Brown spots after acne breakouts – what is causing these and how to treat?

Brown marks appearing on face. Hello, I suffered from acne a year and a half ago, and still get the occasional spot. However, about a week ago I started to notice brown marks appearing where my acne holes are. Also, whenever I get a new spot it leaves a brown mark behind; no matter how small the spot is. I was just wondering if you possible have any idea what is causing this? Thank you.

I do have some ideas! Acne is frustrating, and lingering brown spots can make one feel just as self conscious. You likely have post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). There are a few things you can do about brown spots after acne.

Treating and avoiding Hyperpigmentation, or Brown Spots After Acne

  1. Protect skin from sun: Depending on where you live, brown spots after acne are worse in the spring/summer due to the increase in UVA/UVB.   A high zinc, acne friendly sunscreen really helps, as does a hat whenever outdoors;
  2. Prevent and treat acne actively: The pigment you’re experiencing is called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH which just means that the inflammation of the acne activates pigment temporarily (months);
  3. Layer your protection:  Use a sunscreen like above, and oil free makeup with SPF and a mineral powder over that – just make sure it’s not making your acne worse;
  4. Treat the spots (cautiously): Buy the over-the-counter 2% hydroquinone “bleaching creams” and apply with a Q-tip just to the spots. Remember some people get worse with hydroquinones so test a small spot first, and watch for that before treating all over. Stop the product, if you think it is worsening the pigmentation;
  5. Try an antioxidant skincare product: Remember other things fight pigment also like a good antioxidant under your sunscreen.  Try a try a 3-in-one product or a less expensive 10-20% vitamin C serum.  

Here’s a more complete pigment treatment regimen to consider as well.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

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