I couldn't just let the worst breakout ever live on without a visit to the dermatologist, so I went to BeautyRx founder Dr. Neal Schultz. He gave me this incredible "Z Stick" spot treatment that contains mild cortisone (the same substance derms use to inject pimples to make them die down in 24 to 48 hours), and Clindamycin, an antibiotic. I applied this every morning and evening to all my spots and it acted like an extra layer of armor against further inflammation. Sadly, it's prescription-only and/or only available through Dr. Schultz's practice in New York—but he's working on making one for consumers.
Acne scar treatments are best handled with special attention and care from your dermatologist since they require more intense procedures than over-the-counter options. The downside: Treatments tend to be expensive. If you aren't quite ready to put a dent in your savings, know that you aren't alone in your struggle with acne scars. Just by reframing your way of thinking, you may even learn to feel much more comfortable with them.

In order to treat acne marks and scars, it's helpful to learn how to distinguish between the two. "What many people don’t realize is that a dark or pink mark on the skin is not actually an acne scar. Inflammation in the skin often leaves behind a stain as part of the natural healing process. The inflammation revs up pigment production, creating the mark that fades on its own over several weeks to months," says dermatologist and 2018 Acne Awards judge Dr. Joshua Zeichner. Unlike scars, these are smooth to the touch (AKA, not raised or indented), and signify that there is no permanent collagen damage to the skin.


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.

Wrap your index finger with cotton, and gently start removing black heads and white heads starting from one side of the face until the skin is clean. For stubborn black heads and white heads, make sure you hold the skin tight with the left hand while using a lancet in the right hand to gently poke the blemish. Using the lancet will make it easier for the white head to come out without bruising the skin; especially with a product like BD Ultrafine. This takes about 10-20 minutes depending on the severity of the acne.
Our second primary treatment, the Icon Laser, offers patients the best results for smoother skin. Laser therapy breaks up the scar with laser light. It punches holes in the collagen without ever piercing the skin. Because it doesn’t break the skin, recovery tends to be quicker after this treatment. Also, lasers penetrate deep into the skin causing long-lasting results.
Crush up some aspirin. Crush up an aspirin tablet and add just enough water to make it into a paste. With a Q-Tip, add the aspirin paste to the pimple(s) lightly, covering entirely. Let dry. Aspirin is another anti-inflammatory, meaning it will help the skin fight against inflammation, making the pimple less visible. Let the aspirin paste fight the pimple overnight.

"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
The two laser treatment options above are great for acne scar removal, but aren't generally recommended as acne treatment. If you're still experiencing active acne breakouts and wondering how to get rid of acne with laser treatments, check out photodynamic therapy. It combats active moderate to severe acne while also diminishing older acne scars by using light energy to activate a powerful acne-fighting solution. Patients may require 2 or 3 treatments over several weeks and should expect some redness, peeling, and sun sensitivity. This treatment will cost between $2000 to $3500 per series.
Hormone changes as an adult. The menstrual cycle is one of the most common acne triggers. Acne lesions tend to form a few days before the cycle begins and go away after the cycle is completed. Other hormone changes, such as pregnancy and menopause, improve acne in some women. But some women have worse acne during these times. Stopping use of birth control pills can play a role as well.

Contrary to popular belief, acne isn't caused by a harmful diet, poor hygiene, or an uncontrolled sex drive. The simple truth is that heredity and hormones are behind most forms of acne. Swearing off chocolate or scrubbing your face 10 times a day won't change your predisposition to this unsightly, sometimes painful, and often embarrassing skin problem.


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It's a myth that tanning clears up your skin. UV rays put you at risk for skin cancer, premature aging, and wrinkles. Don't lie in the sun or use a tanning booth. Also, some commonly prescribed acne medications, including retinoids that go on your skin, can make you more sensitive to damage from UV rays. So always wear sunscreen and limit how much sun you get.
6. You're a make out bandit and your boyfriend has a beard. Sure, some dudes look hot with a beard (i.e. Ryan Gosling in The Notebook) or even a five o'clock shadow, but your BF's facial hair isn't doing your pretty face any favors when it comes to breakouts. So what gives? Well, as you and your guy hook up, your smooth face rubs against his hairy one, creating friction, which causes his prickly hair to stimulate oil production on your face, causing blemishes and even beard burn. (Tip via Jeanine Downie, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey.)
You can apply all the topicals you want, but unfortunately, most treatments you'll find at the drugstore won't help with acne scars, Hellman says. However, she notes that derma rollers (at-home microneedling devices) may help with acne scarring. If you're on a tight budget, that should be your first stop. You can get one on Amazon for less than $20. (Use yours once a week followed by a Vitamin C serum for best results—here's how to pick the best ones.)
Your body is capable of taking care of your scars and they will get lighter with time. However, if you expose them to the sun, their healing process will slow down and the scars will get darker. So, avoid the sun. If it’s essential to go out in sun, use sunscreen to guard your skin and also cover yourself with hat, umbrella, clothes- whatever you can lay hands on.

Those big, painful zits will leave a scar if you pick and prod at them—"the only way to reduce it quickly is to drain it, and that's not a DIY deal," Dr. Schultz warns. The reason they're painful is because quick expansion stretches the nerves. "Drinking good red wine is often helpful [to numb the pain]," he jokes. Take Advil, apply a warm or cold compress (whichever feels better to you), and go see your derm. "Cortisone shots are the true 'spot treatments' for painful cystic acne lesions," Dr. Tzu says.
Apply fresh lemon juice. Lemon juice has natural skin bleaching properties, and can help to effectively lighten your acne scars. Simply combine equal parts lemon juice and water and apply this liquid directly onto your scars, avoiding the surrounding skin. Wash off the lemon juice after 15 to 25 minutes or you could put the lemon juice on overnight as a mask.
According to dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, some scars are thick, raised hypertrophic scars that stick out above the skin; others are keloid, which are scars that have over-healed, and manifest as dense, rubbery skin tissue. Then, there are atrophic scars that appear as depressions in the skin — they're the most challenging to treat. The three main categories of atrophic scars are:
When it comes to scarring, many doctors will tell you that prevention is key. Wearing sunscreen daily is critical, says Heidi Waldorf, a New York City-based dermatologist, and this one from Elta MD is her favorite. "It contains niacinamide, which reduces inflammation, and it's oil-free, which makes it excellent for daily use for acne-prone patients," she says.
Acne scar treatments are best handled with special attention and care from your dermatologist since they require more intense procedures than over-the-counter options. The downside: Treatments tend to be expensive. If you aren't quite ready to put a dent in your savings, know that you aren't alone in your struggle with acne scars. Just by reframing your way of thinking, you may even learn to feel much more comfortable with them.
Other concerns include inflammatory bowel disease and the risk of depression and suicide in patients taking isotretinoin. Recent evidence seems to indicate that these problems are exceedingly rare. Government oversight has resulted in a highly publicized and very burdensome national registration system for those taking the drug. This has reinforced concerns in many patients and their families have that isotretinoin is dangerous. In fact, large-scale studies so far have shown no convincing evidence of increased risk for those taking isotretinoin compared with the general population. It is important for those taking this drug to report changes in mood or bowel habits (or any other symptoms) to their doctors. Even patients who are being treated for depression are not barred from taking isotretinoin, whose striking success often improves the mood and outlook of patients with severe disease.
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