How to Heal Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation on Your Back + Chest
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is those dark marks left behind after a breakout heals. They can also be the aftermath of picking your pimples, which can lead to acne scars and discoloration. To put it simply, PIH is the skin's natural response to inflammation.
In this article, we're going to explain why those dark spots develop in the first place, how to identify them, and what you can do to get rid of them.
WHAT IS POST-INFLAMMATORY HYPERPIGMENTATION?
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) occurs when your skin produces extra melanin after it has been injured. Melanin is a natural pigment that gives hair, skin, and eyes their color.
According to dermatologists, PIH can affect either your epidermis (the skin's surface layer), or your dermis -- the inner layer of skin. So, what exactly causes these dark patches on your skin?
These dark spots and patches occur when skin cells react to irritation or damage by making extra melanin. This skin condition shows up as tan, brown, or dark brown patches and spots on your skin.
The most common causes are acne, rashes, razor bumps, eczema, and allergic reactions. However, any kind of trauma has the potential to cause PIH.
WHAT DOES POST-INFLAMMATORY HYPERPIGMENTATION LOOK LIKE?
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation usually looks like a flat area of discoloration on the skin. It can appear white, pink, brown, or black, depending on your skin tone and the level of the discoloration. It can also develop in all skin types. That said, it typically appears more severe and more commonly in people with darker skin tones.
HOW TO TREAT POST-INFLAMMATORY HYPERPIGMENTATION
Here are some tips, topical treatments, and skincare products you may want to consider if you want see the back of your PIH.
Exfoliate with Glycolic Acid
Exfoliation is essential when it comes to tackling hyperpigmentation. Look for facial cleansers or scrubs that use exfoliating acids, otherwise known as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) -- glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid.
These exfoliants can help break pigmented cells apart, and ultimately lessen their appearance. They can also buff away dead skin cells to improve the appearance of skin texture and promote an even skin tone.
Just make sure you don't overdo it with exfoliating products -- especially during the summer months when melanin cells are active, as it can trigger more melanin.
You can find these ingredients in many over the counter skincare products, including cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and masks.
We recommend trying our GLOW BUNDLE. It features a face and body mask + serum formulated with glycolic acid and bakuchiol to brighten skin tone, improve skin texture, and fade away skin pigmentation over time.
Try Topical Retinoids
Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that spurs cell turnover and collagen production, helping to make dark patches of skin appear lighter with continued use. While it can come with side effects such as redness and peeling, retinol is generally well-tolerated by all skin types when used in small doses. It's an effective treatment option that you try right from the comfort of your own home.
Wear Sunscreen Daily
Sun exposure can both cause and worsen hyperpigmentation. Protect your skin by wearing SPF every single day without fail. Sun protection should be applied every day, regardless of the weather.
Besides preventing issues like post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, frequent sun exposure without protection can also cause other more serious forms of discoloration like melasma.
To maintain healthy, clear skin, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 daily.
Incorporate Vitamin C into Your Daily Routine
Vitamin C has a lightening and brightening effect on the skin, making it an ideal treatment for PIH. This powerful antioxidant is typically found in serums. However, you will also find it in cleansers, creams, lotions, and masks.
Try our 2-step Smooth Bundle to get your daily dose of vitamin C + vegan collagen. This mask and serum duo helps to smooth, brighten, and clarify your complexion.
Ask Your Dermatologist About Hydroquinone Treatments
Hydroquinone is a commonly used treatment for PIH. It works by blocking the enzyme responsible for melanin production, thereby lightening hyperpigmentation. This product is best when combined with other skincare ingredients, such as kojic acid, glycolic acid, azelaic acid, vitamin C, and tretinoin.
It's best to speak to your dermatologist before trying this treatment -- especially if you have sensitive skin or a skin condition like eczema, dermatitis, or rosacea.
Consider In-Office Treatments
There are many different professional treatments that can help minimize the appearance of PIH on your chest, back, or face. Some of the best, according to derms, include laser therapy, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion.
However, you should know that one single treatment won't be enough to fade hyperpigmentation. You may need multiple sessions before you see a visible improvement. And some types of laser treatments also come with downtime since they can leave the skin highly irritated and sore for days.
Your dermatology provider can help determine which of these treatments would be most effective for you.
What About Bleaching?
Dermatologists strongly advice against bleaching your skin for any purpose -- including fading PIH. Bleaching can be an irritating and potentially damaging process that your skin might struggle to recover from.
Remember, there are always other options you can choose from without having to experience any of those unpleasant side effects, such as redness, burning, and lesions, to name a few.
If you've got dark patches and spots on your chest and back that won't seem to go away, you could be dealing with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. And it's usually the aftermath of having breakouts on your back and chest. In some cases, it may be due to other reasons such as allergic reactions, rashes, or other trauma or irritation.
Try our at-home tips above to help fade your PIH, or book a consultation with your dermatologist to hear about which in-office treatments would work best for you and your skin.