Dealing with acne is like dealing with an uninvited houseguest: You don't know why or how they ventured into your personal space, but you have no real choice but to put up with them until they're gone. When those breakouts start to fade but still leave dark spots behind, that's your clear cue that they've officially overstayed their welcome.
Those spots, better known as hyperpigmentation, are extremely common — especially in people of color. "Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common concerns in skin of color that we encounter in dermatology," says Adeline Kikam, DO, dermatology resident and founder of the popular Brownskin Derm Instagram account. Dr. Kikam explains that the condition is a broad term used to describe darkening of the skin due to the overproduction of melanin.
If you still have leftover dark spots from long-gone hormonal breakouts or an eczema flareup, it's most likely the result of melanin skin cells that are damaged or inflamed, according to Corey L. Hartman, MD, a dermatologist at Skin Wellness Center in Alabama. Once the pigment leaves the damaged cells, it's deposited deeper into your skin, which then forms those pesky spots. "People of color produce more pigment, which gives us our beautiful complexions," Dr. Hartman says. "On the other hand, it makes us more prone to experiencing a stain after the rash or breakout."
Not all hyperpigmentation scars are created equally, though. Some of them are relatively easy to get rid of and naturally fade over time. Others can stick around for longer stretches — we're talking months and years — if unaddressed. In some cases, scarring can be severe, and even occur on other parts of your body (like the back, arms, and chest).
Of course, just because the condition is normal doesn't make it any less annoying, or less damaging to your self-esteem. But the good news is that hyperpigmentation can be treated with the right skin-care approach. "Patience is key," Dr. Kikam says. "You need a regimen of protective and corrective steps to yield desired results. There is also the option of professional treatments, like microneedling and chemical peels, to help unwanted spots disappear. However, for some people, professional treatments aren't always an option.
But with a wide array of products on the market that claim to fade dark spots, where do you even begin? To help you sift through the clutter and really make a difference in treating your skin, we consulted Black dermatologists (who've experienced hyperpigmentation firsthand) to spill the skin-care products they rely on to keep their complexions clear. Next time those dark spots come knocking on your door, you'll know exactly what you need to drive them away.
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