My Dark Spots Update: Everything I Did to Treat Them!

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I’ve written before about how I’ve been dealing with the worst hyperpigmentation I’ve had in over a decade. Here’s a little quick backstory: (you can always go back and read through if you want the full tea) so around last June I not only had a bout with adult acne which gifted me with breakouts on my chin, but I had also taken an affinity for wearing baseball caps which caused me to breakout on my forehead. As the pimples went away, they left dark spots which can take some time to fade. With certain types of over the counter treatments, it can take at least 6-8 weeks before you start to notice SOME fading. And lucky me, as the dark spots would start to fade slightly, I’d get acne in the same damn spots. And then after THAT acne went away, more dark spots came. I would get new dark spots in the same area before the old dark spots had a chance to fade. It was a vicious cycle of acne and dark spots :/

Now I didn’t intend on writing a post like this when I first got the dark spots (because I didn’t know it would keep getting worse…lol), so I wasn’t taking pictures at every point to document them. But I did do a bunch of videos and was able to get screen shots as well as some footage so you can see my progress. Please note that of course there’s going to be differences in lighting in some of these and that can affect the way the color of my skin looks. You can still of course see the dark spots because of the contrast, but understand that dark skin can look different shades depending on the lighting. Sorry if that was obvious to some of you, but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t seem to understand that :/

Before we get into my timeline and story, make sure you’ve watched my How to Get Rid of Dark Spots video below—it breaks down what dark spots are, why we get them, and various ways to get rid of them. Also check out my Hyperpigmentation category for more information and product reviews.

Watch: How to Get Rid of Dark Spots

Now let’s get into this timeline!

July 2015

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This hat set it off with the forehead acne and all the dark spots that took up residency there, too.

I believe this was just about when things started to get froggy with my skin. I had breakouts on my forehead and chin that resulted in dark spots. My first course of action was to first combat the acne. I’ve written before how adult acne cannot be tamed the way we slayed it when we were teens—you can read more in my adult acne category. So I starting using the Murad Anti-Aging Acne system twice a day for over the course of a couple of months and used it again whenever breakouts would try to clap back. If I had any persistent pimples that seemed defiant to the salicylic acid treatments I was using, I’d break out the sulfur via my Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque. I used Alpha Hydrox Spot Light Targeted Skin Lightener (the company is now called Alpha Skin Care) to help fade the dark spots but my main focus was just really getting the acne under control. It wasn’t “bad” but the breakouts kept causing more dark spots :/

And then the dark spots practically multiplied as time wore on. It went something like: pimple > pimple goes away > dark spot pops up and lives on my face for months > dark spot starts to fade > new pimple pops up in practically the same exact spot where dark spot is > new pimple goes away > dark spot appears practically right where the previous one that was starting to fade is. And then repeat :x

January 2016

getting-rid-of-hyperpigmentation

My dark spots were probably at their worst here. You can see marks on my forehead, cheek, and chin. I still had some occasional breakouts and of course the aftermath which was the dark spots. I just made sure I was consistent with my skincare routine like I always was—paying attention to changes in my skin and the weather and adjusting my skincare accordingly. You can check out my What I’m Using on My Skin series to see what I use periodically.

June 2016

how-to-get-rid-of-dark-spots

I’d gotten to a point where my acne had slowed (but of course my facial hair was still live in full effect…lol. Don’t laugh—this stuff happens post 30). I also went on a press visit to a dermatologist where I was able to buy a 5% hydroquinone dark spot treatment (your dermatologist might sell this under their own brand name, so no need for you to ask for a specific brand). Now, make sure you use any hydroquinone treatments only after you’ve done your own research about hydroquinone. Hydroquinone can be a controversial ingredient depending on what studies you read although as of my writing this the FDA has not found any evidence that it’s carcinogenic. There are alternatives like licorice root or kojic acid, but these work a little slower to treat dark spots. I wasn’t getting acne as much, just a pimple here and there. I used the dermatologist dark spot treatment diligently.

October 2016

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(My brows were filled in here, but I’m not wearing any other makeup—no foundation, no concealer, no powder—nothing)

I still have some minor dark spots but it’s a huge improvement since last year. I get the occasional breakout on my chin but my adult acne is subdued now (too bad my facial hair isn’t lol).

Now I cleared mine up for the most part at home though I did buy a topical treatment that you can only get (legally) from a licensed professional. But note that it took some time for me to get results—you will need to be patient as well as consistent with your skincare routine if you decide to go the treating at home route. Some more severe and/or older dark spots may not respond well to lower dosage, over the counter treatments and your best bet is seeing a dermatologist who may suggest a more aggressive form of treatment which could include lasers and/or prescription strength topical treatments. You’ll also likely get faster results under a dermatologist’s care.

Note: My dark spots obviously weren’t severe—they were just more than what typically happens with my skin. Some of us have skin situations that need a little more attention than others. I don’t want anyone to feel “bad” about their skin—just understand that it takes patience and consistency to remedy.

Things I Did Consistently All Throughout:

1. I wore a moisturizer with SPF every single day. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer, cloudy, partly sunny, the dead of winter, or whatever—as long as it’s day time out, you need to wear sunscreen. The sun’s rays can be just as damaging even if it’s 50 degrees below zero. You should be wearing sunscreen no matter what, but you especially need to be diligent about it when you’re treating dark spots because the ingredients in many of these ointments make your skin more sensitive to the sun. You can find some sunscreens to check out (and I’ve tested them so they won’t make you ashy or feel super heavy) in my Suncare category.

2. I follow a daytime skincare routine as well as a nighttime skincare routine. I made sure I removed my makeup and did my nighttime routine even if I tiptoed into the house at 3 A.M.

3. I made sure to pay attention to changes in my skin and alter my skincare regimen as needed. We get four seasons here in NYC so my oily skin reacts differently in each season. Not only that but we get odd bits of weather sometimes—like it can be 70 degrees one day in October, then 45 the next, then 60 and then close to 80 degrees. I make sure I check the weather before I decide which skincare to use. If it’s going to be warmer out, I break out the stuff I might use in spring or summer. If it’s going to be colder out, I make sure I reach for the more hydrating products I typically use during late fall/winter.

4. I didn’t beat myself up or lose my patience. Listen, skin stuff happens to the best of us. I still thought I was cute when I had dark spots and when I didn’t. It’s a learned practice, but practice being positive and in time you’ll catch on. But if things get unmanageable, please don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to a professional.

Also don’t forget about things in your lifestyle that you might not realize can be contributing to acne. Change your pillowcase often (especially if you use a lot of hair products—you could be getting hair product residue on your pillow and then on your face as you sleep), make sure your cell phone is wiped down regularly (a lot of people who seem to get breakouts on their cheeks get it from a dirty cell phone face), and be careful when wearing hats as they can cause breakouts on your forehead.

What did you do to treat your dark spots? Tell me in the comments!

Stay tuned to the blog all this month—it’s #NewSkinNovember! Subscribe HERE so you don’t miss a thing.

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Allure.com, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.
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6 Responses to My Dark Spots Update: Everything I Did to Treat Them!

  1. Maisha says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Hyperpigmentation is the bane of my existence and while it’s improving, makeup-free days means me being a little more self-conscience.

  2. Congratulations Danielle! Thank you for sharing your journey with us and being vulnerable. Treating dark spots is no small feat and can be sooooo frustrating! I’d love to know more about what else you would recommend lifestyle-wise to help with the dark spots – preventing pimples + hyperpigmentation in the first place as well as treating the spots.

    I say this because as a Black woman as well, I’ve battled hyperpigmentation for the longest time and the biggest game-changer to virtually eliminating pimples was lifestyle-related:
    1) Changing my diet to significantly reduce red meat, dairy, breads, alcohol and sugar. This eradicated 90% of my oiliness and hormonal acne within 2 months (face and back acne ewww). The improvement was shocking to say the least.

    2) Getting laser hair removal on my chin and neck to significantly reduce all the ingrown hairs and resulting hyperpigmentation (my clinic used the Coolglide Nd Yag laser and I’ve had FANTASTIC results in the last 18 months – one of the best decisions in my life, I’m happy to talk more about my experience and help other Black women navigate laser hair removal, I could talk about it all day!)

    3) Like you, I now have a dedicated and consistent AM and PM skincare routine. I’m currently using The Ordinary and Hylamide products from Deciem consistently and they are the bomb.com. Affordable and effective skincare FTW!

  3. cocoajanelle says:

    I actually have the same problem with new acne showing up on or near where I have dark marks. It’s so frustrating but I definitely need to be more diligent in my skincare regimen, even when it’s late and I’m tired lol

  4. Kay Smith says:

    This article will be my holy grail in getting rid of this annoying dark marks. Being 7 months pregnant these hormones have my skin acting crazy and of course I can’t use any of the great stuff to curb my issues.

    Doc do you have any recommendations on what I could be using in the interim to help my skin?

    Thanks????

    • Danielle says:

      Congrats on the baby!!!

      There are more natural alternatives you could use (just keep in mind they sometimes don’t yield results as quickly as some of the other treatments do) that you could look into (I’d make sure they aren’t something already on the list of things for pregnant women to avoid). I’d keep things as simple as possible when it comes to product usage until after you’ve had the baby (or until after you’re done nursing should you decide to). There are non-product things you should do that help to lessen the things that can cause dark spots: cleaning off your cell phone regularly, making sure your pillowcase isn’t a source of breakouts (read more here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BMh5V0mjcYg/?taken-by=stylenbeautydoc), making sure hats and other articles of clothing/accessories aren’t contributing to acne, etc. Of course these are also things to do when you aren’t pregnant.

      Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy :)

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