It may take time, but discovering how to get rid of pimple scars isn’t as impossible as you think; solutions ranging from natural, DIY home remedies to professional-grade procedures are available at your fingertips. So what works best? In the end, only your unique skin can say, but we do have a few suggestions (hint: they don’t involve expensive fillers or lasers). If you want to learn how to get rid of acne marks effectively and affordably, keep reading and start saying sayonara to unsightly scars.
Use a toner after cleansing. After you wash your face, exfoliate, or apply a face mask, apply a toner to the entirety of your face. Toners work to tighten pores making it less likely that dirt and oil will become trapped in them. Buy acne toners at a local drugstore, or use witch hazel or apple cider vinegar dabbed on with a cotton ball. Don’t rinse toners after application - allow them to stay on your skin.
While acne is a much more visible condition than most, it is important to remember that it is like most diseases, in which early detection can help to mitigate its impact. Bearing that in mind, we have taken the time to put together 10 of the most common causes for acne, so that you can be better informed and potentially avoid some (and only some) of its root causes.
You can apply all the topicals you want, but unfortunately, most treatments you'll find at the drugstore won't help with acne scars, Hellman says. However, she notes that derma rollers (at-home microneedling devices) may help with acne scarring. If you're on a tight budget, that should be your first stop. You can get one on Amazon for less than $20. (Use yours once a week followed by a Vitamin C serum for best results—here's how to pick the best ones.)
Since the UV rays and visible light from the sun can further darken acne marks, all the dermatologists agree it’s essential to wear sunscreen daily. “Sun protection can make a big difference in whether or not these marks remain permanent,” says Nagler, so much so that she’ll often recommend patients wait and see what their scars look like after a year of careful sun protection before opting for an expensive or invasive procedure. This CeraVe oil-free sunscreen is ideal for acne-prone skin, and also contains niacinamide, which is known to help brighten skin and fight inflammation.
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.
What you can do differently: Gently wash and moisturize your face with a gentle yet effective system (cleanser, toner, moisturizer) that contains pore-clearing ingredients, like alpha hydroxy acids and glycolic and lactic acids. That way you keep the scrubbing to a minimum. Wright recommends Obagi Foaming Gel, Toner and Exfoderm Lotion, her favorite system to suggest for Dangene's acne-prone clients.
"Cortisone injections help treat painful acne flareups and are good for getting rid of it quickly. However, they should not be administered regularly," cautions Dr. Bank. "Cortisone shots contain an antiinflammatory steroid medication called triamcinolone, which helps reduce the swelling of a glaring pimple or cyst, normally within 24 to 48 hours."
True acne scars — as in indentations in the skin like ice-pick scars — can only be erased with professional procedures like microneedling or lasers. Fortunately, what most of us refer to as “scars,” according to Julia Tzu, M.D., founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology, are actually marks caused by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (brown spots) or post-inflammatory erythema (red spots), that will fade over several months or years. Fortunately, there are products that can speed up the process.
Stress: Being under stress can boost the production of male hormones called androgens. These hormones, which naturally occur in both men and women, stimulate oil production and can worsen acne. Experts believe that an excessive amount of androgens, a condition called hyperandrogenism, may be a significant cause of late-onset acne in women who didn't have acne as adolescents.
So if popping pimples doesn't cause scarring, what does? Long-lasting scars typically turn up after a recurring bout with cystic acne. Cystic acne is a breakout that burrows deep into the skin. These red, painful nodules occur when clogged pores are filled with pus and bacteria, which causes inflammation. Cystic breakouts are often tied to an internal fluctuation of hormones like testosterone (that's why they're common during puberty, monthly menstruation, and perimenopause). "If there is a cyst in the skin, it's going to cause a scar the longer it sits there because pus or bacteria deeper inside the pores cause surrounding inflammation," says Dr. Karolak. And as a result, the inflammation affects the collagen production as well as the fat stores under the skin, creating a visible scar on the surface.
If you use hair sprays or gels, try to keep them away from your face, as they also can clog pores. If you have long hair that touches your face, be sure to wash it often enough to keep oil away. And if you have an after-school job that puts you in contact with oil — like in a fast-food restaurant or gas station, for example — be sure to wash your face well when you get home. It also can help to wash your face after you've been exercising.
Spot treatments are key for treating a pimple ASAP. Benzoyl peroxide is often vilified for being harsh, but when it comes to really zapping a zit, it should be your best friend. Just dab it on the trouble spot to dry it out and kill bacteria. For heavy-duty action, try Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel; for something gentler, we like Arithmetic Acne Control Complex, which has soothing ingredients to counter the drying effects and is made with adult skin in mind.
If you have scarring, your dermatologist may suggest surgery to help heal acne lesions and remove scarring. A laser can reshape scar tissue and reduce redness. Dermabrasion is a type of surgery that can remove surface scars and reduce the depth of deep scars. Another option is to transfer fat from one part of the body to the face. In some cases, a single treatment can help scarring. But for lasting results, several are often needed. There are also topical treatments for acne scarring.
If you look in the mirror and see a pimple, don't touch it, squeeze it, or pick at it. This might be hard to do — it can be pretty tempting to try to get rid of a pimple. But when you play around with pimples, you can cause even more inflammation by popping them or opening them up. Plus, the oil from your hands can't help! More important, though, picking at pimples can leave tiny, permanent scars on your face.
Exfoliating cleansers and masks: A variety of mild scrubs, exfoliants, and masks can be used. These products may contain salicylic acid in a concentration that makes it a very mild peeling agent. These products remove the outer layer of the skin and thus open pores. Products containing glycolic or alpha hydroxy acids are also gentle skin exfoliants.