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A Guide to Acne Pigmentation

A Guide to Acne Pigmentation

Just when you thought you’d conquered your breakout, BAM, you’re left with blemishes as a not so subtle reminder of your acne struggles. Sure, they might not be pimples as such, but acne pigmentation can still be just as frustrating. Plus, they can sometimes hang around for far longer than that pimple ever did. So, today we’re discussing how to fade acne pigmentation for a clear and bright complexion. Sign us up, please! 

What is acne pigmentation? 

Let’s take things back a step. Hyperpigmentation is a discolouration of the skin and can be categorised into three main types: melasma, sunspots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It’s that last one that we’re most interested in today. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is usually flat and white, pink, red or brown in colour. Hyperpigmentation can happen to anyone, but is more common in those with medium to darker skin tones.  

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation appears after a wound (acne) has healed. In the healing process, the body triggers an excess of melanin production, hence the discolouration. Contrary to popular belief, pigmentation from acne is not the same as scarring. Although it might leave a mark, it doesn't damage the follicle; if it did, that would result in a raised scar. So, what you might initially think is acne scarring, might actually be post-acne pigmentation.  

How long does acne pigmentation last? Well, the bad news is that without active treatment, it can last anywhere from 6 months to a year. The good news is there are a few acne pigmentation treatments that can speed up this healing process.  

Difference between post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation & post-inflammatory erythema 

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) are two distinct skin conditions that occur as a response to inflammation or trauma.


Characterised by the darkening of the skin in affected areas, resulting from an overproduction of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. This excess melanin production occurs following inflammation or injury and leads to the formation of flat, darkened patches or spots on the skin, varying in color from light brown to deep brown or black.


Manifests as red or pinkish discoloration on the skin, caused by the dilation of blood vessels during the inflammatory process. Unlike PIH, PIE does not involve increased melanin production, and the affected areas remain red or pinkish rather than darkening.

Both conditions commonly arise from skin injuries, acne, burns, cuts, eczema, or other inflammatory skin conditions. Although PIH and PIE may gradually fade over time, they require different approaches for management and treatment due to their distinct underlying mechanisms. 

How to fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation 

Speaking of speeding up that healing process, there are a few key ingredients and products you should be on the lookout for. Specifically, niacinamide, vitamin C and A, and retinoids. Really, anything that boosts collagen production to plump the skin and promote new skin growth and repair is going to be your best friend.  

The Hyaluronic Hydrating Serum is a beautifully hydrating serum that boosts radiance and, thanks to niacinamide, brightens the skin and lifts hyperpigmentation. Niacinamide boosts collagen production to help heal the skin, and regulates oil production to limit the amount of acne appearing in the future. After all, prevention is always better than a cure.   

Another treatment for acne pigmentation is the Anti-Redness Minty Green Smoothie. This anti-redness serum cools and heals damaged, red skin with potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and hydrating properties. This makes it ideal for when acne is active, as well as after it clears and you’re left with pigmentation. That’s all thanks to arnica, a healing herb, and our favourite, niacinamide.  

The Pomegranate Brightening Serum is a star when it comes to lifting acne pigmentation and brightening the skin (clue’s in the name). That’s all down to how rich it is in vitamin C. In the wonderful world of brightening ingredients, vitamin C is a clear favourite. The reason for that is three fold; it can help to inhibit melanin production (remember, the thing that causes pigmentation in the first place), it is an antioxidant (meaning it fights free radicals which damage skin cells and break down collagen), and it is a key component of collagen production.  

Retinol is a secret weapon for battling discolouration, and as far as acne pigmentation treatments go, it’s pretty hard to beat. Retinol (derived from vitamin A) speeds up the skin cell turnover rate to reveal new skin and subside pigmentation faster. Our Encapsulated Retinol range effectively exfoliates the skin and stimulates collagen production. Start with Level 1 and use a pea-sized amount every second night. Once you have finished your bottle of the lowest concentration and you no longer notice any redness, you can move onto the next level.  

If you’re playing the esmi drinking game at home, you can take a shot because we’re about to talk about the importance of sunscreen again. Hey, it’s really, really crucial! When it comes to pigmentation from acne, exposure to the sun can make discolouration appear darker and slow down the fading process. Make sure you start each day with a layer (or two) of the Skin Shield Natural Sunscreen, to avoid undoing all of the great work you’ve done with your other skincare products.  

Fading acne pigmentation can be easy with the right products. Luckily, our skincare experts know just the ones, so chat to them if you need an extra helping hand clearing up your complexion. Otherwise, shop our range of brightening products here