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How You Get Rid Of Acne Scars & Sun Spots For Good

Even if your skin is well-hydrated, acne-free, and tended to with a thorough morning and nightly skincare routine, you still might struggle with one of the most frustrating complexion issues: hyperpigmentation. This common issue doesn’t discriminate — it can affect any age, race, and skin tone.

Luckily, there are ways to both protect and correct those pesky red and brown spots that acne or too much sun can leave behind. The first step is identifying what type of pigmentation you suffer from. Once you’ve deduced that, you can zero in on the exfoliating and brightening ingredients and formulas that will best help you fade them away.

Read on to learn how to erase those spots and get a crystal-clear complexion. Glass skin, here you come.

If You Have Red Spots

These are the spots formerly known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Recently dermatologists have created a more accurate moniker, something they are calling post-inflammatory erythema (PIE).


This kind of hyperpigmentation is caused in the wake of acne — think of it as the result of an acne flare-up, rather than the flare-up itself. “When you have inflammation [from acne, eczema, or psoriasis], blood vessels come to that area to help heal it,” explains Dr. Sapna Palep of Spring Street Dermatology. “In the blood, you have hemosiderin, which can leak out of the vessels and deposit in the skin, causing hyperpigmentation — it has a tattoo-like effect on the skin.” Awesome.

While it generally looks red, PIE can vary across skin tones. “With lighter skin tones, people get a little reddish first, and then that turns darker. In darker skin tones, the pigmentation starts out darker, and remains so,” says Dr. Palep.

If You Have Brown Spots

Unlike PIE, sun-induced hyperpigmentation appears browner in color on all skin tones. It’s caused by sun exposure and results in sunspots (freckles or lentigos, aka liver spots) or melasma (patchier spots of excess pigment, typically on the face). “This kind of hyperpigmentation is caused by the activation by the sun of an enzyme called tyrosinase,” says Dr. Palep. Tyrosinase controls melanin production, so when it’s over-activated, extra melanin is produced — creating excessive amounts of pigment.

It should also be noted that not all skin tones are affected equally by hyperpigmentation, either. “Darker skin tones are usually a bit more prone to changes in pigment, and can sometimes be a little more difficult to treat,” explains Dr. Michele Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group. “This is because of [biological] differences in melanin production.”

How Can You Prevent Hyperpigmentation?

“Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock — that’s your number one thing to prevent [all types of] hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Palep. And forget everything that you’ve ever heard about a base tan. “The sun will always make pigmentation worse,” says Dr. Farber. “It exacerbates changes in pigmentation so it will make scars, darker patches, and any abnormal change of pigment look worse. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t protect yourself from the sun.”


Sunscreen is just as important for preventing PIE as it is for preventing sun-induced hyperpigmentation, but you’ll want to be more picky about the formulas you use. If you’re especially prone to acne, steer clear of oily sunscreens that can make your flare-ups (and, as a result, hyperpigmentation) worse. Make P:rem’s Capsule Sun Gel provides SPF 50 protection but has a lightweight formula that doesn’t clog pores and won’t leave behind any white cast, making it suitable for all skin tones.

How Can You Fade Hyperpigmentation?

The best kinds of products to turn to when you want to tackle hyperpigmentation are those that brighten the skin, calm inflammation, and exfoliate. Think antioxidants (especially Vitamin C), antibacterials (like tea tree), and alpha-hydroxy acids.


If you’re dealing with PIE, try adding an acne- and inflammation-fighting essence or toner to your routine to prevent acne from flaring up and minimizing redness during a breakout. Leegeehaam’s Grow Tea Tree 95 Essence uses 95% Tea Tree essence, which is naturally antimicrobial, to prevent sebum buildup from causing acne and to calm inflammation. So even if you do end up getting a zit or two, redness doesn’t stay on your skin very long.

For both PIE and sun-induced hyperpigmentation, a Vitamin C serum can fight the free radicals that can damage the skin, resulting in a more even skin tone. Liz K’s First C Serum Pure Vitamin C 13% pairs pure Vitamin C with Vitamin E, which results in a synergistic effect: Hyperpigmentation is eliminated over time and collagen production is stimulated, so your skin’s texture improves, too.


If hyperpigmentation of any kind persists, chemical exfoliation — or even an in-office peel from your dermatologist — can go a long way. “When you exfoliate the skin, you’re getting rid of the dead skin layer, which is the outer layer called the stratum corneum,” explains Dr. Palep. That layer holds onto the pigment, making it more noticeable, so exfoliating it away helps minimize that excess pigment.  Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask contains alpha-hydroxy acids to gently exfoliate, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin. Bonus: It works while you sleep so you literally don’t have to do a thing. It’s the ultimate lazy girl product.

Follow these simple tips to make pigmentation a thing of the (spotty) past.

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