"I often recommend PCA Skin Pigment Gel to patients looking to treat scars left behind from acne," explains Rebecca Kazin, a dermatologist at Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and Johns Hopkins department of dermatology. "This gel contains 2 percent hydroquinone blended with other skin brighteners, like kojic acid, resorcinol, and azeleic acid, which work to lighten the pigmentation without irritating the skin," she says. The addition of lactic acid helps maintain moisture to prevent overdrying, which can worsen pigmentation.
Unwashed sheets and pillowcases lead to cross contamination which leads to pimples. Aim to wash your bedding once or twice a week to prevent bacteria from building up and affecting your complexion, suggests Dr. Papantoniou. If that seems overboard, at least aim to wash your pillowcase once a week since that's where your face rests while you snooze (and dream of flawless skin).
3. You're eating spicy foods. Spicy foods often contain tomatoes and peppers, which contain acidic lycopene that can be an irritant to some people, throwing off their skin's pH levels and triggering breakouts. However, it isn't just spicy foods that can irritate your skin. Some people have an aversion to dairy, bread, or other types of foods — how your skin reacts to what you eat just depends on your own personal make-up. (Tip via Dr. Downie.)
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.
You can find it in many drugstore products—just take a peek at the label. Dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. likes the Benzac line. "It's active ingredients are salicylic acid and East Indian Sandalwood oil—salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that serves as a keratolytic agent (meaning it dissolves keratin). It unclogs pores by penetrating into the pore to dissolve dead skin cell accumulation and aids in shedding of the top layer of skin. East Indian sandalwood oil is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, which is new to the skin care scene. It soothes the skin and fights off inflammation that often accompanies breakouts."
Blackheads are a mild form of acne that appear as unsightly, open pores that appear darker than the skin surrounding them. They get their dark appearance from a skin pigment called melanin, which oxidizes and turns black when it's exposed to the air. Blackheads aren't caused by dirt, but by sebum (oil) and dead skin cells blocking the pore. If the pore remains open, it becomes a blackhead; if it's completely blocked and closed, it turns into a whitehead.
"Retinoids work over time by continuously increasing cell turnover which in turn helps fade hyperpigmentation," says Dr. Idriss. Dr. Shah agrees, noting that Retin-A helps with acne marks by causing your skin cells to "divide more rapidly and pushing out cells with discolored pigments." Since retinoids make your skin super-sensitive to the sun, it's best to not only wear SPF, but to also apply a treatment like RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream before you go to bed.
It's best to consult a primary care physician or dermatologist if an individual is unable to adequately control his or her acne. The goal of treatment should be the prevention of scarring (not a flawless complexion) so that after the condition spontaneously resolves there is no lasting sign of the affliction. Here are some of the options available: