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.
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.
"I have seen many patients develop a tolerance to prescription acne treatments, and when they stop working, it’s devastating. Treating acne demands a more holistic approach that includes lifestyle, nutrition, and advances in topical skincare. I developed Outsmart Acne™ Clarifying Treatment to be used as part of a whole-person regimen to help skin stay consistently clear."Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD
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Your doctor might recommend an injectable treatment called a filler. "Mainly, I treat acne scars with hyaluronic acid fillers, such as Restylane, but not all acne scars respond to this sort of treatment," Schlessinger says. "Additionally, I personally find that Accutane has a remarkable effect on acne scars if it is prescribed early on in the course of a scarring acne."
The best way to fix them: This is where the classic zit treatments come into play. "Topical medications are the best way to treat a lesion like this," says Jennifer Chwalek, M.D., a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC. "Benzoyl peroxide-, salicylic acid-, or sulfur-based products can help to dry it up." She prefers salicylic acid over benzoyl peroxide for these, since the latter can cause irritation, dryness, and even post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (a.k.a. dark spots) in those with darker skin tones. Retinol works well for these, too.
Oil-free soaps or washes won’t clog your pores or cause blackheads, acne, and whiteheads. Choose products that are labeled "oil free," "nonacnegenic” (which means it won’t cause acne) or "noncomedogenic” (which means it won’t clog your pores). Some also have ingredients recommended by dermatologists, such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Make sure your washcloths are soft -- you can use one made for babies -- and use a clean one every time, too.
Moderation and regularity are good things, but not everyone can sleep eight hours, eat three healthy meals per day, and drink plenty of water a day. Probably the most useful lifestyle changes one can make is to never to pick or squeeze pimples. Playing with or popping pimples, no matter how careful and clean one is, nearly always makes bumps stay redder and bumpier longer. People often refer to redness as "scarring," but fortunately, it usually isn't permanent. It's just a mark that takes months to fade if left entirely alone.