Hours in front of the makeup mirror, be gone—those dark, deeply pigmented scars from poorly healed wounds don’t have to extend your concealer routine for the months or years they take to fade. After injury or irritation, skin inflammation triggers an explosion of pigment production. All this color lingers in the area long after wounds heal, creating darker sections of skin and drawing unwanted attention to your scars. While there’s no overnight cure, there are ways to minimize dark scarring given time and the right treatment.
1. Sunscreen and Moisturizers
Although you can’t go back in time to prevent your scars, a combination of topical creams, peels and sunscreens can help them fade more quickly. UV light can darken scars in all skin types, so sun avoidance is a must to prevent further darkening. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every time you go outdoors, or wear clothing over your scars. Hang out in the shade when you’re outside, and never go tanning on purpose. Some natural products, like vitamin C, soy and licorice extract, can help fade your scars. Over-the-counter moisturizers, especially those that boast lightening or skin-brightening effects, may contain these ingredients.
2. Medicated Creams
Creams and moisturizers can also contain stronger treatments that help fade dark marks, like hydroquinone. You can get hydroquinone creams over the counter in 2 to 4 percent concentrations. Sometimes creams also contain pigment-fading retinoids, antioxidants, niacin, glycolic acid, azelaic acid and kojic acid for a combination approach. Prescription-strength versions of hydroquinone may be necessary for extreme dark scarring. However, these creams can also cause irritation and further darkening in some people and can sometimes make skin lighter than intended. When using prescription-strength creams, people with darker skin should consult a professional before using. Sun exposure after cream use can cause bumps and further darkening. Retinoids can cause skin irritation or rashes, particularly in dark-skinned people.
3. Chemical Peels
Superficial chemical peels with glycolic or salicylic acid, performed by a dermatologist, work on most skin types and can make dark spots look lighter by dispersing the extra pigment and disrupting pigment-creating cell activity. There are different levels of peels depending on how deep your scarring is. From superficial, medium to deep, consult a doctor when determining what strength is right for you.
4. Laser Therapy
If topical creams, or peels, haven’t faded your dark scars enough for your liking, talk to your dermatologist about your different options for laser therapy. These therapies work to improve your skin in texture and appearance, and offer minimal recovery time for more cosmetic procedures.
This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.