Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

The 411 on post-inflammatory Erythema and how to treat it

Because no one wants to deal with that.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Aug 31, 2022

Probably the most annoying thing about acne, apart from it occurring in the first place, is the aftermath. Your skin can sometimes take on a life of its own and produce redness or irritation where the original blemish was. The scientific term for this is called post-inflammatory erythema, often referred to as PIE. Essentially, the inflammation that naturally occurs from the acne bumps can trigger a dilation of blood vessels and vascularity. Due to this, skin can become red in appearance and feel dry. So, how do you treat post-inflammatory erythema? We got you covered below.


What is post-inflammatory erythema?

Post-inflammatory erythema manifests in the red or pink patches that stay behind as a result to the trauma caused by skin inflammation. It often happens after inflamed acne, like papules (red inflamed acne bumps), and pustules (white or yellow centered acne). This is not caused by blackheads, whiteheads, and comedonal acne. It can also vary in intensity, sometimes appearing as a faint pink color and not as large. Other times, it can be a deep red and very visible.


Unfortunately, you can get post-inflammatory erythema anywhere that acne appears. So if you have acne on your face, hairline, neck, beard, chest, back, or bum, it can occur.


How to prevent and treat post-inflammatory erythema

First, let’s talk about what exactly causes acne. When sebum (oil) and dead skin cells block hair follicles, pimples will form. When bacteria is trapped in the oil, irritation comes into play. Plus, if harsh products are used in your skincare routine that might not agree with your skin, even more irritation and redness can happen.


Of course, there are a plethora of treatments and products to use on acne, but that doesn’t mean everything should be used. Try to avoid active ingredients that disrupt the skin barrier and cause excess irritation.


To avoid post-inflammatory erythema, try to stop picking, popping, or squeezing acne. Doing so can trigger more inflammation, leading to more redness and scarring.


Laser treatments can expedite the redness and irritation disappearing by targeting the blood vessels that are contributing. It can take several sessions to achieve desired results though, so this might be the more expensive route in the long run.


Another option is pimple patches. Pimple patches can help treat and prevent PIE, especially for those that find it hard to stop picking and popping. They will protect the skin by literally blocking the area you are prone to touch. Results include reducing the redness and scarring.


There is also benzoyl peroxide, which can be found in over-the-counter acne treatments that reduce bacteria and dead skin cell buildup. Benzoyl peroxide also reduces fatty acids and releases oxygen. And since acne cannot live in an oxygen-rich environment, it is just the thing you need.


Sunscreen is paramount for any skincare routine, at any age. Not only does it protect you from the harmful elements of the UVA and UVB rays, but it also helps reduce the overall appearance of scarring and marks. More sun exposure can actually make the appearance of blemishes linger longer. So, as always, it’s best to SPF it up frequently.


Here’s how to identify and prevent other ways you might see redness showing up on the skin.


Photo via Getty