"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.
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.
However, if you have a scar, you’re dealing with permanent skin damage that needs treatment in order to disappear. An acne scar changes the texture of the skin. If acne has left indentations, or raised spots, the damage has occurred at a deeper level in the skin. This “cobblestoning” effect indicates scarring that needs more than a surface-level treatment.
Severe acne. Severe acne consists of deep cysts, redness, swelling, extreme damage to the skin and scarring. You should see a dermatologist to care for this type of acne. Scarring can be prevented with appropriate treatments. Your dermatologist can prescribe oral antibiotics and oral contraceptives. Large inflamed cysts can be treated with an injection of a drug that lessens the redness, swelling, and irritation, and promotes healing.
With the proper treatment, patients can control rosacea symptoms and signs. Popular methods of treatment include topical (skin) medications applied by the patient once or twice a day. Topical antibiotic medication such as metronidazole (Metrogel) applied one to two times a day after cleansing may significantly improve rosacea. Azelaic acid (Azelex cream, Finacea gel 15%) is another effective treatment for patients with rosacea. Both metronidazole and azelaic acid work to control the redness and bumps in rosacea.
Exfoliating cleansers and masks: A variety of mild scrubs, exfoliants, and masks can be used. These products may contain salicylic acid in a concentration that makes it a very mild peeling agent. These products remove the outer layer of the skin and thus open pores. Products containing glycolic or alpha hydroxy acids are also gentle skin exfoliants.