Ablative lasers deliver an intense wavelength of light to the skin, removing thin outer layers of the skin (epidermis). In addition, collagen production is stimulated in the underlying layer (the dermis). Patients are typically numbed with local anesthetic and the ablation is done as an outpatient procedure. CO2 and erbium are the ablative lasers most often used for acne scar treatment.
The bad news: There's no secret ingredient or miracle gadget that makes scars totally disappear. Don't get discouraged, though. A lot of what you think is acne scarring is really just hyperpigmentation or erythema (brown or red spots) rather than an actual change in the texture of the skin. Plus, there's a bevy of gels, creams, and treatments that can bring that discoloration down. We asked top dermatologists to recommend the most effective of the bunch.
Exfoliate dead skin cells that can clog pores and lead to breakouts with the power of salicyclic acid. Mario Badescu's Acne Facial Cleanser was specially formulated to effectly target acne-prone or acne-erupted skin. A soothing blend of botanical extracts including aloe, chamomile, and thyme help to improve the look and feel of troubled skin, while leaving skin thoroughly refreshed.
Potentially the easiest and cheapest option, "Clay masks help draw out impurities such as dirt and oil at the surface level of the skin which helps with acne breakouts. It will help to dry up the acne," says Dr. Bank. You can usually find a large tube (meant for your entire face) at the drugstore, and using it as a spot treatment will make it last forever. Just look for a mask with kaolin or bentonite clay as the primary ingredient.
"Leafy green vegetables and other brightly-colored fruit and vegetables which are rich in antioxidants and nutrients dampen inflammation and improve skin quality (studies have shown acne patients have higher oil production and lower antioxidant levels)," says Dr. Weiser. "Limit intake of dairy products, which can contain hormones and antibiotics that can worsen acne breakouts." Other skin-boosting superfoods include eggs, nuts, legumes, and quinoa.
The spots that linger after a pimple has healed are caused by inflammation that has disrupted the skin's natural healing process. "When your skin is opened up (like when you pop a pimple) and then closes back together, you can get abnormal pigmentation, texture, and tone that looks different from the rest of your skin. Sometimes the broken blood vessels that remain after an acne lesion fades can result in a mark," says Dr. Bowe. For a number of people who are able to refrain from picking, inflamed pimples or blemishes can still leave a dark brown or red mark — but these naturally fade over the course of a few months, notes dermatologist Heather C. Woolery-Lloyd, MD.
Drugs: Some medications may cause or worsen acne, such as those containing iodides, bromides, or oral or injected steroids (either the medically prescribed prednisone [Deltasone, Orasone, Prednicen-M, Liquid Pred] or the steroids that bodybuilders or athletes sometimes take). Other drugs that can cause or aggravate acne are anticonvulsant medications and lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid). Most cases of acne, however, are not drug related.