Acne appears when a pore in our skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells rise to surface of the pore, and the body sheds the cells. When the body starts to make lots of sebum (see-bum), oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore. Instead of rising to the surface, the cells become trapped inside the pore.
Similar to the lingering emotions you experience after an intense Riverdale episode, acne scars are basically the long-lasting aftereffects of your short-lived breakouts. An unexpected pimple (or five) is annoying enough, but the acne scars and dark marks it leaves behind are often worse. While there isn't a magic wand that can get rid of them overnight, top dermatologists from across the country share how to handle marks and bumps, from prevention to treatment.
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."
Yes, it’s another pricey SkinCeuticals serum, but dermatologists absolutely love their products for treating acne marks. You’ll get more bang for your buck with the inclusion of glycolic and lactic acids, two alpha-hydroxy acids that Avram says help fade marks by exfoliating the top surface of the skin. Nagler says “vitamin C is helpful as an adjunct in preventing free radical damage, which helps with pigmentation.” It’s also worth investing in a high-quality serum since, according to Nagler, vitamin C isn’t stable — and is therefore less effective — in some other products.
First thing's first: prevention. "Getting on a good skincare regimen, avoiding picking, popping, or traumatizing the skin, and protecting it with SPF so it does not darken are important ways to avoid acne scarring," dermatologist Annie Chiu advises. For day-to-day coverage, try this SPF 45 option from Dr. Jart. It's a four-in-one primer, moisturizer, sunscreen, and treatment serum that evens out skin tone from within and offers mild coverage.
Acne can be a painful and embarrassing skin condition, and the scars it leaves behind are an unwelcome reminder of that. A dermatologist can help remove raised or pitted scars. While hyper-pigmented blemishes may fade after several months, you can help speed up the process. Realistically, you will not be able to make acne scars disappear in a single night, but the remedies, products, treatments, and skincare tips outlined below will certainly produce a noticeable difference over time. You just need to find the right method for your individual skin type.
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.
Inflammation is the single greatest gauge of scar development. The greater the inflammation on the skin, the more likely scarring is to occur. Deep breakouts that take a long time to heal also increase the chance of scarring. Blackheads, whiteheads, and other non-inflamed blemishes typically don't cause scarring because these types of lesions don't injure skin tissue.
In occasional cases, patients may use short-term topical cortisone (steroid) preparations of minimal strength to reduce local inflammation. Some mild steroids include desonide lotion or hydrocortisone 1% cream applied sparingly once or twice a day just to the irritated areas. There is a risk of causing a rosacea flare by using topical steroids. Prolonged use of topical steroids on the face can also cause irritated skin around the mouth (perioral dermatitis).