You have this patch of dark mark that occurred after a botched IPL clinic procedure. So you go to your dermatologist and she tells you it’s some kind of PIH. You ask her, “What’s a PIH?” The doctor’s reply makes you even more worried. "Oh, it’s short for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.” What you thought to be a minor burn mark sounds like a very serious concern.
So what really is PIH? When skin is injured, or inflamed, the healing process can turbo boost the production of more pigmentation. The injured spots become darker. Now, you see the connection. PIH refers to darkening of affected skin after the inflammation has gone away.
Common examples are dark marks from improper acne pricking, and astringent burns made worse by sun exposure. Aside from the face, what other body parts are prone to PIH? Underarms! Many have dark underarms due to antiperspirant use. Also, elbows and knees. They become dark with constant skin trauma from friction.
Anyone can get PIH. However, if you have darker skin, you will have higher tendency to suffer from PIH than those with light skin. Those dark spots will eventually fade by themselves. This may take up to two years, though.
Your dermatologist can explain to you various treatment options to hasten the departure of dark marks. Topical treatment with skin lightening creams can be the most cost-effective option. Exfoliants like DERMAX Retinol C serum help produce faster lightening.
Topical cortisone cream should be applied only with medical supervision. Prolonged use can worsen PIH.
Diamond peel and chemical peels containing either glycolic acid or TCA are clinic procedures that will strip away the topmost skin layer to reveal fresher, lighter skin.
Old discolorations and scars can be successfully treated with more radical procedures like collagenesis (dermaroller) and fractional laser therapy.
With time and the proper treatment, those dark spots will eventually fade away. One thing is a must, though. You have to avoid unnecessary sun exposure. Be sure to have daily sun protection that fits your skin condition, from the DERMAX UV line of sunscreens.
This column was published in the Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section on July 8, 2014 . The author is the CEO of SkinStation. He received the 2011 Outstanding Chemist Award from Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) for his achievements in the field of cosmetic chemistry. Skin Smart aims to clarify facts and myths on skin care. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.