Potentially the easiest and cheapest option, "Clay masks help draw out impurities such as dirt and oil at the surface level of the skin which helps with acne breakouts. It will help to dry up the acne," says Dr. Bank. You can usually find a large tube (meant for your entire face) at the drugstore, and using it as a spot treatment will make it last forever. Just look for a mask with kaolin or bentonite clay as the primary ingredient.

"I have seen many patients develop a tolerance to prescription acne treatments, and when they stop working, it’s devastating. Treating acne demands a more holistic approach that includes lifestyle, nutrition, and advances in topical skincare. I developed Outsmart Acne™ Clarifying Treatment to be used as part of a whole-person regimen to help skin stay consistently clear."—Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD
In order to treat acne marks and scars, it's helpful to learn how to distinguish between the two. "What many people don’t realize is that a dark or pink mark on the skin is not actually an acne scar. Inflammation in the skin often leaves behind a stain as part of the natural healing process. The inflammation revs up pigment production, creating the mark that fades on its own over several weeks to months," says dermatologist and 2018 Acne Awards judge Dr. Joshua Zeichner. Unlike scars, these are smooth to the touch (AKA, not raised or indented), and signify that there is no permanent collagen damage to the skin.
"Crushed aspirin, combined with a little bit of water, removes excess oil and exfoliates the skin," says Dr. Bank."Aspirin itself contains a salicylic acid in it which help dissolve dead skin and help reduce the possibility of clogged pores. It will help to dry out any acne lesion, and it also helps the redness and swelling that are often associated with pimples."
This formula gently and effectively treats visible acne overnight using a skin-recovery complex that blends salicylic acid, vitamin B3, azelaic acid, caffeine, and other complexion clearers. The formula helps fight redness and unclog pores while calming and soothing post-breakout skin. The result is a clarified, glowing complexion free of redness, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation.
Old marks still sticking around take patience and consistency to treat. One way to even out skin tone over time is with regular exfoliating. "[Exfoliating] is important in treating acne scars at home as it lifts dead skin and allows new skin to grow and proliferate," Dr. Moy explains. This exfoliator contains papaya enzymes to break down dead skin cells and microderm crystals to buff away acne scars. Aloe vera, coconut, and vitamins E and B nourish the skin simultaneously.

Medications prescribed for mental illnesses can have the unfortunate side effect of causing acne. Some antidepressants have been purported to trigger acne breakouts, including brands like Wellbutrin and Lexapro. Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often prescribed lithium to help handle their condition. Unfortunately, lithium can cause acne breakouts. Often the benefits of these types of drugs outweigh the negative onset of acne, but it’s important to look into various options to determine what might have the minimal amount of side effects.
Apply fresh lemon juice. Lemon juice has natural skin bleaching properties, and can help to effectively lighten your acne scars. Simply combine equal parts lemon juice and water and apply this liquid directly onto your scars, avoiding the surrounding skin. Wash off the lemon juice after 15 to 25 minutes or you could put the lemon juice on overnight as a mask.
Some of us are more at risk for acne scars than others, although there is no way to say for sure who will develop scars after acne and who will not. These scars tend to occur more commonly after inflammatory acne, especially when it’s not treated early and aggressively. Other risks include picking squeezing or popping zits. (But whatever you do, never, ever pop a zit in the “danger triangle.”) Genetics can also play a role. “The earlier that acne gets treated, the better,” says Dr. Levine. “If somebody has active acne at 13 or 14, we want to jump on it.” Some scar resurfacing treatments also help keep acne at bay, she says. Dr. Imber adds that Youth Corridor RetinUltimate Transforming Gel applied twice daily can help treat active acne and prevent recurrence. Next, find out how to get rid of acne once and for all.
This lightweight, all-over acne treatment clears acne with two percent salicylic acid—the highest percentage allowed. It also contains retinol, which helps smooth the look of skin texture and even the look of skin tone while a blend of soothing ingredients helps balance the skin’s microbiome. This hydrating formula also contains sodium PCA and sodium hyaluronate, which moisturize skin and help offset dryness that could be caused by salicylic acid and/or retinol.
Scrubbing your face daily with grainy cleansers and exfoliating products can do more harm than good. When done too often, it can cause redness, inflammation, and irritation. “Exfoliating a pimple can pull away healthy skin cells and create an open wound and higher risk for scarring,” says Jessica Weiser, MD, from New York Dermatology Group. “Exfoliation should be done with caution, and not more than 2-3 times a week maximum.”
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Like acne on your face, back acne occurs when your pores become blocked with oil and dead skin cells.. Exfoliating your back regularly might help remove these dead skin cells and pore-clogging debris before they have a chance to block pores. However, you want to take care not to scrub too hard, especially if you are experiencing an active breakout. Use a soft cloth to gently brush away surface impurities as you shower.

"Hyperpigmentation is an increase of melanin, which is the substance that colors the skin," says Dr. Sobel. Hyperpigmentation often clears up on its own. However if you want to speed up the process, you can use topical treatments with ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and kojic acid, which can help brighten skin overall. We like Sunday Riley Sleeping Night Oil ($105, sephora.com) and InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum ($17, amazon.com). The most important thing is to stay out of the sun to keep the dark spots from getting even deeper in color.
lThis at-home skin peel available at Sephora tightens pores, reduces oil, helps retexturize skin and diminishes dark spots. It's paraben and sulfate free, non-comedogenic, and is not tested on animals. Use this peel each week as part of your clear skin regimen to help even out skin tone and gently remove unhealthy top skin layers, revealing new, healthier skin underneath.
Drugs: Some medications may cause or worsen acne, such as those containing iodides, bromides, or oral or injected steroids (either the medically prescribed prednisone [Deltasone, Orasone, Prednicen-M, Liquid Pred] or the steroids that bodybuilders or athletes sometimes take). Other drugs that can cause or aggravate acne are anticonvulsant medications and lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid). Most cases of acne, however, are not drug related.
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