As someone who has had plenty of pimples in her day, I know exactly how slow time passes when you’re waiting for acne to clear up. And boy do I try to be on my best behavior while I wait. I keep my face clean, apply a nice mud mask at night, and try not to pick at my skin — alright, sometimes I pick. But I try my best, so why can’t my acne leave me alone once it’s gone? Why do I have to be left with hyperpigmentation after?
My skin is particularly prone to hyperpigmentation after a breakout. Apparently the darker your skin, the more pigment is released in response to injury. Which explains why I — with an olive skin tone — suffer from more discoloration than my fair-skinned twin sister.
I’ve been fighting hyperpigmentation since I was 12 years old, so I’ve done countless hours of research on how to get rid of these spots. And you can trust me when I say that I’ve tried basically everything. From drugstore treatments to pricey dermatologist visits, I’ve done it all. I’m breaking down how to erase hyperpigmentation on any budget so you can focus on the treatments that work best for your skin and your wallet.
I’m starting with sunscreen because it is the most important step you can take to protect your skin from discoloration. Sun exposure is the top cause of hyperpigmentation because sunlight triggers the production of melanin. Your skin gets darker when you tan, which means hyperpigmentation gets darker too. By wearing sunscreen every day, you can help protect your skin from sunspots and improve your chances of any existing discoloration lightening on its own.
For years, vitamin C has been one of the best-known treatments for hyperpigmentation. This antioxidant-rich treatment helps fade dark spots without being too harsh on the skin. People are so enamored with the effects of vitamin C that companies are releasing great new products featuring this super star ingredient left and right. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to vitamin C. You can try a serum, mask, cream, or oil featuring the ingredient to find what works best for your skin.
Retinols basically do it all. What was once thought of as an anti-aging ingredient is now used to fight everything from wrinkles to clogged pores to acne and yes, discoloration too. Retinol exfoliates skin and helps remove dead skin cells that clog pores. A product that fights the acne that causes hyperpigmentation and helps fade it? What a winning combo. retinol is the over the counter version of Retinoid, so if you’re looking for a stronger formula, ask your dermatologist about prescribing you a retinoid.
There are a variety of laser treatments on the market designed to solve all your skin woes, including discoloration. The lasers are effective and generally won’t irritate your skin or require any recovery time like a chemical peel or certain facials will.
Can’t afford to make it to the dermatologist’s office? Less expensive laser facial options are available at clinics that offer shorter treatment times and use less expensive equipment.
The most effective laser treatments will come from your dermatologist’s office, so if this is something you are interested in, you should consult your doctor on which treatment is right for your skin.
Micro-needling is basically what it sounds like, tiny needles. Needles are rolled over your face to create very small injuries to the skin which then prompts the skin to begin healing. Ideally, your dark spots will heal at the same time. At-home devices use less intense needles and therefore are safer to use on your own. At a dermatologist’s office, you’ll likely need numbing cream to help with the pain.
In most states, you’ll have to visit a board-certified dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or cosmetic surgeon to receive this treatment.
This step is completely free! Any skin discoloration can take three to 24 months to fade (in some cases longer). Your skin needs time to heal, so it’s important to support its healing process by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and sleeping.