How to Manage Acne Hyperpigmentation

Article Read Duration 8 min read

You’ve been patiently waiting for a pimple to disappear, only to be left with a dark spot in its place. Sound familiar? We’re not surprised. Frustrating and stubborn, post-acne hyperpigmentation is a common form of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). And, with research suggesting almost a third of Australian women experience acne*, it’s an issue facing adults as well as teens.


Post-acne marks can take time to resolve. Thankfully, knowing how to manage acne pigmentation efficiently can fast-track the fading process. Better yet, a targeted anti-acne skincare regime comprised of the Effaclar range can also help tackle the problem head on!


To learn how to choose the right products to manage acne hyperpigmentation, read on. This is your essential anti-pigmentation action plan for acne-prone skin.

First Up… What is Pigmentation – and What Causes It?

Hyperpigmentation (or pigmentation) refers to a complexion marked by darker spots or patches on the skin. These darker areas can be small and localised, for example a freckle, or more widespread.

In all types of hyperpigmentation, discolouration arises when the skin’s melanocytes are enlisted to create more of its natural pigment, melanin. Many factors can lead to an increase in melanin production, including sun exposure, hormones, medication, intrinsic ageing and genetics.

Acne is another trigger – and it’s a major factor in the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).

So, How Does Acne Cause Pigmentation?

We probably don’t need to tell you not to squeeze acne if you want to avoid lasting pigmentation and acne scarring. However, even if you sit on your hands for the life of a pimple, you can still end up with a brown, red or purple spot that lingers. Unlike pitted acne scars, this acne hyperpigmentation is flat. But why exactly does it happen?

It all comes down to the skin’s inflammatory repair response. When bacteria infect a clogged pore, inflammation occurs, and a pimple appears. As a result of this inflammation, melanin production spikes, leading to those annoying marks that can outlast the breakout itself. This is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).

While commonly caused by acne, PIH can also result from wounds. It’s also brought about by skin trauma – so DO NOT PICK if you want to avoid exacerbating inflammation!

What Makes Post-Acne Pigmentation Worse for Some People?

The severity of acne pigmentation can be impacted by several factors – some of these you can control, while others are unfortunately out of your hands. These factors include the depth and severity of the initial lesion, and how soon it was treated.

Keep your hands to yourself, as picking will only make it worse (and spread bacteria). It’s also important to know that sun exposure can also darken discolouration.

Those with darker skin tones are more susceptible to post-acne hyperpigmentation, and your natural exfoliation rate also has an impact. As this slows down as you age, post-acne marks will often stick around for longer in more mature skin. (Hint: speeding up skin cell turnover with exfoliating acids and retinol can help!)

How to Prevent Acne Hyperpigmentation

Now you know what it is, you’re probably wondering how to get rid of acne pigmentation. As always, prevention is better than cure. The sooner you ‘treat’ a pimple, the easier it is to minimise the appearance of marking. However, it’s not just a matter of tackling pimples once they appear on the skin’s surface. 

From an overproduction of oil to dirt and debris blocking your pores, a plug forming, bacteria proliferating and an ‘eruption’ occurring, a pimple takes around three weeks to emerge. To minimise acne pigmentation, you therefore need a holistic anti-acne skincare routine. One that tackles current blemishes, while caring for skin and helping to prevent future breakouts and simultaneously visibly fading existing marks.

This is the approach used in the La Roche-Posay Effaclar range.

How to Fade Acne Hyperpigmentation at Home

Most at-home treatments for acne hyperpigmentation focus on fading marks. Chemical exfoliants such as glycolic, salicylic and lactic acids can be very beneficial for this, as these alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids help accelerate skin cell turnover.

By gently speeding up the skin’s natural exfoliation processes, these acids can help move on discolouration sooner. If you regularly experience acne, they can also help reduce breakout recurrence by removing the dead skin cells from pores that cause blockages.

At La Roche-Posay, we look at the root cause of your skin concerns, not just the symptoms. Formulated for oily and acne-prone skin, our Effaclar products combine pore-purging, mattifying and anti-redness ingredients, as well as AHAs, BHAs, and other efficacious ingredients to target acne marks and brighten the complexion.

La Roche-Posay’s Tri-Acid Serum Solution

Ideal for mild to moderate-acne prone skin, the Effaclar Salicylic Acid Serum is scientifically proven to help visibly reduce the appearance of breakouts and imperfections, as well as fine lines and wrinkles making it ideal for those experiencing adult acne. Non-sticky and ultra-concentrated, the daily face serum targets problem skin with a refining Tri-Acid Complex.

As LHA micro-exfoliates and helps stimulate renewal, salicylic acid penetrates deeply to unclog pores and reduce excess sebum, and glycolic acid helps renew the skin surface and refine visible pores. Meanwhile soothing niacinamide (Vitamin B3) helps combat moisture loss and dehydration for a comfortably clearer complexion.


Step 1: Cleanse (AM & PM)

Acne-prone skin requires gentle yet thorough cleansing. With soothing La Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water and anti-bacterial zinc PCA, Effaclar Foaming Gel Cleanser removes impurities and excess sebum, while helping minimise shine. Massage the cleanser into damp skin and rinse, morning and night.


Step 2: Apply a Refining, Micro-Exfoliating Serum (PM ONLY)

After cleansing, apply a few drops of Effaclar Salicylic Acid Serum to the face at night. Once absorbed, follow with the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo (+) Anti-Acne Moisturiser.


Step 3: Use a Tailored Moisturiser (AM & PM)

Effaclar Duo (+) is an unclogging moisturiser that targets pores, blemishes, blackheads and marks. Ultra-light and hydrating, it instantly mattifies oily skin, with a visible reduction in redness after 12 hours.

As LHA and salicylic acid slough off dead skin cells, zinc PCA helps balance excess sebum production, and niacinamide (Vitamin B3) teams up with Procerad™ and Mannose to brighten skin and help prevent the appearance of marks. It also boasts prebiotic Aqua Posae Filiformis to help restore balance to the skin microbiome. Apply morning and night, after cleansing and before sun protection.