Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

What is Post-Inflammatory Pigmentation?

A form of hyperpigmentation, Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, (or PIH) is caused when the skin suffers trauma. This sort of skin trauma will create the overproduction of melanin (skin color) in the area of skin inflammation. When skin is damaged, cells overreact and can go into color-changing overdrive. Once acne, blisters, burns or other forms of trauma to the skin heal, a spot of discoloration often remains. In many cases, it looks like scar tissue, but it’s actually a physical discoloration in the skin. Scar tissue and PIH can be similar, especially because PIH can range in color from pink, red, purple to brown patches. Unlike scar tissue, PIH is smooth, while scar tissue leaves a mark where the skin is either dimpled or raised.

PIH can happen to any skin type or skin tone, but tends to be more prevalent in darker skin types, especially those in the higher Fitzpatrick Scale (a numerical classification scheme for skin color). In some PIH cases, the skin color can resolve back to a more even color over an extended period of time. If the area of discoloration has been left untreated for a considerable amount of time and is still visible or depending on how dark the spot can be, treatment options are available to fade PIH. These treatments are available in topical agents to alleviate the leftover spots on the skin.

It should be noted that it can take months for professional treatments to effectively lighten PIH. Measures to protect the skin from further discolorations and darkening, such as wearing protective sunscreens and not picking/popping pimples, will decrease the chances of PIH occurring. Those in the higher Fitzpatrick Scale need to use less-harsh or aggressive treatments to lighten spots. A more gentle approach is needed to prevent the condition from worsening or causing irritation.

Undergoing treatment with guidance from a licensed esthetician and a proper home regimen will heighten the benefits of lightening PIH-affected areas. At-home use of topical skincare products, containing ingredients like Vitamin C, Niacinamide and certain Alpha Hydroxy Acids (or AHAs) such as Lactic Acid, have a proven history of effectively lightening spots where PIH has occurred. Other ingredients effective in lightening the skin while providing anti-inflammatory benefits include Licorice Root and Kojic Acid. Skin-lightening products that contain one or more of these ingredients may also act as tyrosinase inhibitors, preventing the overproduction of melanin. These ingredients can help suppress PIH from occurring in the future.

As with any skin-lightening regimen, it’s extremely important to always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Consistent use will protect the skin and prevent the condition from worsening over time. 

Check out our popular products for Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation listed below.

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