Welcome to your skin check-in with Life & Style’s resident health and beauty expert, Dr. Will Kirby, a celebrity dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer of LaserAway. Every week, he’ll be spilling his candid thoughts and professional advice on all things skin, beauty and wellness as it relates to you — and your favorite stars.
Dark spots from acne are unbelievably frustrating, but also unbelievably common. In fact, these inflammatory blemishes occur so frequently that I had to reach out to my aesthetic colleagues to get the lowdown on the best way to treat them!
1) Dermatologist, Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson states, “The best way to get rid of dark spots from acne is to stop the source of the problem: the actual acne! After all, if you can control the acne, you won’t ever develop the dark spots. Now, since we know that acne is multi-etiological, meaning that it has a number of different causes, there isn’t one single best way to treat all types of acne. So, feel free to try over-the-counter creams, but if your acne (and the dark spots) persists, then you should consider making an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist for an assessment and a prescription acne treatment.”
2) “Stop picking!” Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Lazzaro notes that “picking at acne lesions ultimately increases the severity of hyperpigmentation issues (dark spots). It’s unfortunately normal to pick — everyone does it. But if you can minimize, or hopefully, even eliminate, your picking then there will be fewer and less significant dark spots to treat.”
3) “Sun protection is essential to reducing those unsightly dark spots that are leftover from an acne breakout and to prevent them from darkening further”, says dermatologist Dr. Angie Koriakos. “My favorite sunscreens are tinted, so try SPF BFF or Mineral High-Protection Tinted Compact. Don’t forget to reapply it every few hours outside, in the car or near windows.”
4) “Barrier protection is the best way to prevent sun damage”, says dermatologist Dr. Tejas Desai. “Long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats and dark glasses will help prevent acne blemishes from becoming inflamed and dark. The newest way to get full-face sun protection is with a face shield. I highly recommend Blue Stone, as they block 99 percent of UVA and UVB.”
5) “Some dark spots from acne are easily treated with a simple cream containing hydroquinone, like Lighten Up,” notes aesthetic nurse practitioner Morgan Wolf. “Be patient and consistent. Just apply a small amount twice a day and the dark spots will start to look lighter in as little as four weeks.”
6) Nurse practitioner and aesthetic expert Pam Werschler finds that sometimes patients with severe hyperpigmentation (dark spots) benefit from “physician-dispensed compounded creams! One of my favorite things is Werschler Rx Melasma Emulsion. It contains a blend of prescription lightening agents (tretinoin, hydroquinone and kojic acid) in a moisturizing, hyaluronic acid-base. Just apply it twice a day and see results in just a few short weeks. We sell out of it all of the time — it gives amazing results at lifting pigment!”
7) “Chemical peels are a great way to help treat dark spots following an acne breakout,” says dermatologist Dr. Amy Spizuoco. “Depending on the severity of the lesions, I typically recommend a glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid peel. They are slightly uncomfortable and have a few days of downtime, but the right patient can really benefit from a chemical peel!”
8) “Energy-based device treatments can make a world of difference for dark spots” notes aesthetic nurse practitioner Sarah Higgins. “I recommend Clear + Brilliant in the strongest of terms. It’s great for skin texture, but it can also really help with dark spots. It’s just slightly uncomfortable and has a little downtime, but a series of these treatments can really make discolored skin.”
9) Plastic surgeon, Dr. Kian Karimi proclaims, “A stellar way to combat dark spots from acne is by using an energy-based device like Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) technology to treat the unwanted pigment. IPL works by directing light energy into the skin which then converts to heat once it hits the dark spot target. It can only be used on lighter skin types and patients typically need at least three, but the great thing is that this technology also can help improve the appearance of age spots, blood vessels and skin texture!”
10) “When all else fails, I pull out the big guns,” says facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Keith Marcus. “Treatment of the underlying acne, sun avoidance, topical creams and energy-based devices don’t work for everyone, especially for severe cases. So, occasionally we have to use a fractional laser. It’s uncomfortable but tolerable and the downtime is about three days, but the ultimate aesthetic outcome is amazing!”