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.
Scars that are indented aren't going to go away on their own and most likely need professional treatment. Talk to your derm about laser options, as well as subcision and microneedling—all proven methods to get rid of scarring. But those brown spots left behind once a zit goes away? You can treat them at home if you're diligent. Dr. Schultz says you have to stick to a regimen of daily sunscreen use, exfoliation, and application of a bleaching product that will help remove the excess pigmentation in the skin. Try Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum.
Retinoids: Retin-A (tretinoin) has been in use for years, and preparations have become milder and gentler while still maintaining its effectiveness. Newer retinoids include adapalene (Differin) and tazarotene (Tazorac). These medications are especially helpful for unclogging pores. Side effects may include irritation and a mild increase in sensitivity to the sun. Adapalene 0.1% is now available without a prescription. With proper sun protection, however, they can be used even during sunny periods. The combination medication known as Epiduo gel -- which contains the retinoid, adapalene, along with the antibacterial, benzoyl peroxide -- is applied once a day.
Don't Squeeze, Pop, or Pick at Pimples: Pass up the temptation to pick or squeeze a pimple. Doing so can force debris deeper into the dermis, spreading an infection to other tissue and worsening inflammation. This is especially true for deep, serious blemishes like nodules and cysts. Remind yourself that popping pimples can extend the healing time and ups the chance of it leaving a permanent scar. Allow the blemish to heal on its own. If you've already picked at a blemish, take steps to help heal it and minimize skin damage.
People who escaped their teen years almost pimple-free may develop persistent adult-onset acne as they get older. Despite the normal increase in androgen levels during puberty, some doctors believe that flare-ups of acne have less to do with androgen levels than with how a person's skin responds to an increase in sebum production or to the bacteria that causes acne. The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes occurs naturally in healthy hair follicles. If too many of them accumulate in plugged follicles, they may secrete enzymes that break down sebum and cause inflammation. Some people are simply more sensitive than others to this reaction. Sebum levels that might cause a pimple or two in one person may result in widespread outbreaks -- or even acute cystic acne -- in another person.
There you have it! As with any skin condition, it's best to consult your regular dermatologist to see which option is best for you. And while technology has come a long way in making dark marks and acne scars treatable, remember that most of us will experience them at some point. So while these are all feasible options for fading your acne scars, don't forget that you always have the choice of pimple positivity, too.
EradiKate™ Mask Foam-Activated Acne Treatment gently exfoliates dead skin cells and helps unclog pores while sulfur reduces the appearances and helps prevent pimples, zits, and future breakouts. Within minutes Kate’s unique foam-activated technology penetrates to help dissolve impurities and dirt, and address oily skin. An advanced botanical complex of boswellia serrata, honey extracts, and rice bran work to calm and soothe skin. Use this mask with Kate Somerville’s bestselling EradiKate Acne Treatment for an acne regimen that promotes a clearer complexion.
A game changer in the skincare industry, the Acne Pad delivers medical-grade glycolic acid that retextures the surface of the skin to reveal what Cane + Austin likes to call that "glycolic glow"—all just with one product. After years of treating thousands of patients with glycolic acid, Dr. Austin knew he had to share this miracle ingredient with everyone. While in development, Dr. Austin shared the pre-production samples in Ziploc bags and gave to friends and family to try. He knew he had something special when a friend had to choose between being on time for her flight, or running back to get more of "those pads". She missed her flight. Cane + Austin had a cult following before even being distributed in stores.

As mentioned above, genetics are thought to play a major role in your susceptibility to acne. However, using the best acne products and taking good care of your skin can help you prevent worsening acne and scars later in life. Check out these other known acne causes and aggravators and see how to prevent acne by cutting some of these out of your life:


With a blend of potent antioxidants, this serum is loved by beauty editors and dermatologists alike. Vitamin C plays a leading role: "The powerful ingredient has been shown to brighten dull skin and lighten brown spots. It may also be helpful in lightening a dark scar," says Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The formula also includes vitamin E. "Vitamin E is a fatty vitamin that has both antioxidant and skin-protecting properties. It helps seal cracks in the outer skin layer and may help repair a damaged skin barrier and improve the appearance of scars after the initial wound has healed," Zeichner says.
Lin says he recommends applying egg whites directly to a pimple to shrink a breakout. “The protein in the egg will help dry out the pimple,” he says. “You can also apply honey to a breakout to calm redness. Honey is a naturally soothing ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties that helps heal the skin. Leave it on for five to 10 minutes, then wipe away with a damp cloth.”
Not that you needed an excuse to pop open a bottle of bubbly, but if a pimple should threaten to ruin your evening out, reach for the Champagne. Its tartaric acid (found in grapes) is said to not only ease acne, but also to contain anti-aging properties. So, soak up a cotton pad with your champs, and apply it to the infected area (it won’t hurt to rub it on your whole face, either). High-class problems? We’ll drink to that!

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:
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.

Avoid creams with vitamin E. Creams with vitamin E may actually do more harm than good. Because it's a vitamin, we're tempted to think that it will be either beneficial or harmless. In fact, one University of Miami study reported that vitamin E treatment had no effect or worsened the appearance of scars in 90% of subjects, with improvement in only 10% of cases.[9]
Caused by a bacteria that lives on our skin, acne comes to life at any age when our hormones cue our body to produce excess oil, essentially throwing fuel on the fire. “Our skins’ oils are a wonderful environment for acne bacteria to thrive in, unfortunately,” says Dr. Robert Anolik, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine. Add dead skin cells, dirt, stress, irritation from everything from diet to skin products, and a breakout is going to result unless you (constantly) work to prevent it.
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.

Extractions: An extraction is the physical unclogging of a clogged pore. The aesthetician pushes a tool called an extractor around each acne lesion, forcing the pus, bacteria, and sometimes blood up through the clogged follicle opening. It is an aggressive procedure that should only be performed by an experienced aesthetician or dermatologist as it can damage your pores if done incorrectly.


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.”
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.

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.
Cocoa butter is a fat and an excellent moisturizer as well as emollient. It can quickly melt due to the body temperature. This quality makes it easily absorbable into the skin. In fact, it not only penetrates the top layer of your skin but it goes deep into the skin into the dermis. Thus, it reaches the site where your skin can retain the moisture for the longest time. A well-moisturized skin is a skin that makes spots and scars less visible!
As far as combination scars go, Dr. Levine’s go-to acne scar treatment for combination-type scars include a series of treatments with picosecond lasers such as the Picosure or use of the FRAX 1550* Fractional non-ablative laser. “These are newer technologies, and they have less downtime than older lasers, so for me this means I can be more aggressive and see results with fewer treatments.” Older ablative lasers blast off the skin’s top layers, which requires significant downtime, but these newer non-ablative lasers pass through the skin’s upper layers to harmlessly heat the deeper tissues, stimulating collagen and smoothing the scar’s appearance.
While over-the-counter products don’t treat the hormonal component of acne, salicylic acid—a.k.a. willow bark, a.k.a. what aspirin is made of—addresses all other aspects involved in a breakout. “It works,” says Anolik, who recommends using salicylic acid-based products in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide preparations that target acne bacteria with greater strength. Benzoyl peroxide can definitely cause dryness and irritation; if you decide not to use it, know that you’ve got to be even more vigilant about the bacteria on your skin, so cleanse and treat more often. Tea-tree oil preparations like Tammy Fender’s Clarifying Dermagel ($72, goop.com) help. Burt’s Bees Natural Solutions Acne Spot Treatment ($10, burtsbees.com) combines tea tree and salicylic acid for powerful (yet easy on skin) results.
A game changer in the skincare industry, the Acne Pad delivers medical-grade glycolic acid that retextures the surface of the skin to reveal what Cane + Austin likes to call that "glycolic glow"—all just with one product. After years of treating thousands of patients with glycolic acid, Dr. Austin knew he had to share this miracle ingredient with everyone. While in development, Dr. Austin shared the pre-production samples in Ziploc bags and gave to friends and family to try. He knew he had something special when a friend had to choose between being on time for her flight, or running back to get more of "those pads". She missed her flight. Cane + Austin had a cult following before even being distributed in stores.
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.
It starts out as a powder (a blend of raw cacao, bamboo charcoal, soil nutrients, and spices), only releasing its potent healing elements when mixed with water. The resulting mousse heals blemishes, fights inflammation, encourages circulation, and visibly tightens pores pretty much instantly. Use Lindstrom’s facial treatment bowl and brush to mix the paste.
48. Clean your makeup brushes every two weeks or so. The amount of product and bacteria build up that happens within two weeks is frightening, and the longer you wait to clean the brushes the longer you’re putting the bacteria right on your skin, causing breakouts. Use warm water and a mild anti-bacterial soap to clean your brushes, laying flat to dry to avoid any warping that can happen.
Bellafill is a dermal filler approved for the correction of moderate to severe, atrophic, distensible facial acne scars on the cheeks in patients over the age of 21. This injection provides immediate improvement — like, your skin is improved by the time you leave the office. Once it's injected, the collagen goes to work immediately, adding natural-looking volume and lift to soften acne scars. Over time, your body naturally metabolizes the collagen — but the results remain intact. In fact, Z. Paul Lorenc, a New York City-based plastic surgeon, explains, “90 percent of patients who used Bellafill to treat their acne scars were still satisfied with the results at the one-year mark." The best part? There is no downtime and you can return to normal activities right away.
Comedo (whiteheads or blackheads) or papules. The comedo is the basic acne lesion, which is a plugged pore. If the plugged pore stays under the skin, it's called a closed comedo and forms a white bump or whitehead. Blackheads are comedos that open up and appear blackish on the surface of the skin. This black color is not due to dirt, but because the air reacts with the excess oil.
12. Step away from your hands. You know how you rest your face on your hand while you're studying? That might be the reason for those blemishes on your cheek or jaw. You're constantly touching things that have germs—anything from your phone to your locker—so putting your hands on your face for a long period of time can cause dirt and bacteria from anything you touch to get into your pores.
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.
Acne occurs when the small pores on the surface of the skin become blocked with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. Each individual pore on the skin opens up to a follicle beneath the epidermis. Within these follicles lie a singular hair and a sebaceous gland. The sebaceous gland produces sebum, an oil designed to keep your skin lubricated and soft. However, when hormonal changes and other factors cause the gland to produce an excess of sebum, the oil will be pumped through the follicle, and may pick up dead skin cells and P. acnes bacteria on its way out. Should these substances clump together, a plug will form. As this plug starts to press up against the surface of the skin, the body responds with an accumulation of red and white blood cells to combat any infection, and this results in inflammation and redness. Acne can occur on the face, back, neck, chest, arms, and buttocks, and any other skin area with a saturation of sebaceous pores.
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