Derm Day With Dr. Michelle Henry: How To Treat Hyperpigmentation At Home

Published: August 06 2020 & Updated: January 25 2021
Derm Day With Dr. Michelle Henry: How To Treat Hyperpigmentation At Home
Welcome to Derm Day, a regular column where we talk with the best dermatologists in the acne biz about all things breakouts - the good (but wait, is there anything good?), the bad and the ugly.

Today’s installment features Dr. Michelle Henry, a top NYC dermatologist, who is sharing her advice on how to treat/manage hyperpigmentation & acne on melanin-rich skin.

To start off, can you share with us some of the struggles you see with patients that have darker skin?

Acne on darker complexions really presents itself like acne on all skin types: with pustules, pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. The difference is that with darker skin tones you may not see the redness as much, however what you will see is hyperpigmentation...we actually see hyperpigmentation even more on darker skin.

What exactly is hyperpigmentation? And why does it present itself more on darker skin tones?

Hyperpigmentation is that temporary dark spot or pigmentation that is caused by any trauma to the skin. It can be an acne cyst, a burn, a pimple, a bug bite - and in darker skin types it lasts even longer.

Hyperpigmentation is more intense in darker skin than lighter skin because there is more pigment present. When there is inflammation or trauma, there is more melanin to leak out of those cells and create hyperpigmentation. It is a big problem for patients of color - we are always looking for ingredients to treat it because it often lasts longer than the acne itself.

What are the best ways to treat it?

I use a lot of topical products to help to treat both acne and hyperpigmentation. I am a huge fan of exfoliation, you guys if you follow me you have heard me talk poetically about exfoliation in the past - I love both physical and chemical exfoliants.

Physical exfoliants are manual, they are beads that can help to exfoliate the skin: things like your clarisonic or your Buf-Puf which exfoliates manually.

Chemical exfoliants are just that, chemical: things like Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid and Mandelic acid.

What are your favorite ingredients to treat it?

I am a fan of certain ingredients to help treat the acne and lighten any hyperpigmentation: Retinol, Niacinamide, and Vitamin C is a big one. You guys have heard me talk about Vitamin C time and time again.

I also like Zinc, which is an anti-inflammatory. And it’s really critical to think about that when you’re treating your acne because that PIH, or Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, can last far beyond your acne cyst.

Is there a question from patients you always seem to get?

A question patients always ask me is: “what’s the difference between hyperpigmentation (or PIH), and an acne scar?”

Oftentimes, my patients will use them interchangeably but they are actually quite different. An acne scar is more than just pigmentation, it is actually a textural change - you can feel them even when your eyes are closed, they are little divots in the skin or areas where the collagen has been destroyed by a longstanding acne cyst.

Last question! What’s your favorite Peace Out Skincare product?

Acne Serum! I love that it's a serum and meant to be used all over the face which means that not only does it treat the acne that you have but it also prevents any additional acne breakouts.

It has Salicylic Acid which we all know is an ingredient that we’ve used for years and years, and it not only is quite effective against acne, but it also has Vitamin C to help treat the hyperpigmentation plus it has Niacinamide to help soothe the skin and treat the inflammation. It also has Zinc which we know is soothing and has protective qualities on the skin. So this combination is really nice and easy to use.

You put it on twice a day, again it's in an elegant serum so it's going to be spreadable and you can layer your creams on top of it. But although it's nice and spreadable and easy and elegant, it's still powerful so it will be treating not only the acne, but also your hyperpigmentation.

Interested in visiting Dr. Henry IRL? Check out


About The Expert:

Dr. Michelle Henry is a Harvard trained Mohs surgeon. She is a board-certified dermatologist. She is currently a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. She practices Mohs micrographic, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Dr. Henry attended medical school at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and completed her residency in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where she served as Chief Resident. Following residency, she completed a fellowship in cutaneous oncology, Mohs micrographic and reconstructive surgery with the Harvard Medical School Department of Dermatology at the Lahey Clinic in Boston, Massachusetts. She specializes in high risk skin cancer treatments, Aesthetic Surgery, and Skin of Color.

Also check out “The Difference Between Peace Out Pores & Traditional Pore Strips”, “How To Use Acne Patches”, & “Maskne Skincare Essentials

Tags:  Acne Champs
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