Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation

What is it?
Temporary darkening of the skin following injury or inflammation

What treatments are available?
SPF 50+ sunscreen daily
Hydroquinone, retinoids, azelaic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, licorice extract, arbutin
Chemical peels with alpha hydroxy acids

What is postinflammatory hyperpigmentation?

Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH is temporary pigmentation or darkening of the skin that occurs following inflammation or injury to the skin, for example after a pimple, scratch or insect bite. It can occur anywhere on the body. It’s more common in people with darker skin, but can occur in anyone. It usually resolves on its own without treatment, but can take many months to fade.

How can I prevent it?

The best way to prevent developing postinflammatory hyperpigmentation is to try to limit injury and inflammation of your skin. Of course, it’s difficult to prevent minor trauma to the skin and insect bites, but treating acne early and avoiding picking or squeezing pimples will help reduce the chance of developing postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.

How can I treat it?

Options to help fade postinflammatory hyperpigmentation more quickly include:

  1. Strict sun protection with SPF 50+ sunscreen daily
  2. Hydroquinone
  3. Topical retinoids, azelaic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, Vitamin C, licorice extract, arbutin 
  4. Chemical peels with alpha hydroxy acids

References
Chaowattanapanit S, Silpa-Archa N, Kohli I, Lim HW, Hamzavi I. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: A comprehensive overview: Treatment options and prevention. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Oct;77(4):607-621. 

Silpa-Archa N, Kohli I, Chaowattanapanit S, Lim HW, Hamzavi I. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: A comprehensive overview: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical presentation, and noninvasive assessment technique. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Oct;77(4):591-605.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr-Julia-Rhodes

Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…