Treating acne isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. There are, of course, different degrees of severity. Skin types and complexions also need to be taken into consideration. Most with skin of color, the term used by the American Academy of Dermatology to describe everyone of African, Asian, Latino, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Native American descent, share some common concerns when it comes to clearing acne, like those dark spots that can appear once the acne’s gone. These are a few tips to help with clearing acne—and the dark spots associated with it—designed specifically for those of us with darker skin tones.
Start treatment sooner rather than later
Those dark spots, along with keloids, a type of raised scar, become far more likely the more severe your acne becomes. Lots of studies also show that treating acne at its onset can prevent it from worsening. You don’t necessarily need to see a dermatologist right away, though. There are plenty of effective over-the-counter products available.
Use a product that’s right for your skin type
Not every over-the-counter acne treatment is a good fit for darker skin tones. To treat mild acne, look for products that contain one or more of the following ingredients:
- A retinoid and benzoyl peroxide. This combination’s proven to be very effective in clearing up skin of color. The retinoid helps unclog pores and reduce inflammation. It will also clear pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads and prevent new breakouts. The benzoyl peroxide removes the bacteria that causes acne. It doesn’t cause light spots. That’s a myth. Though it can irritate your skin. So start with a product that contains 2.5% benzoyl peroxide.
- Salicylic acid. It unclogs pores and prevents new breakouts.
- Retinol. It unclogs pores and fades dark spots.
Treat the acne and the dark spots
The tendency, once dark spots begin to appear, is to treat them instead of the acne because dark spots can last much longer than acne. But it’s important to not neglect the acne. When you clear the acne, you’ll eliminate the source of the dark spots. So, treat both at the same time.
Use non-comedogenic skincare products
Cocoa butter and shea butter contain oil. When applied to your face, back, or chest, they can clog your pores, and clogged pores can lead to breakouts. Instead, look for skincare products labelled non-comedogenic. The term means they’re formulated for sensitive and acne-prone skin. (And for the record, there’s no evidence that cocoa butter can even out your skin tone. But it can cause acne.)
Avoid covering up dark spots with heavy makeup
While heavy, oily makeup may hide your dark spots from discerning eyes, it’s also causing new blemishes. In other words, you’re fueling the vicious cycle. Instead, opt for a lighter mineral makeup or a non-comedogenic concealer.
When in doubt, see a dermatologist
Chemical peels and microdermabrasion can be an effective acne treatment, but the at-home versions tend to do more harm than good, causing side effects like permanent dark spots and light spots. Before trying anything like that, talk to a dermatologist first. It’s also worth scheduling an appointment if you’ve been self-treating your acne for a few weeks and haven’t made much progress. Virtually every case of acne and most dark spots can be successfully treated with a dermatologist’s help.