We tried six products for blemishes, and here are the results after two weeks
Getting breakouts can be annoying but dealing with its hyperpigmented aftermath is the real headache!
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, happens when injury or inflammation causes increased pigment production on the injured part of the skin. PIH is characterized by flat, red, brown, or even black spots on the skin, and can occur in different parts of the body. One of the common causes of these dark spots is acne, but you can also get it from other skin injuries like psoriasis or burns.
PIH will fade away eventually as your skin heals and regenerates. Sometimes though, it can take months or longer for them to completely disappear. You can cover them up with concealer, but if you're looking for a more permanent solution that erases these flaws, these three skincare ingredients are the way to go! We tested out six products over a span of two weeks to see how well each worked!
Vitamin C is a popular antioxidant for its many skin benefits. It blocks some of the damage caused by free radicals, thus making it effective in fighting off signs of aging due to sun exposure. It helps in collagen production, and is also effective against hyperpigmentation and inflammation. Topical vitamin C can be unstable, so when choosing a product, it's usually best to pick one packaged in opaque containers that minimize its exposure to elements.
Both Claire and I tested out vitamin C treatments. For my oily, acne-prone skin with PIH mostly on my cheeks, I tested out the TIA’M My Signature Red Serum (P995 for 30ml) since I knew I needed a powerful treatment to fade months of PIH. Claire on the other hand, having combination-reactive skin, opted to try the gentler Purito Pure Vitamin C Serum (P850 for 60ml).
The TIA’M My Signature Red Serum claims to have 20% ascorbic acid, and is mixed with vitamin B12 as a soothing agent and glutathione to brighten skin. It has a strawberry-red color due to the vitamin B12, and has a watery-gel consistency that feels slightly tacky upon application. It has a slightly unpleasant burnt orange smell that fades away soon after application. I applied 2-3 drops twice a day as per box instructions.
I noticed that it made new acne heal faster, and my skin tone evened out a lot just from the first week alone! Some of my old PIH on my cheeks lightened up a bit, but it will probably take more time for them to completely fade away. Keep in mind that it will not help prevent pimples, and can sting a bit on open wounds. This product also has Niacinamide high up in the ingredients list, which I believe also contributed a lot in brightening up my skin.
Claire also reports good results with the Purito Pure Vitamin C Serum. Her hyperpigmentation noticeably lessened, and she felt her skin to be firmer, smoother, and less oily. She experienced some stinging during the first few days of usage, but it may be due to applying too much product. Since she has sensitive skin, she adjusted application from using twice a day, to just every night. She really likes the serum because it did a good job of fading her PIH, plus it also works as a good anti-aging product.
Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, is an effective skin-restoring ingredient. It can reduce the appearance of large pores, brighten skin tone, and address signs of aging such as fine lines and a weak skin surface. One of its advantages is its stability under different conditions like heat, light, and moisture.
Stacie’s skin is currently dry and acne-prone, and she has PIH all over her face, notably on her forehead and inner cheeks. She chose to test the Neogen Vita Lightening Serum (P1,650 for 85ml) as it was marketed as a vitamin C serum with hyaluronic acid for moisturizing skin. On the other hand, Marielle has dry-combination skin with PIH on her chin and the sides of her nose. Her previous experience with niacinamide gave her dry patches but the 92% galactomyces ferment filtrate in Purito’s Galacto Niacin 97 Power Essence (P1,200 for 60ml) convinced her to give the ingredient another shot.
The Neogen Vita Lightening Serum smells like crushed vitamin C tablets and has a slightly viscous yet still watery consistency. Stacie reported that the serum absorbed quickly and left a slightly tacky feel on her skin, which faded away soon after.
After two weeks of use, Stacie noticed an improvement on the discoloration and they seemed to fade faster since she started using the serum. Since she got her period during week 2, she broke out on her cheeks. The serum may not have prevented the acne, but helped to heal active ones. Her complexion also looks brighter overall.
After checking the ingredients list, we found that this serum listed niacinamide way higher than vitamin C. We think that it may be the real reason for Stacie’s brighter and more even toned skin so we're crediting niacinamide for this win!
During Marielle’s trial period with the Purito Galacto Niacin 97 Power Essence, she immediately found it to be more of a hydrating product rather than a lightening one. It has no distinctive scent, gets absorbed by the skin in a minute, and has that telltale humectant tacky feeling that she always experienced with yeast toners/essences.
It helps to keep her skin stay hydrated, though she makes sure to follow up application with her usual hydrating serum and moisturizer. She did not experience any irritation or purging, and she observed a slight lightening of the dark spots on her chin and near her nose. She found the hydrating galactomyces to be a great partner for the niacinamide, as it offsets any drying effects from the latter.
We’ve delved a lot into acids, including which type of acid is needed for different skin issues. For hyperpigmentation, Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs are usually the best way to go. This type of acid works by exfoliating the skin’s surface and reducing the appearance of flaws in color and texture.
There are many types of AHAs, but glycolic acid is most favored by dermatologists because it can penetrate deeper into the skin layers to trigger collagen reproduction, and even out skin tone.
Kim struggles with oily, acne-prone skin, and has PIH around her forehead and cheeks. Since she is already familiar with acids, she stopped using all other actives in her routine to test the CosRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid (P900 for 100ml). Crystal also depends a lot on her actives to keep her extremely oily skin at bay. Her PIH is usually on her jawline, and she has some scattered around her face. She also stopped using other actives in her routine to better observe the effects of the TIA’M Aura Milk Face Peeling Toner (P1,300 for 120ml) on her skin.
The CosRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid has a viscous consistency closer to that of a light essence than a toner, and smells faintly of alcohol. It stings slightly for about five seconds or so but Kim did not experience any peeling with this. She used the AHA twice to thrice a week as per box instructions, and left it on for 15 minutes before proceeding with the rest of her skincare.
Kim has yet to observe improvements with her PIH. Her skin also felt more clogged, her blackheads came back after being gone for so long, and the AHA did not help to control her acne. Kim has resumed her usual routine with the addition of the AHA to see if it will work better with other products.
Crystal’s test product, the TIA’M Aura Milk Peeling Toner, had a faint chemical smell, and has a milky texture. While the instructions stated to use this with a cotton pad, she opted to apply using her hands instead as it helps conserve product. There's mild stinging upon application, and it makes her skin feel a bit taut. It also doesn't completely dry down and sits a little bit on top of her skin. Surprisingly, she did not experience any peeling despite the name!
Crystal had similar yet overall better results than Kim with this toner. She noticed dark spots fading by the first week, and by the second week, the blemishes had faded so much that she doesn’t use concealer anymore. However, there are still spots on the side of her face that did not fade as much, and she also found her skin was not as smooth and looked clogged. While she liked these results, she also feels the need to use other actives to address pore clogging and texture.
These are just three skincare ingredients to look for when treating dark spots. Skincare with actives are more potent than regular products so make sure to use them correctly and to wear sunscreen! All products are available from The Skincare Curator.
How do you deal with PIH? Have you tried any these treatments? Which active are you most interested to use? Make sure to leave a comment below!
Sources: The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology; The Australasian College of Dermatologists; Micronutrient Information Center at Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University; Paula’s Choice
Product photography by Denise Bengzon