Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH for short) can be very distressing but is it actually dangerous?
What is PIH?
Hyperpigmentation is caused when melanin, the pigment that colours skin, is deposited deep in the skin leaving a darker or discoloured area. It’s caused by some kind of trauma or injury to the skin; in the case of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation this is usually a flare up of acne, eczema or other inflammatory condition.
What does it look like?
PIH can appear very differently on different people’s skin. On dark skin, it can look dark brown, black or deep purple; on pale skin, it can be red or brown. People of colour are disproportionately affected by hyperpigmentation. Appearance of PIH ranges from very small spots, to bigger blotches, and much wider areas of discoloured skin.
Is PIH dangerous?
The quick answer is that no, it is not dangerous. It is simply pigmented skin that will generally fade away eventually. However, it is true that post-inflammatory inflammation, particularly persistent patches, can have a significant effect on people’s self-image and self-consciousness. That can be serious and require support from a counsellor and/or a dermatologist.
Problems arising from PIH
An important point to make is that having PIH can lead people to seek help from unqualified therapists and try out dangerous at-home treatments. Skin-lightening creams and treatments must be approached with extreme caution because they can result in further damage to the skin. Always make sure your dermatologist is accredited and that you know the risks and benefits of any treatment offered, whether it’s laser therapy or powerful creams.
In most cases of mild PIH it is sensible to look after your skin carefully, using safe natural creams that will reduce the risk of further inflammation and keep your skin in good, well-nourished condition.
For more information about caring for skin affected by PIH, see our article How To Get Rid Of Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation.
Balmonds Skin Salvation to look after inflamed skin during an inflammatory flare
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream for daily maintenance of dry or sensitive skin
Balmonds Rosehip Scar Oil for long-term application to improve the appearance of uneven or hyperpigmented skin tone
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.