Why does acne cause dark spots on your skin?

Spots and the spots they leave behind are no fun for anyone. See more pictures of skin problems.

When it comes to acne, some of us are unluckier than others. While most people have a surge in acne during adolescence that corresponds to a surge in hormones, some continue battling acne outbreaks well into middle age. Additionally, not all acne outbreaks are equal -- for some people, it never worsens beyond small blemishes that react well to treatment, but for others, acne outbreaks can be severe and cover much of the face, neck, shoulders and back.

What causes acne, anyway? Your skin has millions and millions of hair follicles. Inside each of these hair follicles is a tiny gland called the sebaceous gland. This produces the skin's natural oil, sebum. Normally, sebum rises up out of the hair follicle, collecting dead skin cells along the way and depositing them on the surface of the skin. The mix of oil and dead skin cells forms a healthy, protective coating that helps keep your skin watertight and protects against external viruses, pollution and other unwanted substances.

Sometimes (as is the case during adolescence), the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum. Likewise, sometimes there's a higher rate of turnover of skin cells, leading to extra debris in the hair follicle. The surface of the follicle may also become covered with makeup, oils or dirt. When any (or all) of these factors occur, it can result in a blockage of oil and dead skin cells in the follicle. As these substances pile up, the follicle becomes damaged and bacteria growth explodes, leading to inflammation and swelling. And there you have it -- an acne breakout.

A number of treatments exist to get rid of acne, but even when it retreats, it can leave behind permanent signs of its visit. People who suffer from heavy acne are most likely to suffer scarring, especially if they pick at the lesion. So, not only do breakouts make the skin look bad, they can leave the skin looking bad long after acne ceases to appear. Fortunately, there are treatments to lessen or even eliminate the scarring, such as laser therapy or dermabrasion.

Beyond scarring, there's another problem people have to worry about: dark spots that form on the skin around acne blemishes. What are these dark spots? And can you get rid of them? Keep reading to find out.

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