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How to Treat Acne on Dark Skin, According to Dermatologists

Allure logo Allure 5/19/2022 Talia Gutierrez

Treating acne can be a frustrating process, especially when you're left with discoloration and scarring after the pimple is gone. "I'm a woman of color, so I understand when we get pimples, the zit will fade but that mark that's left behind is the gift that keeps on giving," says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, Mona Gohara, MD. So it's important to lay out a series of ground rules when it comes to properly treat those unwanted acne breakouts that are oh-so-tempting to touch.

This leads Dr. Gohara to rule number one: Do not pop or pick the pimple. "That just adds fuel to the fire and leads to a much higher chance of discoloration," she explains. Dr. Gohara recommends using Neutrogena Stubborn Acne AM Treatment, which is formulated with 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, as a pimple-popping alternative, to settle the inflammation and irritation. Her pro tip: Add a little cortisone cream to your spot treatment, like SLMD Skincare Super Cortisone+, which features 1 percent hydrocortisone, as well as a nourishing cocktail of vitamin E, shea butter, and aloe vera.

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Stubborn Acne AM Treatment


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Super Cortisone+


When it comes to treating acne in the morning for melanin-rich skin, Dr. Gohara recommends using a mild, non-soap cleanser so you don't irritate the skin, followed by a glycolic acid pad. "Use a glycolic pad that you can use on the face to both exfoliate and minimize marking," she advises, adding that it's one of her favorite tips.

Now onto sun protection: "Never forget to leave the house without a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher so you can minimize post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation the fancy word for brown marks on the skin from old acne marks," Dr. Gohara indicates. Some of her go-to facial sunscreens are Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, and La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Tinted Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50.

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Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30


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UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46


For your nighttime skincare routine, Dr. Gohara suggests using a gentle non-soap cleanser, followed by a "pea-sized" amount of retinol, divided among the four quadrants of the face. To be more specific: a quarter of a pea-sized amount of retinol goes on both your cheeks and chin and forehead, before rubbing the product in and applying facial moisturizer over everything.

"Retinol is key in helping increase cell turnover, reduce acne marks, prevent acne from coming out, and make the ones that you have go away more quickly," Gohara says. When it comes to retinol, Allure recommends Best of Beauty winners Inkey List Retinol Serum or Youth To The People Retinal + Niacinamide Youth Serum

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Want to learn how to treat your brown skin's acne and post-acne marks? Watch the full video here:

More acne tips and product recommendations here:

Now, watch Chlöe Bailey brown down her beauty evolution: 

Video: Samara Weaving’s Guide to Acne-Proof Skin Care and Glittering Makeup (Vogue)


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