Struggling with dark spots & discolouration? Read on as we get skin deep into this common skin concern

We know it’s no easy feat achieving clear skin – whether you’re tackling uneven skin tone, you’re prone to popping your spots, or you’re looking for ways to reduce the appearance of dark spots and discolouration. We’re always on the lookout for quick fixes.

However, if you struggle with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and you find yourself in a constant cycle of layering on the concealer and picking at your skin, read on as we delve into what this skin concern is and how best to manage it.

What is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation & what does it look like?

Also known as PIH, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is often the result of scarring, occurring after injury or irritation to the skin, or following an inflammatory skin condition such as acne or dermatitis.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can affect both the face and body, appearing as flat dark spots of discolouration or as healing wounds. These can range in colour from black and brown to red or purple, depending on your skin tone.

What causes post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?

There are a few things that can trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The most common being when a wound or irritation, like a scrape, rash or blemish causes the skin to become inflamed. As part of the skin’s natural response to inflammation, it triggers melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) to release too much melanin pigment. This then darkens the area of skin and remains there even after the wound has healed.

Other causes of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation include:

• Sun damage

• Ageing

• Hormonal changes

• Acne

• Dermatitis

• Impetigo

• Chemical peels

• Laser therapy

• Dermabrasion

• Razor bumps

• Burns

• Insect bites

• Infections

Who’s at risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?

This skin concern can affect anyone at any age. However, it’s more common in people with darker skin and those who suffer from the likes of acne or other inflammatory skin conditions like dermatitis and impetigo.

Can post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation be treated?

The good news is, there are things you can try to help reduce the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. One thing to remember is that these things take time. We know it can be frustrating but checking your skin in the mirror every 30 minutes won’t speed up the process. Depending on how severe the hyperpigmentation, it can sometimes take months or years to fade completely. But let’s get into it…

Avoid sun exposure

First and foremost, avoiding or limiting sun exposure may help prevent further hyperpigmentation occurring. This is because UV radiation is the most influential factor in pigment production, making hyperpigmentation worse over time. So wearing a daily broad spectrum sunscreen is non-negotiable. Aim for at least SPF30 and high UVA protection and make this the final step of your skincare routine.

Consider topical skincare

You may have noticed that there are a lot of skincare products out there that all claim to reduce the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. We know this can feel overwhelming so we’ve put together some of the key topical skincare ingredients to look for.


This helps to stimulate the skin cell renewal process, removing superficial epidermal pigments and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. You can find retinol in the likes of moisturisers and serums. If you’re new to retinol, start with a low concentration and introduce it slowly, starting once a week before gradually building it up.

Retinol is not recommended for children and young adults.

Glycolic acid

Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is a water-soluble chemical exfoliant that works by sloughing dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin to help promote the growth of new skin. It does this while still retaining moisture to help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that’s naturally found in willow bark and wintergreen leaves. It has an exfoliating effect on the skin, removes excess sebum (oil) and is known for its anti-inflammatory effects which make it a great ingredient for improving the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

Speak to a skin specialist

A good place to start if you’re concerned about your skin is by speaking to your GP or a skin specialist, like a dermatologist. They can help diagnose any underlying skin conditions and pinpoint triggers to help find the most appropriate treatment.

There are several in-clinic treatments available for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation which you may want to consider, such as:

• Laser treatment – this is used to target the melanin in the skin to help break it down

• Micro needling – this helps deliver pigment-supressing ingredients deeper into the skin

• Chemical peels – these work by removing the cells of the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) which contain the excess pigment

However, these each come with their risks and may make hyperpigmentation worse, so speak to your GP or skin specialist to find what’s most appropriate for you.

Living with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Some people with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may find that living with the skin condition affects their self-esteem. If your skin is causing you stress or is affecting your mental health, speak to your GP for advice and support. Additionally, you can seek support and advice through our Boots Online Doctor Mental Health Service.* 

In the short-term, you may want to try covering up your hyperpigmentation with make-up, if you feel this would help with your confidence. Our top tip? Start with a good primer and look for colour correcting concealers (go green for red spots and choose yellow for purple spots) before applying a full-coverage foundation. We’d also recommend choosing make-up that’s non-comedogenic as this is less likely to irritate your skin further.

*Subject to availability. Eligibility criteria may apply. Charges may apply.