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How To Treat Acne on Dark Skin

Acne on dark skin can leave long-term discoloration marks. Learn what you can do to prevent acne scars and discover the best treatments.

By SunsolveMD Team | 8 Min. Read

January 5, 2023

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that can affect people of all ages and skin tones, but it can sometimes be more difficult to treat on darker than lighter skin tones. This is because dark skin can be more prone to dark spots, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Dark skin can also be more sensitive to specific acne treatments, so it's essential to be careful when choosing the proper treatment for your skin.

Acne scars result from an inflammatory response in the skin when acne has gone untreated or been picked at or scratched. Acne scars can range from small depressions in the skin to deeper, more noticeable indentations or raised bumps. They form during the healing process of acne when the skin repairs itself from the inflammation caused by the blemish. During the healing process, the body produces more collagen, which can cause the skin to become raised and form a scar. Sometimes, the body does not have enough collagen to fill in the hole left by the acne blemish, which can result in a depressed or pitted acne scar.

The most common type of acne scar is a "rolling" scar, causing a depressed area in the skin caused by a break in the collagen fibers underneath the skin. Rolling scars can be challenging to treat, as they often require laser treatments or dermabrasion to reduce the appearance of the scar. The second most common type of acne scar is an "ice pick" scar, which is a deep, narrow indentation in the skin. "Ice pick" scars can be treated with punch excision, which involves removing and replacing the scar with a tissue graft.

Keep reading to learn what you can do to prevent acne scars and the best treatments for those annoying, popping blemishes.

Acne and darker skin

The first step in treating dark skin acne is establishing a good skincare routine. This routine should include gentle cleansing with a noncomedogenic cleanser, followed by applying a moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated. It's essential to use products specifically designed for dark skin, as this will help reduce the risk of irritation.

Black skin contains more melanin, which means it has a natural sun protection barrier and shows signs of sun damage more slowly. However, more melanin also means there's a bigger risk of developing uneven spots that may be darker or lighter than the skin around it. Since black skin is thicker and has more collagen, it is more resistant to wrinkles and aging. But being so collagen rich leaves it more vulnerable to scarring.

How do I treat acne on dark skin?

Treating acne on darker skin can be a frustrating process since scarring caused by acne can leave long-term discoloration marks. So it it essential to establish the right skincare routine to prevent new acne from forming and minimize the possibility of scarring. Be careful with sun exposure and use sunscreen daily as oily and acne-prone skin can become more hyperpigmented or discolored in reaction to UV rays. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher for your face.

Over-the-counter topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be effective, but it's essential to use them in low concentrations to prevent irritation.

For more severe cases, your dermatologist may prescribe topical retinoids, antibiotics, or other medications.

First, we are going to take a look at the most common topical treatments available:

Benzoyl Peroxide

This chemical compound works as a keratolytic agent, meaning it helps to break down cells in the skin, which in turn helps to reduce the amount of oil produced. This is beneficial to those suffering from acne as it can help to reduce the number of blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Benzoyl Peroxide is available in various forms, including creams, lotions, gels, and cleansers. It is typically applied directly to the affected area in a thin layer and left on overnight or for several hours during the day. Benzoyl Peroxide can cause skin irritation, so starting with a small amount is important and increasing it gradually as your skin becomes accustomed to it. Patience is the key here as it can take up to 3 or 4 weeks to see desired results. One of the main benefits of Benzoyl Peroxide is that it is a safe and effective treatment for acne with minimal side effects

Topical retinoids

Derived from Vitamin A, they work by normalizing the skin cells - reducing inflammation and unclogging pores. The most common topical retinoid is tretinoin, which is available in cream, gel, or liquid form. Like Benzoyl Peroxide, topical retinoids can take up to 12 weeks to show results. They are best applied at night after cleansing the affected area with a mild cleanser.

Topical antibiotics

May help kill bacterial growth on the skin. This is important because bacteria can contribute to acne by increasing inflammation and triggering an immune response. By reducing the number of bacteria on the skin, topical antibiotics can reduce the severity of acne. The British association of Dermatologists recommends salicylic acid, azelaic acid, and nicotinamide.

Topical antibiotics are available in various forms, including creams, gels, lotions, and ointments. They come in over-the-counter and prescription strengths, depending on the severity of the acne. Over-the-counter topical antibiotics are typically milder than prescription antibiotics and are often used to treat mild to moderate acne. Prescription antibiotics are generally more powerful and are used to treat more severe cases of acne. When using topical antibiotics, it is essential to follow the instructions provided by your dermatologist.

Oral medication: one of the most widely used oral medications for acne is isotretinoin. It is a powerful drug that reduces the amount of oil produced by the sebaceous glands, which is the primary cause of acne. Isotretinoin is usually prescribed for those with more severe cases of acne, as it is a powerful drug and can cause serious side effects.

In addition to antibiotics, other oral medications can be used to treat acne. Hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, can help balance hormones and reduce the severity of acne breakouts.

While many of these medications can effectively reduce acne, they can also cause serious side effects, such as congenital disabilities and liver damage. Before taking any oral medications for acne, you must speak with your dermatologist to discuss the potential benefits and risks.

How do I prevent acne?

  • Do not pick, pop, or squeeze pimples as that adds the fuel and increases the risk of scarring and infection.
  • Clean your face daily with a mild, water-based skin cleanser
  • Choose products labeled "noncomedogenic," which means that they will not clog pores.
  • Add a tiny drop of retinol to your nighttime skincare routine
  • Avoid touching your face and wash your hands if you need to
  • Remember to remove makeup before going to sleep.

Can a balanced diet help acne?

Eating a balanced diet helps keep the skin healthy and reduces inflammation, which can lead to fewer breakouts. We all our different, and you may need to run a few trials to discover what works best for you. Eating various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats will provide essential vitamins and minerals for skin health. Fruits and vegetables are essential for providing antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and protect skin from free radical damage. Eating a balanced diet can also help regulate hormones, which can help reduce the severity of acne.

Why is daily use of SPF important for acne?

A sunscreen is a vital tool in the fight against acne as the UV rays are especially harmful if you have sensitive skin and can lead to more breakouts, blackheads, and redness. Choose a sunscreen with calming ingredients such as zinc and lactic acid that soothe the skin and regulate the appearance of blemishes. Using sunscreen can help keep your skin healthy, reduce acne, and prevent scars from getting worse.

Why is mineral SPF the best choice?

When applying sunscreen to acne-prone skin the safest option is to choose a formula that will protect your face without irritating the skin. Mineral sunscreens are a better option as they include zinc oxide on the skin's surface, acting as a physical barrier against the sun's rays. Studies have shown that zinc is an inherently anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial ingredient and can help fight acne-causing bacteria and soothe inflammation.

Scientists and dermatologists behind SunsolveMD have worked together to develop unique SPF 50 mineral sunscreen formulations that are lightweight and don't leave a white residue.

SunsolveMD Anti-Acne Mineral Serum SPF50 rebalances oily skin and significantly minimizes the appearance of clogged pores, all while offering powerful UV-protection. It features an anti-sebum, anti-keratinization, anti-inflammation ingredient complex alongside the patent-pending SunsolveMD skin barrier reinforcing base complex, leaving the skin feeling rebalanced, calmed, and visibly clearer from blemishes over time.

SunsolveMD SebumFix Complex TM: patented complex that triple-targets keratinization, bacteria, and inflammation for clearer, blemish-free skin.

SunsolveMD Cera-Soother Technology TM: patented anti-inflammation technology designed to soothe the skin's barrier at the lipid level.

SunsolveMD SolveDNAReverseTM: reverses DNA photo sun damage powered by a complex repair enzyme.

All SunsolveMD products contain only good-to-skin benefits:

  • non-nano zinc oxide mineral base
  • Reef safe
  • Noncomedogenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Paraben free
  • Palm oil free

Remember that acne scars are an annoyance shared by many but are very treatable. With enough patience and an effective skincare plan, you don't need to be stuck with them forever. Improvements take time, and the good news is that there are many treatment options for you to try out until you find the method that works best for you.


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Darla Burke and Steph Coelho, Everything You Want to Know About Acne, February 23, 2022,

James Q. Del Rosso, DO,Michael Gold, MD, PhD, Maria José Rueda, Warren J. Winkelman, MD, Safety, and Subject Satisfaction of a Specified Skin Care Regimen to Cleanse, Medicate, Moisturize, and Protect the Skin of Patients Under Treatment for Acne Vulgaris, 2015 Jan,

Goodman G. Cleansing and moisturizing in acne patients. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2009,




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