Old marks still sticking around take patience and consistency to treat. One way to even out skin tone over time is with regular exfoliating. "[Exfoliating] is important in treating acne scars at home as it lifts dead skin and allows new skin to grow and proliferate," Dr. Moy explains. This exfoliator contains papaya enzymes to break down dead skin cells and microderm crystals to buff away acne scars. Aloe vera, coconut, and vitamins E and B nourish the skin simultaneously.
While you’re waiting on all those active ingredients to kick in, Tzu says it’s best to use “makeup or foundation with a green tint to neutralize the redness.” She likes the Clinique Redness Solutions line, designed to color-correct red marks or spots. While this foundation includes SPF, it’s still best to layer over a dedicated sunscreen for maximum protection.
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.
As the name suggests, ice pick scars are very deep acne scars that look like the skin has been punctured with… an ice pick. When the body produces too little collagen in response to an injury, depressed scars such as ice picks can form. “Ice pick scars represent the result of infected sebaceous gland openings on the skin. They are usually the most difficult to correct,” says New York City plastic surgeon Gerald Imber, MD.
This article was medically reviewed by Hilary Baldwin, MD. Baldwin, medical director of the Acne Treatment Research Center, is a board-certified dermatologist with nearly 25 years of experience. Her area of expertise and interest are acne, rosacea and keloid scars. Baldwin received her BA and MA in biology from Boston University. She became a research assistant at Harvard University before attending Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed a medical internship at Yale New Haven Hospital before becoming a resident and chief resident in dermatology at New York University Medical Center.
For UVA protection, a sunscreen with a high UVA protection of PA+++ or higher of PA++++ as recommended, especially to treat PIE. PPD is the UVA equivalent of SPF; use a sunscreen with a minimum of PPD20. The PA+ system has a + that corresponds to a tier of PPD protection. Of note, different countries use different PA systems. Japan and Taiwan changed their PA system to a 4+ tier system while Korea uses a 3+ tier system.
Sometimes even though they wash properly and try lotions and oil-free makeup, people get acne anyway — and this is totally normal. In fact, some girls who normally have a handle on their acne may find that it comes out a few days before they get their period. This is called premenstrual acne, and about 7 out of 10 women get it from changes in hormones in the body.
There’s no quick fix for acne. Medicines don't work overnight. Many treatments take weeks of daily use before your skin improves. Some acne may take up to 6 months to clear up. Afterward, basic skin care -- bathing daily and washing your face and hands with mild soap -- may not be enough. You may need to keep using your medicine even when your skin clears. Follow your doctor’s directions. Don’t use too much or too little.
Use oil-free makeup. If you wear makeup, you may be stuck in a vicious cycle of covering up acne while simultaneously causing it with your cover-up usage. Find acne-fighting oil-free mineral makeup to help prevent worsening your acne while simply trying to hide it. Power foundations are also recommended. When possible, avoid wearing make-up at all though as it clogs your pores over the course of the day.
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A benzoyl peroxide cream (2.5 percent strength) is a good choice for adolescents experiencing red or inflamed breakouts that aren't getting better with medicated cleansers. Benzoyl peroxide is a very common and inexpensive acne treatment cream that can be found over-the-counter in the skin care aisle. Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that cause pimples and is highly successful in treating mild cases of acne.
Topical (external) applications: Antibacterial cleansers come in the form of gels, creams, and lotions that are applied to the affected area. The active ingredients that kill surface bacteria include benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and resorcinol. Some brands promoted on the Internet and cable TV (such as ProActiv) are much more costly than identical and sometimes more potent products one can buy in the drugstore.