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:
Both Avram and Tzu recommend looking for products with mark-fading hydroquinone. Ambi Fade Cream includes 2 percent hydroquinone, the highest concentration allowed without a prescription. “It also contains soy, which is well known for treating pigmentation issues, and vitamin E which helps with scarring,” says Tzu. While the FDA considers hydroquinone safe, it is banned in Europe and can potentially cause irritation or further discoloration, so remember to patch-test and check with a dermatologist whether it’s right for you.
You've probably seen the Proactiv clear skin system advertised on television at some point over the last several years, but does it work? Proactiv is one of the better acne remedies out there for mild cases of inflammatory and noninflammatory acne, hormonal acne, and adult acne. The basic kit comes with a gentle glycolic acid and benzoyl peroxide exfoliator, a benzoyl peroxide pore cleanser, and an oil-free moisturizer that contains both glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Prices and shipping rates vary by location but Proactiv typically starts at $30.
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.
A healthy diet can only prevent 90% of your acne. The other 10% of your acne has to do with external factors. External factors are cleanser, cream, lotion and moisturizer that you apply to your face. During the course of my acne treatment with my doctor, 4 main ingredients appeared on all my topical prescriptions. You should look for these ingredients in your external acne treatment products. They are as follows:
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.
True acne scars — as in indentations in the skin like ice-pick scars — can only be erased with professional procedures like microneedling or lasers. Fortunately, what most of us refer to as “scars,” according to Julia Tzu, M.D., founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology, are actually marks caused by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (brown spots) or post-inflammatory erythema (red spots), that will fade over several months or years. Fortunately, there are products that can speed up the process.
A U.K. survey found that on average single men only change their sheets four times a year. And while we certainly hope you are swapping out your linens much more frequently, dirty pillowcases can lead to clogged pores. Nasty as is sounds, bacteria can build up on your bed and your face rubs around on it for a good eight hours a night. Well, that just can’t be good. If your skin is oily, change those sheets (or at least your pillowcases) twice a week. It might be a pain, but isn’t a clear complexion worth it?
"Acne scars are very challenging to treat and are even more challenging to treat once they've been given time to age," says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska. Although he says the best option is prevention (but if you just can't resist popping your pimples, do it the doctor-approved way!), there are ways to treat acne scars to drastically reduce their appearance.
"Other good over-the-counter options are benzoyl peroxide-containing agents," says Dr. Engelman. "I like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo. Benzoyl peroxide is anti-microbial, attacking the bacteria that is associated with acne. The La Roche Posay product also contains Lipohydroxy acid (LHA), which serves as an exfoliator to smooth roughness and even out skin texture."
Aqua (Water, Eau), Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Isopropyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Dimethicone, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Carbomer, Parfum (Fragrance), Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Eugenol, Linalool.
Topical vitamin C serum: "Vitamin C serums block abnormal pigment production and can brighten spots that have already developed," says Dr. Zeichner. "They can be layered underneath your sunscreen in the morning." These serums can also help build collagen and promote healing, says says Dr. Shah, who suggests trying "SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic to do the trick.
The facialist, Tanya Eubanks, first exfoliates and steams my face. Then she uses her gloved fingers and a medical needle to perform extractions. And it is as painful as it sounds. The worst part is when I hear the noise of the needle pricking each cyst. It sounds like a tiny burst of air, which might not seem bad, but all I can think about is all the gunk coming out each time, and it makes me cringe. By the time she applies a mask to reduce redness, I've lost all feeling in my face.
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.
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.
When you're feeling anxious, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. Excess levels can signal acne to worsen, explains Lauren Eckert Ploch, a dermatologist with Georgia Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center in Augusta, GA. Light an aromatherapy candle. The dim flickering light, plus the soothing scents of eucalyptus and mint, instantly creates a chill environment.
Punch excisions: "This procedure is best for those with icepick scars, which aren't as wide as rolling or boxcar scars," says Dr. Shah. "If you use a punch excision on a scar that's wide at the surface, you're making a bigger punch and trading in one scar for another," she says. "Your dermatologist will numb up the area and use a tiny cookie-cutter like device to cut out the scar, and then sew it closed with a tiny stitch. The stitch is removed in less than a week," says Dr. Bowe. However, Dr. Idriss cautions against this method for those with darker skin or undertones who are prone to hyperpigmentation.
Prescription Medications. Medications that affect hormones, like birth control pills, can help control acne. You might also discuss antibiotic pills and prescription retinoids with your dermatologist. There are also antibiotics that are effective. Doctors may prescribe Aldactone (spironolactone), which was first made to treat high blood pressure, to treat acne. "That works miracles but it can take three months to kick in," Day says. Isotretinoin is another prescription drug for acne, but you can't take it if you're pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
If you’ve exhausted this list of helpful ingredients while researching how to get rid of acne scarring, it might be time to head to the dermatologist and see what medical treatments are available for your complexion. But before you go shelling out the big bucks on expensive procedures, test out these scientifically-backed ingredients used to get rid of acne scars. Give your product a bit of time to do its work before tossing it out and moving to the next one. Patience and perseverance are key here, so try not to feel jaded or dejected during your journey. A beautiful complexion awaits beneath those scars, and using these active agents can help you seek it out.
Oral contraceptives: Oral contraceptives (birth control pills), which are low in estrogen to promote safety, have little effect on acne one way or the other. Some contraceptive pills have been shown to have modest effectiveness in treating acne. Those that have been U.S. FDA approved for treating acne are Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Yaz. Most dermatologists work together with primary care physicians or gynecologists when recommending these medications.