My Dark-Skin Journey w/Hyperpigmentation + Dark Spots

My Dark-Skin Journey w/Hyperpigmentation + Dark Spots

By Ijé S

After getting through my teenage years with relatively smooth skin, I developed acne in my early twenties. The acne itself was a little annoying, but the breakouts were usually gone in a matter of days, or at worst, weeks. 

However. The little dark spots left behind would go on to become the *bane of my existence*. They would hang out on my face for months, and with every new breakout, there’d be a dark spot (not a scar, though!) left in its wake. The more breakouts I got, the more the dark spots I got. Welp. When the old spots faded, new ones replaced them. It got so bad at one point that I started wearing foundation every single time I had to step out of the house. I think makeup only made my acne worse, which made the dark spots worse, perpetuating what I will term The Most Frustrating Cycle Ever. 

These spots left behind by acne are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), a type of hyperpigmentation that is very common for those with deeper skin tones. This is caused by increased melanin production in areas where the skin has been inflamed or injured. I once got a scratch on my face that turned into PIH, and, frustratingly, pretty much any injury to the skin can result in this kind of discoloration. Black and brown skin is also more privy to other types of hyperpigmentation, such as melasma—patches of skin that are darker than others. There’s a third type that I personally used to deal with (unsure exactly what its technical term is) whereby my face and neck color was darker than my chest. Many deeper skinned folk are disposed to this anomaly, which can make foundation-matching a whole lot more complicated...

Needless to say, because I suffer from all three types of skin discoloration, I’ve become a bit obsessed with skincare that targets hyperpigmentation, and have spent the past few years testing any product or ingredient that boasts skin brightening benefits. I have had really great results with ingredients like niacinamide, arbutin, kojic acid and TXA. My favorite hyperpigmentation treatment contains all four ingredients—learn more about ZitSticka's forthcoming product here, which also contains all four! I like these ingredients because unlike hydroquinone—a synthetic skin-bleaching agent that’s popular, but not without a range of undesirable side-effects—they are unproblematic to use, and can easily be incorporated into your routine, regardless of whatever else you’re using.

If your skin can tolerate it, I’ve also gotten really great results using retinol. Retinol can be a bit tricky at first, because it can be irritating and drying, and can even cause the skin to “purge”, but if you start light and work up the concentration incrementally, the results can be amazing. It is one of few ingredients that targets both acne and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, while working to dial down other forms of skin discoloration.

In addition to incorporating skin brightening ingredients into my routine, I also make sure to exfoliate at least once a week. I prefer chemical exfoliants, because physical exfoliants can be a bit tricky with acne-prone skin. The last thing you want to do is further irritate already inflamed skin by scrubbing it. Salicylic acid—a pore-unclogging beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) found in ZitSticka’s KILLA patch—is a staple in my skincare routine. Practically every dermatologist ever is a salicylic acid fan, so there’s that, too!

Sun protection is another important part of keeping my skin tone even. There is some debate about whether Black people need sunscreen, and the answer, friends, is a resounding yes! Along with protecting skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays, a broad-spectrum sunscreen boasts anti-aging properties, and can help to keep your skin tone even. Since I started religiously using sunscreen, my skin looks a lot more even. Radiant, too! Consistent sunscreen application has been particularly helpful for getting my face and neck being closer in color to my chest. 

To borrow my favorite cliché, having acne-prone skin is a war, not a battle.  There are lots of great products and ingredients that treat both acne and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, as well as other forms of discoloration. But for them to be effective, you have to keep them in your routine on a permanent basis. Which is kind of the definition of routine, no?!

Hyperpigmentation in all its forms can be a very difficult skin concern to treat, but with the right products, and some patience, (and diligent sunscreen application!), you can get rid of it.


ZitSticka is releasing a product for hyperpigmentation very soon. Click here to be the first to know, and get 15% off at launch.

Let's wind it back, though. What even is hyperpigmentation?!