Acne Dark Spots: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Acne Dark Spots: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Have you ever experienced a breakout that left a dark spot on your skin afterwards? These spots are called acne dark spots. They can affect anyone, and they can be very frustrating to deal with. 

If you have any of these dark spots you are probably wondering what causes them and if you can get them safely removed from your skin.

Well, we have the answers to all of your questions about acne dark spots. Read on to learn what causes these spots and what treatments are available for them.

What are acne dark spots?

acne dark spots

Acne dark spots are also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH. It is excess melanin in the skin that forms these dark spots. The color of these spots depends on the amount of melatonin produced and your skin tone. The spots can be different colors such as pink, red, brown, or even purple. 

Fortunately, these dark spots only last temporarily. However, the length of time that each spot lasts may vary from person to person, and from spot to spot. 

Why is my acne leaving dark spots?

Acne dark spots are the result of too much melanin being produced as acne is healing. When you experience an acne breakout, your skin reacts quickly to begin healing itself.

However, sometimes the skin overcompensates and accidentally produces melanin in excess, leaving these dark spots behind. 

Acne dark spots can also occur as the result of popping pimples or picking at acne.

pop pimples

Picking at acne can also worsen the inflammation and make it more likely that a dark spot will occur. If you have darker skin you’re also more likely to experience acne dark spots. 

Frequent sun exposure can also contribute to pigmentation on your face. Using a high-quality SPF product in your skincare routine is important to reduce and prevent dark spots on your face. 

How long do acne dark spots last?

These dark spots are not permanent and can fade on their own with time. It can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years for these spots to fade, depending on their severity. 

It is always a good idea to speak to a professional when seeking treatment. Visit your dermatologist to ask them what the best course of action would be to treat your acne dark spots. 

Can acne dark spots be removed?

While acne dark spots will eventually fade, they can also be removed through various methods. 

You can get rid of them faster by either using skin-lightening products or through professional treatments. The amount of time it takes to remove these spots will depend on the treatment you are using, as well as how severe the dark spot is. 

When should I see a dermatologist about my dark spots?

You can see a dermatologist at any time regarding acne dark spots. If you decide you would like treatment to remove the spots, you should consult with your dermatologist first. 

You can also visit them if you notice an excessive amount of dark spots occurring. They will discuss treatment options with you and help you to prevent further hyperpigmentation from happening. 

Difference between dark spots and acne

dark spots and acne

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when pores become clogged with dirt, sebum, and dead skin. It takes time, and sometimes topical products or professional treatments, to heal acne.

There are a few different types of acne, and each range from mild or severe. Acne can also leave scars on your skin, whereas acne dark spots do not. 

On the other hand, dark spots are the result of acne. As your skin heals acne and breakouts, new cells may be produced with too much melatonin, leaving dark spots where acne once was. These dark spots are not harmful and can be treated fairly easily.  

Dark spots vs hyperpigmentation

dark spots and hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation refers to any dark discoloration on your skin. This can include Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH), along with liver spots and age spots. Acne dark spots are just one form of hyperpigmentation. 

However, while acne dark spots may fade over time, not all forms of hyperpigmentation fade. Both age spots and liver spots are permanent. 

It’s important to note that neither dark spots nor hyperpigmentation are acne scars.

Acne scars are bumps or indents in your skin that create an uneven surface where acne or a breakout occurred. PIH and hyperpigmentation are dark but smooth and even spots on your skin. 

If you want to learn more about what causes the different types of hyperpigmentation, check out this article


As mentioned above, acne dark spots may eventually fade on their own. But if you want to get rid of them sooner, there are several treatments available to have them removed.

A professional will be able to review treatments and guide you in choosing the best option.

Here we have a quick breakdown of the different kinds of treatments available for acne dark spots. 

Dark spot lightening products

There are various ingredients in skincare that help remove dark spots. If you are looking to treat PIH, you should look for products that contain these ingredients:

  • Vitamin C can have a brightening effect on your skin and may even out hyperpigmentation. 
  • AHA, or alpha hydroxy acids, can also help to remove different types of pigmentation. 
  • Retinoids or retinol are powerful ingredients that can be used to treat acne dark spots and promote new cell growth. 
  • Salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant, can be used to remove pigmented skin and improve the appearance of PIH. 
  • Azelaic acid can also be used to treat PIH. This works to hinder the production of melanin and prevents hyperpigmentation from occurring. 
  • Arbutin is a fruit extract that is also a natural inhibitor of the enzyme that produces melatonin.

Here are our top 10 products that contain skin-lightening ingredients and are great for treating dark spots: 

AXXZIA Beauty Force Airy Face Mask: this single-use sheet mask uses arbutin and vitamin C to lighten skin and remove dark spots. It also contains ingredients that regenerate new cells. 


 AXXZIA Beauty Force Airy Face Mask



Cica Method Booster Serum: seed and leaf extracts in this serum helps to brighten your skin and remove pigmentation. This serum also contains several ingredients that are anti-inflammatory, so regular use may reduce acne along with dark spots. 


 Cica Method Booster Serum



Komenuka Bijin Eye Moist Gel Serum with Rice Bran: the apple acid in this formula works to remove dark spots while the rice bran promotes skin regeneration. 


 Komenuka Bijin Eye Moist Gel Serum with Rice Bran



NOA NOA LUXE VC7 EVO Serum: vitamin C and a blend of natural extracts work to fight pigmentations and remove dark spots while still being gentle on your skin. 





AVEAUTE Deep 2SC Serum: retinol and stem cell extracts remove pigmentation and rejuvenate skin. 


 AVEAUTE Deep 2SC Serum



AMARANTH Whitening Snow anti-pigmentation Serum: this serum uses vitamin C and arbutin to fight pigmentation and promote healthy cell growth. 


 AMARANTH Whitening Snow anti-pigmentation Serum



Spa Treatment iSheet NMN complex: the vitamin C in this complex is used to remove dark spots while the NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) regenerates new healthy skin.


 Spa Treatment iSheet NMN complex



Spa Treatment iSheet stem cells complex: these eye masks contain several ingredients such as vitamin C, collagen, stem cell complex, and arbutin to lighten your skin tone. 


 Spa Treatment iSheet stem cells complex


    1. DIREIA Stem Intense Lotion EX Some: stem cells and vitamin C work together to remove dark spots and renew cells. 

 DIREIA Stem Intense Lotion EX Some



To check out more products that remove hyperpigmentation, click here.  

Over-the-counter treatments

A common OTC treatment for acne dark spots is hydroquinone. This is a skin-lightening agent that works by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme needed to produce melanin. Over time, the decrease in melanin production will help your dark spots fade. 

You can purchase this in different forms, such as a cream, lotion, or gel. This treatment needs to be used consistently for at least a few weeks for improvements to be seen. Hydroquinone can be used safely for up to six months, although most spots should fade within that time. 

At home remedies


While it is recommended to see a dermatologist for dark spot removal, you can also try natural remedies at home. 

Lemon juice naturally contains vitamin C along with citric acid. Vitamin C brightens skin tone and helps to remove dark spots. Citric acid is a natural tyrosinase inhibitor and will reduce the amount of melatonin your skin produces. Although make sure you dilute the lemon juice with water as it is too harsh to go directly onto your  skin. 

Aloe vera contains aloin which is a natural skin-lightening agent. Aloe vera can be applied topically each day and is not only safe for the skin but has other skincare benefits as well. 

Apple cider vinegar is a natural exfoliant because it has acetic acid in it. This will get rid of layers of dead skin and over time it will remove dark spots. This is another ingredient that should be diluted before application due to its acidic nature. 

There are other at-home remedies for dark spots, but many of them lack scientific evidence to support claims of their efficiency. 

Professional treatments


Professional treatments for acne dark spots are quicker and less invasive than treatments for other skin conditions. Here are the most common treatments for PIH. 

Microdermabrasion is one of the most common treatments for PIH. This procedure uses a small abrasive tool to gently exfoliate the outer layer of skin. This removes hyperpigmentation, as well as some types of scarring and sun damage. 

Microneedling is another popular skin treatment in which a device covered with small needles is rolled across your face, puncturing your skin. This works to promoting new cell growth and collagen production. While your skin heals the small wounds from the needles, it also simultaneously heals any dark spots, scars, and even wrinkles. 

Another popular form of treatment is a chemical peel. Chemical peels use a powerful solution, usually made with salicylic, lactic, or glycolic acid, to exfoliate the top layer of skin. Like microdermabrasion, this process removes the pigmented skin and leaves you with unpigmented skin underneath. Depending on the severity of your dark spot(s) you may need only one chemical peel or several to see results. 

Laser resurfacing can be used to remove acne dark spots. Lasers are used to get rid of dead skin while promoting new cell growth. This helps to treat hyperpigmentation as well as scars. This is the most expensive treatment available for dark spots. 

The fastest way to get rid of acne dark spots

The quickest way to treat these dark spots is with a chemical peel. You can see improvements in your skin immediately after a chemical peel, and you should finish healing completely in two or three days. 

While microdermabrasion and microneedling also deliver quick results (usually only a day or two) they do not fully correct dark spots with only one treatment. You may need several months of consistent treatments to fully remove the PIH. 

How to prevent acne dark spots

Prevention is always the best defense when it comes to any kind of skin condition. If you suffer from hyperpigmentation frequently, then taking steps to prevent them is crucial. Here are our best tips for preventing acne dark spots:

  • Avoid picking at or popping pimples and other types of acne.
  • Use SPF daily to protect your skin from UV rays which can further progress hyperpigmentation. 
  • Maintain a proper skincare routine to prevent acne outbreaks. 
  • Consult with a skincare professional for advice on the best skincare products to incorporate into your routine. 

In summary

Acne dark spots, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, is a result of acne healing. It occurs when the skin produces too much melatonin during the healing process, leaving a dark spot where acne once was. 

Dark spots are harmless and can be left untreated as they will eventually fade on their own. But if you do want to seek treatment for these spots, there are many easy treatments available. 

Prevention is one of the best ways to reduce the dark spots on your face. However, professional treatments are quick and only moderately invasive, ranging in price from a couple hundred to a couple thousand. Skincare products that treat dark spots are typically the most affordable option.

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