05/24/2017 05:26 EDT | Updated 05/25/2017 10:41 EDT

Dr. Pimple Popper Explains The Difference Between Hypo- And Hyperpigmentation

The good news is they usually aren't permanent!

While most of us are not proud to admit it, many have probably done this before.

We're getting ready to go to bed, and take a look in the mirror as we're brushing our teeth.

And there it is.

A juicy pimple in the middle of your face. And you debate whether or not you should try to pop it.

A part of you wants to give it a satisfying squeeze, but another side of you knows it's probably best to leave it alone.

Somehow, you can't resist. So you squeeze it anyways, wash your face and go to bed. But then you wake up with a discoloured mark on your skin. And the first thing you think is, "oh crap."

But what exactly are these spots? Why do they appear after you've popped a pimple, or picked at a scab or any other skin blemish? And how do we treat it, or prevent the discolouration all together? California-based dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee, who some may know best as Dr. Pimple Popper, tells HuffPost Canada everything you need to know.

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According to Dr. Lee, hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation, which are the lighter and darker marks respectfully, are most likely to arise after the skin has gone through some type of trauma — like peeling, squeezing or scratching.

"Hypopigmentation is a lack of pigmentation, meaning an area of skin has less pigmentation, and is therefore lighter in colour than corresponding skin," the internet queen of dermatology shares. "This can happen when cells in our skin which are responsible for pigment, [or] melanocytes, are damaged or destroyed, or it can occur in various skin conditions, which are usually more rare."


Lee notes we often see hypopigmentation after we tan or get a sunburn and the skin starts to peel, revealing a lighter layer underneath.

But this type of pigmentation loss is not to be confused with depigmentation, she says, which is the complete loss of colour in the skin, and occurs in people who have conditions like vitiligo.

On the other hand, hyperpigmentation, which is most likely to occur in people with darker skin tones, is when the skin produces excess melanin.

"This can be from a deep scratch or abrasion, from chronic rubbing or irritation to an area," Lee explains. "It even can be the residual seen when someone has an acne pimple that is now resolving,"


While the doctor says that these marks can negatively affect both people's physical and emotional self-esteem, especially for teens, the good news is that it's typically never a permanent "scar." And there are ways to prevent the discolouration all together.

The dermatologist recommends using acne treatments, rather than popping, to minimize pimples, as the more trauma one creates, the higher chance there is of a mark being left behind. Lee also says daily exfoliation can help get rid of superficial hyperpigmentation. But she also warns that if you overdo it, your skin could easily become red and irritated — in which case you should stop.

Another easy and affordable method to keeping an even skin tone is avoiding the sun and using sunscreen.

"There are almost always ways that you can help improve it a little at least."

"Stay out of the sun, which will make hypopigmetation more obvious and will keep hyperpigmentation darker for longer," she suggests. "Look for products that contain hydroquinone, azaleic acid, and hydroxy acids like glycolic and salicylic acids."

But if you've been dealing with skin discolouration for quite some time and aren't seeing any improvements, it may be time to see a dermatologist who can help.

"We see people with extensive distribution and dramatic colour change, but there are so many different conditions that cause this," Lee says. "Some conditions are 'fixable' and some unfortunately are not. But there are almost always ways that you can help improve it a little at least."

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