How do you get rid of dark spots from acne? Even as a pimple heals, it leaves behind a reddish or brown spot. This dark mark, which is more deeply coloured than the surrounding skin, is called Post-Inflammatory Hyper pigmentation or PIH in short. These dark marks from acne can stay on the skin for months, sometimes becoming worse if not treated properly.
Today I will tell you about my 3-step process to help you get rid of dark acne marks fast. I call it the CPP Process.
To be clear, we are talking about reddish or brown coloured “marks” on the skin, which are flat hyper-pigmented patches. These brown marks are not “scars”. We are not talking about indentations in the skin caused by acne which are actually scars.
CPP process to remove dark acne marks fast
CPP stands for Correct, Prevent, Preserve and includes products for fading existing dark marks, preventing new dark marks and preserving the results of the previous 2 steps. Each step works differently and contributes to overall lightening of hyper pigmentation.
- Fade existing brown spots
- Prevent new brown spots from forming
- Preserve the results
Step 1: Correct
Many of the skin lightening treatments only prevent formation of new dark spots. They don’t do much to correct the dark marks from acne that are already present. Exfoliants such as glycolic acid and lactic acid make the skin cells renew faster, leading to removal of cells with dark pigment faster. This makes the existing dark spots lighter as new skin takes their place.
For this step, you need products that contain glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid or retinoids. They all exfoliate the skin leading to faster turn over of skin cells, in a healthy and safe way.
Step 2: Prevent
The next step is to prevent formation of dark spots in the first place. That is done through lightening agents that prevent melanin formation. Melanin, the skin pigment responsible for darkening of the skin is present in excess in dark spots. Whitening agents found in fairness creams work by preventing formation of excess melanin at the site of the pimple.
For this step, you need products that contain kojic acid, arbutin, hydroquinone, vitamin C, licorice / liquorice or azelaic acid. These ingredients prevent formation of melanin or dark skin pigment. If used in an appropriate dose, they are safe (except hydroquinone which is best used under medical supervision).
Step 3: Preserve
At the same time as targeting both the present and future dark spots in steps 1 and 2, you want to preserve these results. You do that by minimizing exposure to dark spot or redness triggers such as sun exposure. You might have noticed that when you are out in the sun, your acne marks turn more red and after a few days, they even look darker brown than before.
Wherever there is scar tissue from old pimples, that area of skin is more vulnerable to becoming red and dark brown due to sun exposure or skin-irritating products. The structure of the skin at the site of the pimple has changed, it is no longer as robust as parts of the skin that did not develop pimples.
You need to protect the skin by using a broad spectrum sunscreen every single day. Otherwise the existing dark marks can become darker and also new ones will keep forming.
For this step, you need a sunscreen that provides guaranteed UVA and UVB protection. A sunscreen labelled with only SPF is not enough since that only protects against UVB rays (sun burn). You also need UVA protection against aging and skin darkening, which is provided by sunscreens labelled broad-spectrum or with a PA rating (e.g. PA+++).
How to use the CPP Process
The CPP process needs an exfoliant + lightening product + sunscreen. Below I have listed a sample set of skin care products. You could use these or put together your own set of products.
|Step # CPP Process||Product recommendations||How to use|
|Correct – this step involves using an exfoliating product that will remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. Examples of exfoliating products are those containing glycolic acid, salicylic acid, retinol, retinaldehyde, mandelic acid, lactic acid||Wash face twice a day. If you are already using an acne cream such as Avene Triacneal or Keracnyl or Sebonac, you do not need to use an exfoliating face wash, since these creams are exfoliating already.|
|Prevent – this step involves using a melanin-inhibiting product that will prevent formation of dark pigment in the skin. Examples of such products are those containing liquorice (licorice), kojic acid, arbutin, niacinamide and ascorbic acid (vitamin C)||Dot over dark spots at night. If you are using an acream cream all over the face, dot this step 2 product after the acne cream has absorbed into the skin, after 15-20 minutes.|
|Preserve – this step involves using a full spectrum sunscreen to prevent re-darkening of spots. This is an important step if one wants to see maximum results||Every morning 15 minutes before stepping out of the house. If sweating or washing face during the day, re-apply.|
When will I see results?
Although this is one of the fastest at-home treatments you can do to get rid of brown marks from acne, do not expect overnight results. Give it 4 weeks to show visible difference. Take a photograph of your face before starting the CPP process and then take a photo every week in the same lighting conditions. That will help you gauge better than simply looking in the mirror every day.