A little about me:
Medium skin tone. Combination-type skin. Acne-prone.
I had acne as a teenager. It wasn't all that severe, compared to what some kids my age were going through but I still ended up with all these dark spots all over my face and neck.
Nobody ever said too much. But I could tell by the way they looked at me. You know, how they start by looking you in the eyes, and then you see their eyes wander to your cheek or forehead? I felt humiliated. Even a little dirty.
I didn't pick on my acne so why do I have all these spots all over my face?
I finally got tired of all these stares and decided to do something it.
So I researched and researched more.....
What do you really call these dark spots?
I really didn't realize that there was a name for this. I was just calling them dark spots. But they actually have a name! Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH for short.
When I researched the cause of PIH, I found out that I really didn't do anything wrong. Nope, PIH is caused when the skin heals, it produces too much melanin. And melanin is the protein in the skin that gives it its color.
The darker your skin, the more melanin it produces. That's why darker skin people are more prone to PIH than those with light or fair skin.
And I found out that even people with less severe cases of acne can have PIH. In fact, nearly everyone who has had some degree of acne will have some amount of dark spots on their skin.
PIH is caused by skin inflammation. The more inflammation, the darker and larger the spot will usually be. So if you pick at or squeeze those pimples (Guilty as charged!) you are leaving yourself open to darker spots.
I also found out that this discoloration isn't the same as a scar. PIH is flat to the surface. A scar, particularly an acne scar, has either an overgrowth of cells causing a little bump on the surface of the skin, or more commonly an indentation or depressed area.
Scars will fade.....eventually. But there will always be a bump or a pit on the skin. PIH on the other hand, is not permanent damage to the skin. It, too, will fade.....
The amount of time, however, differs from person to person, and the darker and larger spots seem to take longer to fade away. I am not a patient person! When I read that it could take years to fade on its own, I decided I was not going to wait around for Mother Nature to do her thing.
What can get rid of dark spots from acne on medium to dark skin tones:
I wanted to start out with products that were easily accessible, so I researched natural remedies used to treat my dark spots.
Vitamin C in lemon juice is known as a natural lightening agent. It is said to brighten the skin and even skin tones. Besides, you will smell all lemony and fresh!
My experience: Didn't work. I tried it for about a week using it twice a day. It caused flare-ups so I decided not to continue.
I've used aloe vera on burns, particularly sunburns, and it does make my skin feel better. Some say that it will help lighten dark spots over time with continued use.
My experience: Didn't work in fading dark spots but moisturized my skin.
You probably haven’t heard of kojic acid before but this one is the bomb when it comes to getting rid of dark spots. Kojic acid’s main power is its ability to stop melanin (our skin’s dark pigments) from producing. When this happens, it lightens the spots and even skin tone. The best part? It’s all natural.
In addition to the natural remedies, there are some over the counter products that can be used to fight post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
The problem I have with using some of these products is that they are full of chemicals and I prefer a treatment that is all natural.
My experience: It worked! I used this in combination of natural oil that I concocted and it worked for me. I created a soap and added other brightening actives and it worked perfect for my combination skin type. See my before and after below.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (Glycolic, Lactic, Malic)
These treatments involve exfoliating the skin, and there are a number of brands available to lighten or brighten your complexion. I cringed a bit considering the 'Acid' part of the name, although the over the counter products have a lower concentration of the AHA.
This product is prescribed by dermatologists at a more concentrated dosage as a treatment for aging skin and acne.
My experience: Worked but too strong for my skin type.
You can get this product over the counter (less than 4% concentration) or by prescription if you want something above 4%.
It reduces the amount of melanin that your skin produces by killing the cells that produce it. Yikes! One of the things I absolutely hate about hydroquinone is it has the tendency to make your skin “bluish black” and this is why I decided not to use it. It also causes irritation for some people.
My experience: I used once but ended up throwing it away. My skin got irritated.
This product is used to clear up acne and is also used for PIH treatment. It speeds up cell turnover rates, so it will speed up the lightening of dark spots. This is primarily available only by prescription.
I freaked out when I read: Be on the lookout for excessive dryness, redness, and irritation. This can trigger PIH on its own.
My experience: Didn't see much difference. Maybe a prescription would work better?
My frustration level was through the roof by now. I kept searching and searching. Finally, I’ve decided that I’ll just create the products myself.
The Dark Spot Soap
I wanted something natural. A product that can get rid of my dark spots without harsh chemicals.
I experimented with a lot of different natural ingredients and shortlisted the ones that I found to be working.
Here’s what I came up with:
- Kojic Acid - stops melanin production, evens and brightens skin tone.
- Lemon Peel Powder - for skin brightening
- Orange Peel Powder - for skin brightening
- Aloe Vera Powder - calms the skin down
The Dark Spot Serum
Like the soap, I wanted something that’s 100% natural. So I did a lot of research as to what natural oils have the ability to get rid of dark spots.
I found out that almost all natural oils actually have the ability to get rid of dark spots, however, most of them will clog your pores, which can cause more acne.
Since I’m already acne-prone, I knew I needed something that’s non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) that I can use after using the soap.
I found out that these oils will not clog pores:
- Tamanu Oil - removes dark spots and moisturizes the skin.
- Sesame Seed Oil - dark spot remover and brightens the skin.
- Moringa Oil - anti-acne
- Amla Oil - brightens the skin and kills acne-causing bacteria
- Turmeric Oil - natural dark spot remover, brightens the skin and kills acne
- Calendula Oil - anti-inflammatory
I always remove makeup first (use Micellar Water). Then I wash my face with baby soap.
I then use the Dark Spot Soap and leave it on for about 15 seconds to let kojic acid work its magic.
Afterwards, I apply the Dark Spot Serum and call it a day.
Here's my before and after. It took me about 6 weeks to see results.
You can get the kit here.