Similar to the lingering emotions you experience after an intense Riverdale episode, acne scars are basically the long-lasting aftereffects of your short-lived breakouts. An unexpected pimple (or five) is annoying enough, but the acne scars and dark marks it leaves behind are often worse. While there isn't a magic wand that can get rid of them overnight, top dermatologists from across the country share how to handle marks and bumps, from prevention to treatment.

Similar to the lingering emotions you experience after an intense Riverdale episode, acne scars are basically the long-lasting aftereffects of your short-lived breakouts. An unexpected pimple (or five) is annoying enough, but the acne scars and dark marks it leaves behind are often worse. While there isn't a magic wand that can get rid of them overnight, top dermatologists from across the country share how to handle marks and bumps, from prevention to treatment.


Sunscreen: "Sun exposure during an active breakout can lead to darkening of inflammatory lesions, prolonging their appearance on your skin and making them harder to fade over time," says Dr. Shereene Idriss from Union Square Dermatology, which means it's important to lather on the sunscreen daily — even when it's cloudy. And don't worry about breaking out from a pore-clogging sunscreen; the latest formulas are more innovative and acne-friendly than ever. Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a top derm-approved favorite. It contains niacinamide, which is an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce redness.

Rosacea skin tends to be sensitive and may easily flare with self-treatment or common acne therapies. Approach any home treatment or attempts for natural remedies with some caution. As with any rosacea therapy, some people may experience sensitivity or irritation with treatment. Several possible natural remedies, including dilute vinegar cleansing and green tea applications, may be useful in rosacea.
Shower twice a day. Take a shower or bath in the morning and at night. Alternatively, take a shower in the morning and then again after physical activity, like exercise, or sweating. Wash your entire body with a mild cleanser and use shampoos that limit oil production in your hair. Be sure to always shower after exercising to remove the dead skin cells your body has sloughed off through sweating.
Try sipping spearmint tea. According to Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, dermatologist and founder of Epionce Skincare, having two cups a day could reduce acne by 25%! Dr. Levin explains this is because spearmint tea has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and reduction in testosterone levels in some limited studies. "While it's unclear how it works, and it's important to note that there are no standardized studies, it is encouraging data that spearmint may have potential as a natural adjunct treatment for hormonal acne," she says.
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Laser resurfacing. This procedure can be done in the doctor's or dermatologist's office. The laser removes the damaged top layer of skin and tightens the middle layer, leaving skin smoother. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. The doctor will try to lessen any pain by first numbing the skin with local anesthesia. It usually takes between 3 and 10 days for the skin to heal completely.
While SPF is a must, some sunscreens can trigger breakouts. You want to look for oil-free and non-comedogenic formulas that won't clog pores,” says Karen Hammerman, MD, from Schweiger Dermatology. Options from brands like Elta MD and Peter Thomas Roth, which are recommended by the pros, are specifically tested on acneic skin so you can get your dose of SPF without having to worry about clogged pores.
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In dermatology, PDT with the photosensitizer Levulan Kerastick (20% delta-aminolevulinic acid HCl) is used for the treatment of very early, thin skin cancers called actinic keratoses (AK). The initial approval was specifically for the treatment of actinic keratosis of the face and scalp with a combination of an application of the photosensitizer followed by a timed exposure to a special blue light source. PDT is also used for acne, rosacea, skin cancer, sun damage, cosmetic skin improvement, oily skin, enlarged sebaceous glands, wrinkles, rejuvenation (anti-aging), warts, hidradenitis suppurativa, psoriasis, and many other skin conditions.
I tried many different products from over-the-counter acne treatments to expensive prescription medications. Price ranged from $5 to over $100. I even have books on “How to Clear Acne in 24 Hours”, “How to Clear Pimples in a Week”, or even “How to Clear Break Outs through Hypnosis”. I was an acne treatment junkie! I would buy anything for a clear complexion.
"You want to calm the inflammation right away," Chiu says of treating newly popped pimples prone to scarring. She suggested asking your dermatologist to prescribe an anti-inflammatory acne medication like Aczone Gel. For a prescription-free solution, dermatologist Ronald Moy suggests treating newer scars with a product containing innovative growth factors that "stimulate collagen production immediately" and "should prevent any new scars from becoming old scars." This serum from Moy's product line, DNA EGF, uses growth factors clinically proven to speed up the growth of healthy skin cells. Both hyperpigmentation (not true scarring, but the spotty aftermath of a breakout) and atrophic scars (those crater marks more deep and sunken) benefit from a stimulating collagen boost because thickening the skin leads to less visibility of existing scars, Moy says.

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.


Scarring from severe cystic acne can have harmful effects on a person's self esteem, happiness and mental health. Thankfully, there are many different acne scar treatment options available, ranging from chemical peels and skin fillers to dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these are all safe and effective acne scar treatment methods. However, Baldwin says it's important to first clarify what you mean by 'scar.' “Many people point to red or brown spots leftover from old zits and call them scars," she says. “These are marks, not scars and they'll fade with time. Scars have textural changes and are not flush with the surface of the skin. There are several types of acne scars – innies and outies. Outies can be injected with corticosteroids and flattened. Innies can be either deep and narrow or broad, sloping and relatively shallow. Deep and narrow scars need to be cut out, but broader sloping scars can be made better by fillers, laser resurfacing and dermabrasion."


Mild rosacea may not necessarily require treatment if the individual is not bothered by the condition. Situations that are more resistant may require a combination approach, using several of the treatments at the same time. A combination approach may include prescription sulfa facial wash twice a day, applying an antibacterial cream morning and night, and taking an oral antibiotic for flares. A series of in-office laser, intense pulsed light, or photodynamic therapies may also be used in combination with the home regimen. It is advisable to seek a physician's care for the proper evaluation and treatment of rosacea.
According to dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, some scars are thick, raised hypertrophic scars that stick out above the skin; others are keloid, which are scars that have over-healed, and manifest as dense, rubbery skin tissue. Then, there are atrophic scars that appear as depressions in the skin — they're the most challenging to treat. The three main categories of atrophic scars are:
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.
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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