How I've been treating my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)

PIH is a bitch. Raise your hand if you agree. If you’ve ever dealt with acne that leaves those annoying dark marks that stay for ages (read: months, sometimes even years) then you KNOW the struggle! It’s long, frustrating and emotional. But today, I wanted to share a few things that have really been helping me to fade my PIH, so if you’re in the same boat please keep reading!

I’ve been into skincare for the last 5 years and I’m still learning new things about my skin. When I went through cystic acne for the first time 5 years ago, it shook me. Up until that point, I didn’t really have proper skincare routine. My skin wasn’t perfect but I’d never dealt with bad acne before, just small comedones that were mainly on my forehead. This cystic acne showed up on around my lower cheeks and jawline and would not budge. I kept trying things and hoping it’d go away after awhile but after 5 long months, I threw in the towel and visited the derm. They prescribed me a medicated face wash, a topical cream I don’t remember the name of for the morning and Retin-A for night. That was my introduction to prescription retinioids, and I have not looked back since. I will dedicate another post just for retinoids, as it deserves its own post, but for now I’ll just say this specific skincare ingredient has been my day one since starting my skincare journey and has truly changed my skin for the better.

Fast forward to this year. I moved countries, and my skin started misbehaving again. I could blame it entirely on the hard water that plagues London and its surrounding areas but let’s be honest – I’m a hormonal woman, and I don’t handle stress well.  Fortunately, because I know much more about skin that I did years ago, I haven’t had a cystic breakout like the one I experienced 5 years ago, touch wood, but I still do battle hormonal acne from time to time.  Around January or February, it starting popping up on my chin, a new area for me. It took about a couple of months to totally clear that up, and it left horrible dark pigmentation. Then, just before summer, I started getting hormonal acne in the usual spots, and that took another month or two to treat. I’ve now managed to keep my acne at bay since then (with the occasional spot here and there), and I’ve spent the last few months focusing all my efforts on fading the PIH. It’s now almost gone entirely, and I’ve seen a drastic improvement in the last few weeks.

Listed below is everything I’ve been using regularly that I believe has helped tremendously to fade my post acne marks as well as helped to prevent further breakouts. FYI, these are what have specifically worked for my combination/oily skin, and what works for me, may or may not work for you!

Vitamin A/Retinoids/Tretinoin

Obviously the first ingredient I mention has to be my number 1, ride or die! I’ve now been using the highest strength, 0.1%, for the last 2 years, and the one I’m using at the moment is from Dermatica. I absolutely love this one because the texture is smooth and sinks right in. I use this every night or every other night  depending on how my skin feels (I’m a seasoned Retin-A user, so my skin can handle this!).

Acids (AHA, BHA, PHA, Lactic)

After retinoids, acids have made the biggest change in my skin this year. I tend to use acids about 3-4 times a week. I’m a big fan of acid toners and some of the ones I like are BEAUTYPIE's Dr. Glycolic Glow Toner, Jane Scrivner’s Skinfoliate and Pixi’s Glow Tonic. For treatment serums, I like Good Genes By Sunday Riley, Time Bomb Throwback Thursday and the BEAUTYPIE Micropeeling Super Drops. I also really rate the Alex Steinherr x Primark exfoliating peel pads, which are very gentle and contain both lactic acid and PHA. As of late, I like to use acids in the morning and tretinoin at night, and let me tell you, this is some serious exfoliation! (Not for the faint hearted - I don’t recommend this unless you’re experienced with acids and/or retinoids)

 Niacinamide

I only started using niacinamide this year, and boy am I sad I only just discovered it. At first I wasn’t convinced it was actually doing anything but then I ruined my skin barrier twice, and this came in clutch with soothing and healing my skin. It’s also a great product to layer with active ingredients that can irritate the skin, and I find it pairs really well with acids and tretinoin. I now use niacinamide every day, and have no plans to stop. I just recently finished Super Pure by Glossier*, and now I am using the Good Molecules Niacinamide Texture and Pore Refining Set*.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

I’ve been using HA a lot more consistently lately, as my skin is more prone to dryness from the chemical exfoliation. I try to use HA every day or other day, and I like to layer it after my active ingredient. On days when I don’t use any actives, I use HA twice a day to really help my skin to recover and hydrate. I’m currently rotating between BEAUTYPIE’s Triple HA + Peptide Serum, Glossier Super Bounce*, Comme Deux’s #Yellowdrops* and The Ordinary’s HA 2% + B5.

Vitamin C

Now, this one is a bit tricky because I don’t actually know if Vitamin C is making a difference to my skin, if it’s the products above or a combination of everything. But I thought it was necessary to mention as I’ve been using it a lot more in the last months. I am still trying to find THE one, which might take awhile but right now I’m using Glossier Super Glow*and I’ve also tried the BEAUTYPIE Superactive Capsules Pure Double Vitamin C and E Serum

SPF

Probably the most important in all of this is SPF! SPF is crucial for everyone, regardless of age or skin color, but especially if you’ve got PIH. Daily sun protection helps to protect your skin from UV light which can increase melanin production and darken pigmentation. I’m currently using Glo Skin Beauty Oil Free SPF 40+ which I absolutely love, and another favorite is the EltaMD UV Broad-Spectrum SPF 46.

As you can see from the images above, I still have a tiny bit of PIH left. These images show my right side, which for some reason happens to be my worst side in terms of breakouts. But, that aside I am very pleased with how my skin’s been looking lately! Once I manage to clear it up completely, I’ll be focusing on radiance and brightening, and will of course share my experiences.   

I hope that was helpful, and if you’re someone battling PIH, just know you are not alone and there is a light at the end of the tunnel! As with anything in skincare, you just have to find what works for you. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask in the comment section down below!

Iman x

*gifted by the brand