"You want to calm the inflammation right away," Chiu says of treating newly popped pimples prone to scarring. She suggested asking your dermatologist to prescribe an anti-inflammatory acne medication like Aczone Gel. For a prescription-free solution, dermatologist Ronald Moy suggests treating newer scars with a product containing innovative growth factors that "stimulate collagen production immediately" and "should prevent any new scars from becoming old scars." This serum from Moy's product line, DNA EGF, uses growth factors clinically proven to speed up the growth of healthy skin cells. Both hyperpigmentation (not true scarring, but the spotty aftermath of a breakout) and atrophic scars (those crater marks more deep and sunken) benefit from a stimulating collagen boost because thickening the skin leads to less visibility of existing scars, Moy says.
Buying a generic face wash won’t necessarily improve your complexion; for a cleanser to be most effective, you have to pay attention to your skin’s needs and pick the ingredients accordingly. If your skin tends to be oily, choose products with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid. For sensitive skin, look for cleansers with lactic acid or hydrating ingredients like glycerin, which aren’t as drying as those made for oilier types.
There are a number of mild chemical peels available over the counter, but acne scar removal requires a stronger peel typically administered by a doctor or dermatologist. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels are slightly stronger than alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels and may be used for acne scar treatment. The strongest type, phenol peels, may cause significant swelling and require up to two weeks of recovery time at home. Neither are recommended for people with active severe acne.
Acne scar treatment: The best acne scar treatment for hyperpigmentation is with 4 percent hydroquinone and sunblock, according to Dr. Imber. Hydroquinone is a topical bleaching agent that you apply directly to a dark spot. Sunblock is essential, since sun exposure can worsen hyperpigmentation. Other potential treatments include glycolic acid products, which remove the upper-most layer of the skin and the dark marks, and retinoids to increase skin cell turnover, Dr. Elbuluk says. These can be used with the bleaching agent hydroquinone as well. “We can also try glycolic acid chemical peels in the office at higher doses than you could do at home,” she says. “If peels don’t do the trick, lasers are usually the next thing we would try to improve hyperpigmentation.” Check out these amazing skin transformations that will make you run to your dermatologist.
Dermal fillers: "Certain scars can be filled with a substance that elevates the depressed areas, like hyaluronic acid. This can make the surface of the skin more even and get rid of shadows," says Dr. Bowe. Until recently, fillers weren't a lasting solution. But now, if you're over 21 years old, Bellafill is the first FDA-approved dermal filler designed for permanently correcting moderate to severely dented acne scars. Unlike other fillers, it contains two different ingredients to help improve acne scarring. "It's 20% polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), which helps your body make more protein to allow itself to heal," says Dr. Shah. "PMMA are tiny balls that sort of act as a scaffolding. Most fillers degrade over time, but since PMMA cannot be absorbed into the body, this offers a permanent result," she says. The other 80% is collagen. The procedure takes about 20-30 minutes, and while you may need a touchup a couple months later, some people just need the single treatment, says Dr. Shah.
If you use hair sprays or gels, try to keep them away from your face, as they also can clog pores. If you have long hair that touches your face, be sure to wash it often enough to keep oil away. And if you have an after-school job that puts you in contact with oil — like in a fast-food restaurant or gas station, for example — be sure to wash your face well when you get home. It also can help to wash your face after you've been exercising.
Glycolic-acid peels may additionally help improve and control rosacea in some people. Professionals can apply chemical peels to patients for approximately two to five minutes every two to four weeks. Mild stinging, itching, or burning may occur and some patients experience peeling for several days after the peel. Any peel can irritate very sensitive skin and cause flares for some people. Peels should be used with caution in rosacea as not everyone is able to tolerate these treatments.
Laser resurfacing involves directing concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin. This procedure may be used to reduce wrinkles, blemished, or acne scars. There are two types of lasers commonly used in laser resurfacing: carbon dioxide and erbium. Treated areas heal in 10-21 days. Possible complications include milia, hyperpigmentation, and swelling.
Oral antibiotics: Doctors may start treatment with tetracycline (Sumycin) or one of the related "cyclines," such as doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox, and others) and minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin). Other oral antibiotics that are useful for treating acne are cefadroxil (Duricef), amoxicillin (Amoxil, DisperMox, Trimox), and the sulfa drugs.