Are Acne Scars & Hyperpigmentation The Same Thing?

It can be so frustrating that even when your skin is finally clear of active breakouts, you’re still left behind with dark spots or dents. Hyperpigmentation and acne scarring are both common ghosts of your acne past. While it’s easy to confuse the two, they’re actually different — as are their treatment methods. We’re here to clear up your confusion, and your spots!

3 minute read


What is hyperpigmentation?

The word hyperpigmentation is an umbrella term — meaning it refers to a huge variety of dark spots on the skin, including age spots, liver spots, and acne scarring. Unlike actual scars though, which are raised or dented on skin, hyperpigmentation is just a darker area of skin. While a breakout is still healing, these spots might start off as purple or red before fading into a darker tone of the surrounding skin.

These hyperpigmentation spots are caused when too much melanin is created on the skin’s outer layers. Usually, this extra melanin production is the skin’s response and attempt to protect or heal itself, like after a pimple. While some dark spots can fade over time, the fading process depends on two things: the origin of the spot and skin type. The good news is, there are tons of lightening and brightening products on the market designed specifically to minimize the look of hyperpigmentation of all kinds.

To start, there’s a wide variety of products like spot treatments, serums, masks, and more, made with a blend of potent ingredients like kojic acid, retinol, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid that will work to reveal a more radiant, even-looking complexion.

  • SLMD Dark Spot Fix is a lightweight gel created to minimize the appearance of dark spots.
  • SLMD Retinol Serum is another product that can improve skin tone and texture by encouraging skin cell turnover overnight. 
  • SLMD Dual Defender SPF 30 doubles as a moisturizer and a broad-spectrum sunscreen. UV exposure can cause hyperpigmentation to darken and acne scars to worsen, so use sunscreen daily.

What are acne scars?

Just like there are many different types of hyperpigmentation and dark spots, there are several different kinds of acne scars. Here are four of the most common scars:

  • Boxcar Scars: Shallow with sharper edges
  • Icepick Scars: Depressions in your skin due to a lack of collagen
  • Keloids: Discolored, bumpy and raised
  • Rolling Scars: Wavy and shallow texture

The way your skin scars depends both on your skin type and the type of breakout you most frequently get — papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts are the most common kinds of inflammatory acne that lead to scarring. You could experience several different types of acne scars, but it's best to manage your acne right away to minimize all forms of scarring.

Whereas topical treatments can be very effective for minimizing dark spots and hyperpigmentation, in-office procedures are likely a better resort to treat scars. For instance, cortisone shots work well for keloid scars, while laser and chemical resurfacing treatments are ideal for icepick, rolling and boxcar scars. You can consult with your dermatologist to get a better idea of what will work best for you.

Dr. Lee's last word

There’s no ultimate cure for acne scarring or hyperpigmentation, but the right products or treatments can be effective ways to improve and prevent them.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


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