Acne is one of the most common skin condition in North America, affecting up to 50 million people each year in the United States alone. Treating acne can feel like a lifelong battle for some people. What’s worse is that even when you resolve active acne, it can leave behind a legacy of scarring, hyperpigmentation, and damaged skin. If this sounds all too familiar, don’t give up hope. Acne scarring is incredibly common, and there are ways to treat it effectively.
There are several factors that contribute to the development of scars. Genetics can play a part—if acne scars run in your family, you're at a higher risk of developing them as well. Your skin type also has an impact on how susceptible you are to different types of scarring. The type of acne you have and your skin type also influence the likelihood of scarring. Additionally, how you treat your acne while it is active affects how well your skin heals post-treatment.
Keep in mind that the most proactive thing you can do when it comes to acne scarring is to stop scars before they start. It should go without saying that once a pimple starts to develop, you should never pick at it; instead, apply a topical ointment or appeal to your dermatologist for intervention. Prevention is key, and if you’re struggling with acne as over 80% of adults do, consider an acne treatment to fast-track your way to a clear, smooth complexion.
But sometimes no matter what you do, a bad breakout will leave behind a scar or two. In that case, here are 5 things you can do to reduce the look of acne scars:
Chemical exfoliators are a powerful over-the-counter option. (You should never use physical exfoliators, like scrubs or clays, on scarred skin as it could make the scarring worse.) Look for products that contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids (also known as salicylic acid and glycolic acid), which exfoliate dead, darkened skin cells while stimulating collagen production. You can also add serums, lotions, or masks with anti-inflammatory and skin brightening ingredients to your skin care routine. Look for active ingredients such as vitamin C, a skin-brightening antioxidant, and vitamin E, which regenerates skin cells and improves texture.
Start with clean, moisturized skin. Moisturizing thoroughly and consistently will go a long way to improving the look of your skin already. Follow up with a primer, if you use one, and then a light foundation. Heavier foundations can settle in scars and lend an overall “cakey” appearance. For hyperpigmentation, follow up with a concealer in just the affected spots. Instead of setting with powder, try a finishing mist or setting spray, instead. The main goal here is to keep your makeup light and natural, as heavier makeup tends to amplify, rather than distract from, skin imperfections.
You can use ingredients you’d find in your kitchen to gently treat and improve the look of acne scars. A face mask made from yogurt and honey is the simplest and most straightforward to take advantage of nature’s benefits. The yogurt contains a mild natural exfoliant in lactic acid, and honey is anti-inflammatory and can help to calm active pimples, which can prevent future dark marks and scarring. Other noted kitchen stars for skin care include apple cider vinegar, aloe, and olive oil. However, not all grocery store purchases are safe for skin; contrary to popular advice, you should never put lemon juice or baking soda on your face.
A trip to the dermatologist can open up a whole new world of effective acne scar treatments. Chemical peels are becoming popular to address a host of skin concerns, like scarring, hyperpigmentation, and roughened skin texture. For raised acne scars, corticosteroid injections can help heal and smooth those imperfections. For deeper scarring or the pits that can be left by severe acne, a dermatologist can use dermal filler to raise the skin and smooth over those areas, however unlike skin resurfacing treatments, the results of fillers are temporary and have to be re-upped every 6-8 months.
Skin Resurfacing Treatments
The above remedies can go a long way to reducing the look of acne scars, but if you want to pursue an even more effective option, consider a skin resurfacing treatment. Medical aesthetics treatments uses advanced technology to get your skin looking its best. They’re non-surgical, safe for all skin tones, and can usually be done in less time than it takes to get a latté. (A typical session is about 15-30 minutes.)
A skin resurfacing treatment stimulates scar healing by delivering radio frequency energy to the subcutaneous layers of the skin, where collagen and elastin production happen. The device uses tiny needles to create tiny micro-dermal wounds in the skin’s surface, promoting and accelerating the skin’s natural healing process. In tandem, boosted collagen and elastin works to correct scar tissue, improve textural irregularities of the skin, and restore a brighter, smoother complexion.