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4 Ways to Fade Dark Spots from Acne

By - Nique D.

Beautiful Woman

Let's get real; despite the countless times we've been advised not to, we all pick at our faces. Whether it's the occasional hormonal breakout or the battle against cystic acne that began in high school, blemishes are frustrating. Resisting the urge to try to eliminate something that you don't want on your face, to begin with, is frustrating. But the real frustration begins after picking when those little brown spots show up a couple of days later. What are they, and how can we get rid of them?

A Brief Breakdown: What is PIH?

PIH is the acronym for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It's our skin's defensive response to injury. When the body notices inflammation in the skin, like when we squeeze a pimple, it produces melanin around the wound. Melanin is what protects our skin against any further damage, and as a result, dark spots occur.

Ready to erase those mistakes? Here are a few of our favorite and proven methods for fading dark spots that appear after picking:


One of the best ways to help lighten dark spots is through exfoliation. By helping the skin's natural shedding process, we increase the rate at which skin cells renew. New skin cells push the old pigmented cells closer to the surface. Eventually, old cells shed and leave behind new and healthy skin cells. Some popular forms of exfoliation that you've probably heard of include chemical peels and microdermabrasion, but there are also plenty of at-home options available! For those who may want to skip a professional peel, a great and affordable option is the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution from The Ordinary.

Note: Recommendations are not "one size fits all," and darker complexions should consider using more gentle methods of exfoliation, as stronger methods may result in more PIH. We like Youth To The People's Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant, which is easy to add to any routine.

Brightening Ingredients

Most of us know that vitamin C and niacinamide have antioxidant properties, but few know that these two ingredients also aid in fading hyperpigmentation. These brightening ingredients work by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for melanin production. This dynamic duo will leave behind a brighter and more even complexion while lightening those pesky dark spots. We don't recommend using these two ingredients together due to their similar effects. For our vitamin C fix, we like the award-winning C E Ferulic Serum by Skinceuticals, and Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% by The Ordinary is a staple piece for anyone's skincare routine for niacinamide.

LED Light Therapy

Light therapy has been gaining a lot of traction recently in the skincare world because it does wonders! The wavelengths emitted from the red LED penetrate the skin and help reduce inflammation (a trigger for melanin production). We feel visiting an esthetician that offers light therapy is a great option. Due to their specialized training and experience, they can combat specific skin concerns efficiently. However, there are many great options for at-home LED treatments. We like the Omnilux Contour Face Mask for our "me time" at home.


We've heard it a million times: SPF is our best friend, and it's also our best defense against hyperpigmentation. We've mentioned before that melanin forms as a defense, and who is a greater opponent than the sun? Sun exposure stimulates more melanin production, making those dark spots that we worked so hard to eliminate even darker. That is why it's advised that everyone wear an SPF of 30 or higher every day and reapply every two hours. Yes, this includes cloudy days and days spent indoors (if there's light, there's sun). EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 offers excellent coverage and is a favorite of dermatologists!

We all know the number one way to prevent PIH caused by picking is… to stop picking. However, there will be days when we can't seem to set down our extractor tool and when that pimple on our chin is really getting to us. So on the days that closely follow our picking misadventures, consider trying some of the options listed above for a safe and efficient healing process and a more even complexion. Your face will thank you!

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