dark spots make the latter more obvious :(
Also, SUNSCREEN. Inflamed skin + UV rays = extra-dark spots.
P.S. “What to do with dark spots that are already there
Originally appeared on Scatterbraintures.com (May 2014)?” is a whole nother animal. I’m going to write about that soon too.