What is Post-Inflammatory Erythema? Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
Medically reviewed by Dr Jen Haley, Dermatologist on 19 April 2020
Post-inflammatory erythema is a type of reaction that results from injury to the skin, such as acne. It is considered a type of acne scarring that persists after acne heals. More common in lighter skin tones, post-inflammatory erythema is characterised by its distinctive red, pink and purple patches.
These red patches often look similar to acne spots, except they are flat and don't have the blackheads or whiteheads that you see with acne.
A frustrating condition for many acne sufferers, post-inflammatory erythema has the habit of occurring just after you think you’ve solved your skin problems! But rest assured, post-inflammatory erythema does go away and there are ways to treat it.
What causes post-inflammatory erythema?
Often considered to be in the same category as hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory erythema is caused by injured or inflamed skin. Officially, erythema is an increase in blood flow to the area in order to heal but persists after the acne heals. It may vary in severity depending on its type and cause. Acne can damage the blood capillaries near the surface of the skin, causing flat red marks or patches to appear. These red, pink or purple patches are the main sign of post-inflammatory erythema.
Does post-inflammatory erythema go away?
Although post-inflammatory erythema is referred to as a type of acne scarring, it isn’t actually permanent.
Post-inflammatory erythema can go away on its own. However, the healing process can take a long time, leading most people to turn to the wide range of effective treatments available to speed up the journey to smooth and even skin.
It’s important to remember that, for post-inflammatory erythema to fully heal, its trigger will also need to be removed. This means looking for anything that could be causing your acne to flare up so that you can protect your skin from any reoccurrences.
How to reduce post-inflammatory erythema?
When it comes to reducing post-inflammatory erythema, you’re going to need to look out for two key ingredients - Vitamin C and Niacinamide.
Topical Vitamin C, such as a Vitamin C serum, reduces post-inflammatory erythema by encouraging collagen production, a protein responsible for your skin’s structure and vital for rebuilding healthy skin. This can help reduce the red appearance of post-inflammatory erythema, while also minimising any hyperpigmentation that you might be experiencing thanks to Vitamin C’s brightening abilities.
We recommend Murad - Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum. It's gold-stabilised Vitamin C ensures the stability and potency of Vitamin C in skin whereas Glycolic acid removes dulling surface skin cells to enhance Vitamin C delivery.
Meanwhile, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Used to prevent pimples from fully developing, as well as fading acne scars, Niacinamide is a powerful ingredient for post-inflammatory erythema treatment. It also works to smooth fine lines, which will strengthen the skin’s upper layer and help prevent future flare-ups.
We particularly love The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum, which combats blemishes, enlarged pores and uneven skin tone whilst the Zinc works to repair damaged skin and promote collagen production.
Another favourite is Medik8’s Clarity Peptides, which goes the extra mile thanks to Crystalide Peptide, helping skin cells return to their normal renewal process and smoothing over the complexion, as well as other moisture-generating ingredients.
How to prevent post-inflammatory erythema
The best way to prevent post-inflammatory erythema is to stop your acne from becoming too severe.
When your acne is under control, you’re going to notice minimal post-inflammatory erythema that is also more transient.
This means that you’re going to need to play detective and search for triggers that might be causing your acne to worsen. The moment you first notice your acne, look for:
- Lifestyle or diet changes you’ve recently made
- Allergies you could be experiencing
- A rise in recent stress levels
- Hormonal fluctuations e.g. an upcoming period
- Any other health conditions
If you’re able to, try and remove this trigger from your life. In practice, this looks like cutting out any triggering foods, managing your stress levels and talking to your doctor about any health concerns or issues.
Beyond lifestyle factors, you can also take action to treat your acne early with a skincare regimen. We find that the most effective anti-acne regimens include products with Niacinamide, as well as Retinol and Salicylic Acid. These ingredients come together to treat your acne and skin damage, whilst also preventing future breakouts.
Oh, and before we forget, try not to pick your pimples!
Not sure where to begin? We’re here to help. Get a free virtual consultation with one of our skincare experts to get started.