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How To Treat Unwanted Dark Marks

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

Unwanted dark marks on the skin, also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, are a common complaint among patients with brown skin. They are a result of inflammation on the skin that can arise from even the most minor trauma to the skin such as bug bites, acne, or a small scratch.

Temporary darkening of the skin is a natural response and is one of the ways the skin knows how to protect itself from trauma. Fair-skinned individuals take advantage of this by purposely damaging the skin via sun exposure to "tan" but for patients with more natural pigment, dark marks occur more commonly and can cause uneven discoloration.

Here are some tips- avoid 'picking' at your acne or other skin lesions which can make dark spots darker and wear sunscreen daily to help dark marks fade more quickly:

  • Glycolic acid - help reveal new skin and work to even out skin discoloration.

  • Hydroquinone - Gets rid of pigment in many ways including the destruction of pigment-containing cells and blocking pigment production. It can be very effective but side effects include “bleaching” look, easy to overuse, paradoxical darkening of the skin.

  • Retinoids - decreases discoloration by increasing skin turnover and partially blocks pigment production (without causing a bleached look) but a common side effect is irritation.

  • Glycolic acid - also increases skin turnover and blocks pigment production but a common side effect is irritation and more pronounced benefits require the use of chemical peels which can be expensive.

  • Azelaic Acid - partially blocks pigment production and is considered safe during pregnancy but not as effective as the above options.

  • Laser - Laser is NOT a treatment for dark marks caused by inflammation to the skin like acne and bug bites but it can help with scarring. Some causes of discoloration, like melasma, can also be treated with laser but again, if you have brown skin make sure you're being treated by an MD who is familiar with treating brown skin.

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