Acne scar treatment: Energy-based skin resurfacing with a laser, radiofrequency, or an ultrasound device can help treat boxcar scars, according to Nada Elbuluk, MD, an assistant professor at the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City. “They all work by creating new collagen beneath the surface of the skin.” A series of treatments is likely needed based on the extent of scarring, she says. Chemical peels can also help but to a lesser extent. With either procedure, using a retinoid to increase cell turnover and further boost collagen can help improve results, Dr. Elbuluk adds.
Over-the-counter retinol or vitamin A can also help. Anolik says retinols can be incredibly effective, especially higher-strength prescription retinoids: “They’re the gold standard in acne and aging treatments.” The prescription versions, from Tazorac to Differin, are usually covered by insurance in the case of acne. Vitamin C can also treat pores and exfoliate; Tammy Fender’s System ($165, tammyfender.com) comes with a vitamin C toner.
Scars (permanent): People who get acne cysts and nodules often see scars when the acne clears. You can prevent these scars. Be sure to see a dermatologist for treatment if you get acne early — between 8 and 12 years old. If someone in your family had acne cysts and nodules, you also should see a dermatologist if you get acne. Treating acne before cysts and nodules appear can prevent scars.
Topical treatments on their own may not be enough to give you clear skin, especially in those with complicated, inflammatory cystic acne. There are several acne medication options approved for use by the FDA, but which one is best for you is a question for your dermatologist and/or general practitioner. Baldwin says if you have insurance and you have acne, a prescription may be the best step because "it makes no sense to try to handle the condition yourself or to use over the counter products that are always less effective than prescriptions meds." Here are a few of the acne medications you'll want to ask about:
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.
Treatment of acne scars: For those patients whose acne has gone away but left them with permanent scarring, several options are available. These include surgical procedures to elevate deep, depressed acne scars and laser resurfacing to smooth out shallow acne scars. Newer forms of laser resurfacing ("fractional resurfacing") are less invasive and heal faster than older methods, although results are less complete and the procedures may need to be repeated three or more times. These treatments can help, but they are never completely successful at eliminating acne scars.
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.
Clean your skin gently with a mild soap or cleanser twice a day — once in the morning and once at night. You should also gently clean the skin after heavy exercise. Avoid strong soaps and rough scrub pads. Harsh scrubbing of the skin may make acne worse. Wash your entire face from under the jaw to the hairline and rinse thoroughly. Remove make-up gently with a mild soap and water. Ask your doctor before using an astringent.
This treatment is performed by dermatologists and combines two different technologies — microneedling and radio frequency — for big results in eliminating acne scars. First, a topical numbing gel is applied. Then the doctor uses the microneedling device to penetrate the skin and, simultaneously, radiofrequency is delivered right to the dermis. Downtime is usually around 24 hours and then you can resume wearing makeup to cover any lasting redness.
Glycolic-acid peels may additionally help improve and control rosacea in some people. Professionals can apply chemical peels to patients for approximately two to five minutes every two to four weeks. Mild stinging, itching, or burning may occur and some patients experience peeling for several days after the peel. Any peel can irritate very sensitive skin and cause flares for some people. Peels should be used with caution in rosacea as not everyone is able to tolerate these treatments.
Inflammatory Acne: Inflammatory acne is red bumps and pustules, not whiteheads, blackheads and comedones. It does not necessarily start as them, either. It arises on its own. Whiteheads, blackheads or comedones that become inflamed can be painful and unsightly. Persistent inflammatory acne may require treatment by a physician or dermatologist, in addition to over-the-counter acne remedies.
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.
Sure, we’ve all heard that toothpaste or rubbing alcohol can help dry out a zit, but many DIY treatments aren't solutions for how to treat acne. In fact, applying toothpaste or rubbing alcohol are more likely to cause irritation and dryness than treat the actual pimple. Instead, stick with topical over-the-counter and prescription spot treatments with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide that are specially made to target pimples, says Dr. Hammerman. For an all-natural spot treatment, she suggests dabbing tea tree oil on the area a few times a day with a cotton ball.
There are many treatments for mild acne. Mild acne can consist of whiteheads, blackheads and small pustules. At home, you can wash your face twice per day with warm water and a gentle cleanser or soap. Your doctor may suggest you also try an over-the-counter lotion or cream. These medicines may make your skin dry if you use them too much. Be sure to follow the directions.
Avoid touching or rubbing your face, since that can make acne worse. Try to keep your cell phone from touching your face, too. Use earbuds instead of having the phone against your skin. Also, don't lean your face on your hands, which may carry oils and germs that can irritate blemishes. Sweat can also make acne worse. Sweaty after exercise? Wash up.
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Acne scar treatment: The best acne scar treatment for hyperpigmentation is with 4 percent hydroquinone and sunblock, according to Dr. Imber. Hydroquinone is a topical bleaching agent that you apply directly to a dark spot. Sunblock is essential, since sun exposure can worsen hyperpigmentation. Other potential treatments include glycolic acid products, which remove the upper-most layer of the skin and the dark marks, and retinoids to increase skin cell turnover, Dr. Elbuluk says. These can be used with the bleaching agent hydroquinone as well. “We can also try glycolic acid chemical peels in the office at higher doses than you could do at home,” she says. “If peels don’t do the trick, lasers are usually the next thing we would try to improve hyperpigmentation.” Check out these amazing skin transformations that will make you run to your dermatologist.
"Jessner Peels help to reduce acne lesions overnight by drying them out. They also help to remove the top layers of the skin that cause dry skin and acne flareups. It's important to note that the use of retin-A may cause the acids in the peel to intensify, so if you are using a prescription retin-A it's important to stop using it one week prior to getting the peel," says Dr. Bank. For those with less severe acne or occasional breakouts, there are other types of chemical peels your derm can give you to exfoliate your skin, dry up acne, and help create an instant glow (great for if you're trying to remove a few lingering pimples before a big event in a few days).
You’re a typical hormonal-acne patient if, well past puberty, you’re breaking out around your period, usually in the jawline area, says Anolik. A consistent routine is key—as is enduring a waiting period of two to three months for said routine to work, he continues: “Even powerful prescription treatments can take a few months to really clear things up, and that’s our biggest challenge. People who get frustrated and don’t stick to their treatments get stuck in a cycle of trying and quitting too early, and feeling like nothing works.”
Avoid picking at spots and scars. Though it may be tempting, picking at your scars interrupts the process by which your skin naturally heals and can worsen their appearance. Picking at existing pimples, meanwhile, can cause your skin to scar in the first place, as bacteria from your hands may be transferred onto your face, causing it to become inflamed and infected. Therefore, picking should be avoided at all costs.
Acne scars are usually the result of inflamed blemishes caused by skin pores engorged with excess oil, dead skin cells and bacteria. The pore swells, causing a break in the follicle wall. Shallow lesions are usually minor and heal quickly. But if there is a deep break in the wall of the pore, infected material can spill out into surrounding tissue, creating deeper lesions. The skin attempts to repair these lesions by forming new collagen fibers. These repairs usually aren't as smooth and flawless as the original skin.
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.
Rena Levi is known for her sensitivity towards clients with severe acne and problem skin. In 1968 she moved from Israel to the U.S. and studied with Christine Valmy at the European Esthetic Skincare Institute. In 1975, she opened the Rena Levi Skin Care Salon in New York City. In 1980, she moved to Albuquerque, NM, where she managed the skin care center for Eleganza Salon and further developed and refined her practice. It was there that she became well known for her ability to treat what many considered impossible skin, while also teaching budding estheticians and skin practitioners at the same time, including the then-president of the New Mexico Board of Cosmetology. Here, Levi shares with us one of her most popular facial protocol treatments for treating clients with moderate to severe acne.
Ablative lasers deliver an intense wavelength of light to the skin, removing thin outer layers of the skin (epidermis). In addition, collagen production is stimulated in the underlying layer (the dermis). Patients are typically numbed with local anesthetic and the ablation is done as an outpatient procedure. CO2 and erbium are the ablative lasers most often used for acne scar treatment.
All three dermatologists suggested that the best solution for boxcar or rolling scars are in-office procedures. Dr. Day, for instance, suggestedEndyMed Intensif, which uses microneedle radio frequency to remodel the skin by delivering heat into the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production. For at-home treatments, however, Dr. Day turns to Olay's DIY microdermabrasion kit. It comes with both a foam head and crystal polisher, which claims to exfoliate 7 times better than a typical scrub and thoroughly cleanses the face to prevent future breakouts.
The exact cause of rosacea is still unknown. The basic process seems to involve dilation of the small blood vessels of the face. Currently, health researchers believe that rosacea patients have a genetically mediated reduction in the ability to dampen facial inflammation that is incited by environmental factors such as sunburn, demodicosis (Demodex folliculorum in the hair follicles), flushing, and certain medications. Rosacea tends to affect the "blush" areas of the face and is more common in people who flush easily. Additionally, a variety of triggers is known to cause rosacea to flare. Emotional factors (stress, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, etc.) may trigger blushing and aggravate rosacea. Changes in the weather, like strong winds, or a change in the humidity can cause a flare-up. Sun exposure and sun-damaged skin is associated with rosacea. Exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking, emotional upsets, and spicy food are other well-known triggers that may aggravate rosacea. Many patients may also notice flares around the holidays, particularly Christmas and New Year's holidays.
9. You're not releasing pent-up stress properly. Stress triggers acne and acne results in more stress, so it's a very vicious cycle. Basically, when you're under pressure, your skin produces stress hormones, including cortisol, that can stimulate your oil glands to make testosterone that then increases oil production and clogs pores. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
This powerful, medicated cleanser delivers a luxuriously whipped texture and three percent sulfur to address acne and blemishes, draw out impurities, and target congested pores. Honey and rice bran extracts calm redness, while natural oat extract addresses excess sebum. With continued use, this gentle, yet effective daily cleanser leaves skin clearer with visibly minimized pores.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a procedure that treats precancerous cells, in addition to other types of cancer cells. The medical treatment does this with the help of a photosensitizing drug and a light source that activates the applied drug, destroying cancer cells. PDT is approved to treat non-small cell lung cancer, esophageal cancer, and Barrett's esophagus. It's used to treat actinic keratosis, as well as acne, rosacea, skin cancer, sun damage, oily skin, wrinkles, warts, psoriasis, and enlarged sebaceous glands.