Acne Scars versus Post Acne Hyperpigmentation - What is the Difference?

There are two types of acne marks left behind post acne breakout - one being scarring and the other is post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. They are both very different and so is their approach to treatment. 


Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Inflammation starts during the early stages of acne development when the skin pores become clogged with excess oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. This causes the area to become red and inflamed. When the skin is inflamed, it causes the melanocytes in your skin to produce more melanin (or pigment). The result is the dark spots or discoloration we see once the acne is gone. The discoloration can last weeks or months, depending on the severity of the inflammation.

Thankfully, there are products that can tackle hyperpigmentation more quickly such as Vitamin C, Retinoids, Niacinamide and Alpha Hydroxy Acids such as Glycolic Acid.

Other methods include microdermabrasion, Glycolic Acid peels and LED light therapy.


Acne Scarring

Acne scarring is more severe and treatment will usually require laser resurfacing, dermal fillers or skin needling.

Acne scars occur when too much collagen is formed in a single area as the body attempts to heal itself once the lesion has ruptured. There are many forms of acne scars and treatment is tailored to the individual by your dermatologist.


For more information on treatment options, visit the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery:




Author: Helen Lam, Pharmacist and Editor for ellé derm

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