Written By Kevin Kerfoot / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
For people with skin of color, acne is often accompanied by dark spots or patches called hyperpigmentation. However, there are plenty of things people with skin of color can do at home to help clear their acne, as well as the dark spots that linger afterwards.
Treating acne in skin of color
Dark spots will typically fade after treating your acne, but it can take years if the color lies deep in your skin. You can try skin-lightening products on dark spots to help speed up fading.
When choosing a skin-lightening product, look for one that contains one of the following ingredients: retinoids, such as adapalene and tretinoin; or azelaic acid; glycolic acid; or kojic acid. These products work by increasing how quickly your skin cells turnover so that discoloration fades faster.
Avoid picking, squeezing, and popping your acne, as this can lead to scarring. This is especially important for people with darker skin tones, as they are more prone to developing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which appears as dark spots on the skin, and thickened scars.
Treat mild acne by using a product containing a retinoid and benzoyl peroxide or a product containing salicylic acid or retinol. Make sure the skincare products you use are labeled “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores,” since clogged pores can lead to breakouts.
Always check with your dermatologist before using any at-home or herbal remedies for acne and do not use skin care products that contain cocoa butter, as these can cause acne. Always check with your dermatologist before using any at-home or herbal remedies for acne.
Sun protection can help reduce the dark spots that occur after breakouts. Always protect your skin from the sun by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when possible and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing.
If you choose to use a hair product with oil, avoid applying it near your forehead. If your acne only appears on your forehead and temples, your hair care products may be to blame. Consider switching products, and only use ones that contain water or glycerin instead of oil.
You may find that these makeup products effectively hide dark spots, they can clog pores, causing new blemishes. Skip heavy, oily makeup and choose makeup labeled “non-comedogenic” instead.
Choose a mild cleanser that won’t clog your pores, and only use your fingertips to wash and rinse your face, as vigorously scrubbing will worsen your acne. Gently pat your skin dry with a clean towel.
Antioxidants to even out skin tone
Antioxidants like vitamin C can also help even out skin tone. Over-the-counter two percent hydroquinone can be effective as well, especially when coupled with some of the ingredients noted above.
However, it should only be used for short periods, as overuse can lead to excessive skin bleaching or even darkening. Some skin-lightening products have risks, such as skin irritation, so be cautious when using these products.
Always follow the instructions on the label and use sun protection when going outdoors.
“When treating acne, it’s important to be patient, as it can take at least four to eight weeks to see improvement after using a topical acne medication,” says board-certified dermatologist Crystal Aguh, MD, FAAD. “If you do not see improvement or need help treating your acne or dark spots, talk to a board-certified dermatologist, who can create a treatment plan tailored for you.”
“Acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S., and it can be particularly frustrating for people with skin of color because of the discoloration and scarring that can occur after blemishes heal. For these reasons, it’s critical to treat acne in skin of color carefully and avoid skin care products that can exacerbate discoloration."
Treating teenage acne
Acne affects about 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24, and is the most common skin condition in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology
“A teen often feels alone in suffering from embarrassing pimples,” says Dr. Davic Shupp, a dermatologist at Penn State Health Medical Group – Colonnade in State College. “Because acne is caused primarily by hormone levels, the condition often begins at puberty and clears up by the late 20s. Girls are more susceptible than boys to hormone-related acne.”
When a teen begins to experience mild acne, the first step is to treat with an over-the-counter cream, gel or lotion applied directly to affected areas, most commonly the face, chest, upper back and shoulders.
Nonprescription acne medications to treat acne
Nonprescription acne medications typically include one of the following active ingredients:
Adapalene prevents plugging of hair follicles and is available in 0.1 percent strength over the counter. The acne medication, a retinoid derived from vitamin A and commonly sold as the brand name Differin, was previously only available by prescription.
Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria, helps remove excess oil from the skin and reduces inflammation. Check the label for benzoyl peroxide strength, which can range from 2.5 to 10 percent in over-the-counter products.
Salicylic acid dries excess oils and works best for blackheads and whiteheads. The strength typically ranges from 0.5 to five percent.
“If over-the-counter medications don’t provide enough relief from acne, it’s time to discuss prescription medications with a dermatologist or family physician,” Shupp said.
Medications available by prescription to treat acne
Acne medications available only by prescription include:
Antibiotics can be administered orally or via a topical gel or cream to kill excess bacteria. Topical antibiotics are often combined with benzoyl peroxide to maximize effectiveness while lowering the risk of antibiotic resistance.
Hormonal treatments, which impact the balance of hormones that cause acne and are usually prescribed to supplement topical medications or antibiotics in young women. Birth control pills are the most common hormonal treatment for acne.
Another option is spironolactone, which blocks androgen hormones. An excess of these hormones is a common cause of acne in women.
Isotretinoin - common brand name Accutane - is a powerful vitamin A derivative used to treat severe acne that does not respond to other medications. Potential side effects include birth defects, so teenage and adult women taking this oral medication must undergo monthly pregnancy tests.
Stronger retinoids, such as Retin-A, are among the most effective topical medications but can be more drying than over-the-counter options.
A family physician or dermatologist can work with a teen on an ongoing basis to adjust both over-the-counter and prescription medications to achieve the greatest success against acne, while guarding against side effects. Although science has not discovered a cure for acne, careful treatment can minimize this skin condition until adulthood, when most acne clears up on its own.
Improve acne success for teens
Teens can also follow these basic steps to improve the likelihood of success:
Avoid abrasive products and gently clean affected skin twice a day. Scrubbing can damage the skin and aggravate an acne problem.
Keep hands and hair away from the face to reduce the transfer of oil.
Look for the label “noncomedogenic” as well as oil-free cosmetics, sunscreen, moisturizer and hair products.
Don’t squeeze pimples. This can lead to permanent scarring.
Don’t use acne medication prescribed to someone else.
Follow the label or doctor’s instructions for all products. Overuse won’t clear up an outbreak any faster and instead could cause redness or peeling that appears worse than the original pimples.
Any new product usually takes several weeks or even months to show noticeable improvement so be patient. Switching quickly from one product to another lessens effectiveness.
After an outbreak clears up, be consistent and follow physician instructions for maintenance to help prevent future outbreaks.
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With over 30 years of writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines and corporate communications, Kevin Kerfoot writes about natural health, nutrition, skincare and oral hygiene for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletters.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.