As a Black Woman, I’m Prone to Dark Spots. Here’s What Helped Heal Them

When I look at myself in the mirror, I am often plagued by the dark spots peppering my complexion. As a Black woman, the melanin and extra pigment in my skin makes me more prone to develop darker spots in response to irritation or inflammation. I’ll admit that the damage for me was caused by a pretty unfortunate habit: picking and popping my pimples. 

My acne started when I was in high school. I have cringe-worthy memories of being called “pizza face” and constant teasing. I remember my family desperately attempting anything to help clear up my skin, including trying out an array of over-the counter-acne products and making appointments for chemical peels that left me covering up with a bandana.

Throughout my adolescence and well into adulthood, my acne-prone skin fluctuated, with pimples seemingly coming and going as they pleased. It wasn’t until I decided to truly sit down, do some research on what ingredients and products would actually help my skin, and put together a comprehensive routine that, for the first time, my acne—and the lingering dark spots left behind—started to disappear.

This introspection left me with few skin lessons on what ingredients to look out for when it comes to treating acne and brightening dark spots, all while avoiding products that can have adverse effects, particularly, on Black women—like the pigment lightening agent hydroquinone or sunscreens that leave behind a white cast. Here’s what’s worked for me:

Cleanser with Salicylic Acid

First things first: Clear up my skin and stop pimples from forming. I start my routine with a cleanser containing salicylic acid, a BHA that helps clear the pore lining as well as balance excess oil production. A lot of acne cleansers can strip the skin, but I look for a non-drying formula to keep my skin feeling calm and hydrated. Keep the Peace is my go-to right now; I also sometimes use it as a mask too by leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing.

Exfoliating Facial Peel

You would think my not-so-positive experience with facial peels during my early years would’ve turned me off from them in the future, but I quickly learned that they can be extremely effective at brightening dark spots. When it comes to ingredient lists, I look for a multitasking facial peel that uses both skin-exfoliating BHAs and AHAs to treat acne and dark spots and scars. This exfoliation is key, by the way: It sloughs away the top layers of the skin to reveal the brighter, undamaged skin underneath. I like this Resurfacing Mask in particular because it contains a blend of exfoliating acids and pineapple enzymes which does all that without a sting (no bandana necessary).

Mineral SPF

One commonly held misconception is that people of color do not need to wear sunscreen. However, wearing a daily SPF protects the progress that exfoliants make and prevents new dark spots from forming. It’s also, of course, important for overall protection against harmful UV rays and skin cancer. While mineral screens can be difficult to wear for deep skin tones, the Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35, formulated by a Black woman, manages to not leave a white cast on my skin.


Acne (and dark spots) are common on the body, too. Read about another community member’s body acne journey here.