Glycolic acid: A true magic maker, glycolic acid is the smallest acid in size, meaning it’s able to penetrate deeply into the skin’s pores to do its work. It breaks apart the cellular glue holding dead skin cells together to reveal a fresher, brighter complexion. It also promotes cellular turnover by boosting collagen and elastin, helping your skin regenerate and repair itself.
The best way to fix them: You have a few options with these. The first would be to visit an aesthetician or a dermatologist for a deep-cleaning in a sterile environment. The second? Use an exfoliator. That could be a face scrub, retinol—which boosts skin cell turnover—or even facial cleansing brushes. If you go this route, just pick one. "You just don’t want to combine all them, since that’ll make skin sensitive," adds Dr. Hale.
The spots that linger after a pimple has healed are caused by inflammation that has disrupted the skin's natural healing process. "When your skin is opened up (like when you pop a pimple) and then closes back together, you can get abnormal pigmentation, texture, and tone that looks different from the rest of your skin. Sometimes the broken blood vessels that remain after an acne lesion fades can result in a mark," says Dr. Bowe. For a number of people who are able to refrain from picking, inflamed pimples or blemishes can still leave a dark brown or red mark — but these naturally fade over the course of a few months, notes dermatologist Heather C. Woolery-Lloyd, MD.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.