Everything You Need to Know about Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmenation from Body Acne

If you’ve got acne-prone skin, chances are you’ve heard of post-inflammatory pigmentation (aka PIH). Though it’s often thought of as a facial condition, these dark spots that linger on skin long after a breakout can appear anywhere on the body.

So what can you do to minimize PIH on the body? We’ve got the scoop on both prevention and treatment, to keep your body skin looking its best.

A woman with body acne that may result in post inflammatory hyperpigmentation

What is post-inflammatory pigmentation?

PIH occurs when the skin produces an excess of dark pigments (called melanin) in response to some kind of trauma — including inflammatory acne. The exact reason why the melanocytes in the epidermis release excess melanin is unknown.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can present as pink, red, tan or brown spots. It is more common in darker Fitzpatrick skin types, and is most prevalent in the U.S. in people of African-American descent.

Though often thought of as acne scarring, PIH is not a true scar, since the condition tends to resolve over time.

How do you prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from body acne?

If your PIH is the result of body breakouts, keeping your acne in check is the best way to prevent dark spots from appearing in the first place. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper) recommends a multifaceted approach:

Salicylic Acid Body Spray by SLMD Skincare

What’s the best way to treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?

When body acne leaves a lingering dark mark, there are a few things you can do to help the damaged skin heal faster:

  • Apply alpha and beta hydroxy acids. SLMD Resurfacing Acne Swipes contain a combination of both in a preloaded soft round that exfoliates.
  • Try SLMD Dark Spot Fix, a lightweight, dark spot correcting gel that can be used on the body to minimize the look of hyperpigmentation.
  • Wear sunscreen (like Dual Defender SPF 30). UV damage creates its own hyperpigmentation, so protecting skin affected by PIH is a must. This is especially important if you’re treating the area with any kind of alpha or beta hydroxy acid, or retinol product.

Dr. Lee’s last word

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a very common concern among my patients. We see it often in patients with facial acne, but it can occur anywhere on the body where you experience a breakout. Some degree of hyperpigmentation is typically part of the healing process, though irritating the skin by picking or popping your pimples can make it much worse. I advise patients to be proactive with managing their body acne to minimize those breakouts, which in turn decreases your chances of ending up with PIH. Though it tends to go away in time, we can minimize it with the right skincare products in the meantime.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


Shop the Article