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Expert advice on how to fade stubborn acne scars and pigmentation

If there's one thing my long-standing relationship with acne has taught me, it's the importance of patience. No matter how much you resist popping your zits, the stubborn ones still manage to leave behind proof of their existence in shades of red or brown. “Resulting from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, acne or pimple marks appear after an acne breakout has subsided," explains Dr Nishita Ranka, founder of Dr Nishita’s Clinic For Skin, Hair & Aesthetics. "These discolourations are the skin's response to inflammation and they differ in colour based on one's skin tone,” she says.

One mustn’t confuse acne marks for acne scars, acne marks refer to changes in skin colour and have nothing to do with changes in skin texture, while scars involve textural changes in the skin through depressions or raised areas. Thankfully, dealing with the former is a lot easier.

The Different Types Of Acne Marks

According to Dr Sushma Yadav, founder of Skinology Centre, there are two types of acne marks—post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and post-inflammatory erythema (PIE). “PIH appears as flat, discoloured spots on the skin and can be pink, red, brown, or black. It is caused by an overproduction of melanin during the healing process after the acne. PIE—appears as red or purple marks on the skin, caused by a dilation of blood vessels near the skin’s surface during the inflammatory response to acne and takes longer to fade,” explains Yadav. Here are some of the best ingredients to treat pimple marks.

Mild: Azelaic Acid

Mild but effective, azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid that is naturally found in grains and is produced by the yeast that lives on the skin. Breaking it down further, the expert says, “Azelaic acid helps fade away hyperpigmentation by selectively targeting the hyperactive melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), reducing melanin production.” Since it is also an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, it doubles up in treating active acne and rosacea simultaneously.

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

Medium: Niacinamide

Think of niacinamide as the ‘shy’ one of the group. Like vitamin C and retinoids, niacinamide also helps reduce skin hyperpigmentation, but in the gentlest way possible. “Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide works by inhibiting the transfer of pigment within the skin, which can help fade brown spots and discolouration. It also improves skin elasticity,” says Dr Ranka. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent choice for treating both PIE and PIH.

COSRX The Niacinamide 15 Serum

Medium: Vitamin C

A popular antioxidant that aids in maintaining skin health, vitamin C is known to help inhibit melanin production and boost the production of collagen. The use of topical vitamin C in your skincare routine proves to be rather effective when dealing with pigmentation and skin repair, both of which are part of acne marks. “They can brighten the skin, reduce redness, and improve overall complexion,” the expert adds. It can also be used in conjunction with other actives such as retinoids or hydroquinone.

The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Revealing Serum

Strong: Retinoids

An effective treatment for acne marks, retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A which aid in promoting skin cell turnover. “This helps fade away hyperpigmentation and aids in improving the overall texture of the skin,” shares Dr Ranka. “Retinoids can be particularly useful in treating both acne and post-acne marks simultaneously. Common forms of retinoids used in treatment include tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene.”

Note: Retinoids can be quite strong on the skin and can cause skin irritation, dryness, and sensitivity to sunlight. That’s why it’s important to use it mindfully and introduce smaller concentrations gradually into your routine.

SKIN Functional 0.5% Retinol Vitamin A

The original article can be found on Vogue India.

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