Best products for acne scars and hyperpigmentation

·8 min read
Photo credit: Serrah Galos
Photo credit: Serrah Galos

If you are someone who enjoys popping pimples as soon as they appear (guilty!) you’ll be more than acquainted with the subsequent scarring that follows.

Unfortunately, these dark spots take months to fade and can wreak havoc on your self esteem. After all, everyone yearns after a flawless complexion. While it can affect all skin types, scarring is more prone in darker skin types because of the greater presence of melanin in the skin.

“Scarring can occur due to a number of reasons including nodular or cystic acne lesions (deep red painful bumps under the skin that do not develop a head) which cause marked inflammation in the deeper layers of the skin, as well as picking or playing with spots,” says Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at 55 Harley Street.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is when the skin is darker than the surrounding area and is caused by a number of factors, including sun exposure, hormones, injury and inflammation. Dr Mahto says those with fairer skin are more likely to develop freckles or age spots, whereas darker complexions are prone to hyperpigmentation after eczema or acne, while conditions such as melasma are more common in olive skin tones.

Medical treatments such as prescription creams, chemical peels and laser treatments can be suitable for more serious cases, while acne scarring where the skin is indented requires clinic-based treatments such as lasers or microneedling.

However, for at-home treatments, Dr Mahto suggests looking for products with ingredients such as alpha arbutin, azelaic acid, niacinamide, vitamin c, kojic acid, glycolic acid and liquorice which can be helpful in shifting pigmentation. “Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF30 during the day is also vital to prevent pigmentation getting worse and to avoid sun sensitivity which may be driven by some of these ingredients.”

Luckily for you, there are a plethora of dermatologist-approved cleansers, moisturisers, serums and treatments we’ve tried and tested that are available to use in the comfort of your homes to bring back your flawless, blemish-free, glowing skin. Just always remember to swear SPF daily.

Here are our top picks.

Bea Skincare Brightening Serum

If there’s one product we absolutely swear by and couldn’t recommend enough to virtually everyone we know who suffers from acne scarring and hyperpigmentation, it’s Bea Skincare’s Brightening Serum. Created by renowned facialist Bianca Estelle, this contains all the ingredients that directly tackle dark spots that darker complexions are often faced with. The lightweight magical mix of kojic mandelic and lactic acids reduces discolouration, speeds up skin turnover and tightens pores for a more even skin tone. When used twice daily as part of your routine like we did, say hello to bright, youthful looking skin within six weeks of usage.

 (Bea Skincare)
(Bea Skincare)

£54 | Bea Skincare

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo

Loved by many and found in most beauty editor’s makeup bags, this acne-busting treatment reduces inflammation and tackles blemishes. Its gel-like formula contains salicylic acid which gently exfoliates the skin, while the SPF30 will protect you from harmful UVA/UVB rays and blast away any risk of worsening the appearance of dark spots. Unlike most SPFs, this cream doesn’t leave a white sheen and can be worn alone or under makeup.

 (La Roche Posay)
(La Roche Posay)

£17 | La Roche-Posay

Tata Harper Clarifying Cleanser

Suitable for sensitive skin types and eco-warriors, this cleanser contains zero nasties and instead uses natural ingredients such as cassava tapioca and wild harvested mojave yucca rather than sulfates or synthetics. It’s a gentle foaming gel cleanser that targets breakouts and impurities leaving the skin feeling squeaky clean without drying out your skin. However, it can leave the skin sensitive to the sun so it’s prudent to follow with an SPF.

 (Tata Harper)
(Tata Harper)

£63 | Space NK

Allies of Skin Promise Keeper Blemish Sleeping Facial

If someone told you that you could enjoy a blemish-busting facial whilst you sleep, you wouldn’t believe them. But Allies of Skin made it possible. Promise Keeper Blemish Sleeping Facial is a leave on treatment that works to combat spots, uneven skin tone and clogged pores. The formula is enriched with manuka honey, colloidal silver, organic rosehip oil, as well as 15 antioxidants to help brighten the skin whilst you get some shut eye. You’ll wake up with a completely new and fresh complexion.

 (Allies of Skin)
(Allies of Skin)

£115 | Cult Beauty

Ultrasun Sun Protection Anti-Pigmentation Face SPF 50+

For those with hyper-sensitive skin or hyperpigmentation-prone skin (darker complexions, I’m looking at you) this is the only SPF you should be using. Formulated with illuminscin and asyntra SL, which help to protect the skin from further pigmentation, this SPF lotion can be used as a primer, moisturiser and sun cream all in one. Come rain or shine, this product is a must-have all year round.

 (Ultrasun)
(Ultrasun)

£32 | lookfantastic

Dermalogica Active Clearing AGE Bright Spot Fader

Looking for a product that directly targets your pesky spot in just one application? Look no further than this two-in-one spot treatment that reduces the appearance of breakouts and post-breakout marks. It contains salicylic acid to clear the spots, while niacinamide and hexylresorcinol work to fade the subsequent dark spots gradually improving uneven skin tone. As it comes in a really nifty stick, it makes it the perfect product to carry around with you for when you need to act quickly at the first sign of breakout. Directly apply the product to the problem area and let it work its magic.

 (Dermalogica)
(Dermalogica)

£45 | Feel Unique

Pai Skincare Andean Rosehip Oil

Rosehip Oil is known for its healing properties and its ability to promote tissue healing and regrowth. Its source of fatty acids also improve cellular development and collagen synthesis which intensely nourishes the skin. This vegan-friendly rosehip oil has been sourced via supercritical extraction (gentler than cold-pressing) and has been blended with seed oil and deep orange oil that deliver powerful antioxidants to defend against damaging environmental aggressors and tackle uneven skin tone, scarring and fine lines. Use twice daily after your serums and before your moisturiser/SPF.

 (Pai)
(Pai)

£24 | Cult Beauty

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% & Zinc 10%

The Ordinary is our go-to when we want no-nonsense, low cost skincare that promises and delivers real results. Niacinamide - also known as vitamin B3 - is the holy grail for tackling blemishes, pimples and acne scars. This lightweight serum works hard to even out skin tone whilst the 1% zinc helps to regulate the oil regulation in the skin. If you have problem skin, or even a badly behaved t-zone, wack this on twice daily as part of your routine before your moisturiser.

 (The Ordinary)
(The Ordinary)

£5 | Boots

Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Treatment

Can’t afford a clinical peel but still want professional results at home? Dr Dennis Gross Daily Peel Pads have been praised by beauty lovers and dermatologists alike for its potent and hard working formula. Containing powerful five alpha and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) and wrinkle-wrestling antioxidants (retinol, ubiquinone and resveratrol), these two-step pads work to lessen the depth of fine lines, the visibility of pores, and restores even skin tone. If you’re someone who is looking for a gentle peel that works to repair sun damage (freckles, pigmentation), this is for you and you won’t be disappointed. We love these small pads as they are super easy to transport wherever you go.

 (Dr Dennis Gross)
(Dr Dennis Gross)

£19 for 5 treatments | Cult Beauty

Paula’s Choice Clear Skin Clearing Treatment

When you’ve spotted an unfriendly neighbour on your face, there’s nothing more you want to do in that moment than scream, right? Enter this brilliant, fast-acting treatment by Paula’s Choice. Packed with azelaic acid and salicylic acid, this treatment banishes the acne-causing bacteria on the skin, while reducing the appearance of red spots, dark spots and wrinkles. Its formula is light with a velvety-matte finish and is suitable for those with sensitive skin and rosacea as well as acne-prone skin. Used twice daily, your skin will be absolutely transformed in days.

 (Paula’s Choice)
(Paula’s Choice)

£37 | Paula's Choice

Perricone No Rinse Intensive Pore Minimizing Toner

When we first used this toner, we were shocked at how quickly it shrunk our pores and now it’s our go-to. With fast acting salicylic acid and a copper complex, the formula works to gently exfoliate the top layer of your skin whilst eradicating any residue, excess oil and build up that can cause acne. After cleansing, gently glide a soaked cotton pad across your face for a hydrated and plump, pore-free complexion.

 (Perricone MD)
(Perricone MD)

£33 | QVCUK

Verdict

While all of the above products are brilliant in their own right, for those with darker skin tones, we can’t recommend Bea Skincare’s Brightening Serum enough for anyone suffering with hyperpigmentation and dark spots from acne scarring. It’s the best and most effective brightening serum on the market we’ve found when used regularly. However, if you are looking for a fast-acting treatment, we recommend Paula’s Choice Clear Skin Treatment for unpredictable pimples, The Ordinary Niacinamide serum if you’re on a budget and Ultrasun’s Anti-Pigmentation SPF30 as the a non-negotiable must-have.

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