A retrospective analysis of the management of acne post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation using topical treatment, laser treatment, or combination topical and laser treatments in oriental patients

Lasers Surg Med. 2011 Jan;43(1):1-7. doi: 10.1002/lsm.21010.


Background: Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is characterized by an acquired increase in pigmentation secondary to an inflammatory process, and is a commonly observed response to cutaneous injury in Fitzpatrick types III-VI patients.

Objectives: To determine the effectiveness and safety of using topical treatment, laser treatment, or combination topical and laser treatments to treat acne PIH in Oriental patients.

Methods: This is a retrospective study of 34 randomly selected Chinese patients with acne PIH. They were divided into three groups, and treated with topical agents, 595 nm long pulsed dye laser and/or 1064 nm Q-switched Nd:YAG, or combination topical and laser treatments. An independent clinician assessed pre- and post-treatment photographs to determine efficacy and timing to visible and optimum improvement.

Results: There was significant global and focal improvement of acne PIH in patients in all three groups. However, no significant difference was found between the groups. An investigator global assessment showed improvement with all treatment modalities, with 70.6% moderate to marked improvement seen in the combination treatment group, compared to 55.6% in the laser only group, and 50% in the topical treatment only group. Visible and optimum improvement was seen by 3 months in majority of patients treated. One patient developed PIH as a result of laser treatment.

Conclusion: Topical treatment, laser therapy, and combination topical and laser treatments all appear to be effective management strategies for acne PIH in Fitzpatrick types III and IV skin with little complications. Topical agents may be considered as first-line therapy for acne PIH, taking into consideration its effectiveness, ease of use and cost. Combined topical and laser therapy is also effective, and may be considered as second-line treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / complications*
  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • China
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Dermatitis / complications
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperpigmentation / etiology*
  • Hyperpigmentation / therapy*
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Dermatologic Agents