Skin of Color

Managing Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation in Pediatric Patients With Skin of Color

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Skin Lightening Treatments

Although the most important therapy for PIH is to treat the underlying inflammatory conditions, some parents/guardians may desire additional options due to the extent of involvement of the PIH, its psychological impact on the child, or adverse effect on the child’s quality of life.14 In adolescents, incorporating an α-hydroxy acid–based cleanser, glycolic acid chemical peels, salicylic acid chemical peels, and topical cosmeceuticals may be warranted in the setting of intense PIH and acne. However, irritation may lead to further dyspigmentation.

Topical ammonium lactate 12% is lactic acid neutralized with ammonium hydroxide that is formulated as a lotion or a cream. It is used to hydrate dry skin and may decrease corneocyte cohesion.15 Topical ammonium lactate also has been used anecdotally for PIH on the body during periods of watchful waiting.

Topical hydroquinone, the gold standard for treating hyperpigmentation,3,16 is not approved in children, but some parents/guardians elect to utilize hydroquinone off label to accelerate the clearing of distressing PIH in adolescents. Careful consideration including a discussion of potential risks and alternatives (eg, watchful waiting) should be highlighted.

In the setting of chronic inflammatory conditions that recur and remit, potentially irritating topical treatments should be used only during periods when symptoms of inflammation such as itching or erythema are absent.


Despite the best management efforts, PIH in some patients with skin of color may be present for months to years. In the pediatric skin of color population, treatment of the underlying inflammatory condition, gentle skin care, use of photoprotection, and time may be all that is needed for PIH resolution. With their parent/guardians’ consent, adolescents distressed by PIH may decide to pursue more aggressive, potentially irritating treatments. Above all, the most important management in the setting of PIH is to treat the underlying inflammatory condition causing the PIH and set reasonable expectations. For challenging cases, pediatric dermatologists with special expertise in treating pediatric and adolescent patients with skin of color may be consulted.


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