Acne scar treatment: The best acne scar treatment for hyperpigmentation is with 4 percent hydroquinone and sunblock, according to Dr. Imber. Hydroquinone is a topical bleaching agent that you apply directly to a dark spot. Sunblock is essential, since sun exposure can worsen hyperpigmentation. Other potential treatments include glycolic acid products, which remove the upper-most layer of the skin and the dark marks, and retinoids to increase skin cell turnover, Dr. Elbuluk says. These can be used with the bleaching agent hydroquinone as well. “We can also try glycolic acid chemical peels in the office at higher doses than you could do at home,” she says. “If peels don’t do the trick, lasers are usually the next thing we would try to improve hyperpigmentation.” Check out these amazing skin transformations that will make you run to your dermatologist.
Alcohol-based toners have been an anti-acne step since forever, but are so harsh and drying on skin that they can cause skin to produce even more oil, and they can irritate; as with benzoyl peroxide or any other irritant, they can further inflame a case of acne. But dabbing skin with witch hazel or non-alcohol toner (we love S.W. Basics’ toner with witch hazel and raw apple cider vinegar, $9.99, swbasicsofbk.com) can serve as a mild exfoliant, to unclog pores and deposit ingredients like tea tree oil or salicylic acid. Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleansing pads from Desert Essence ($7.99, desertessence.com) are particularly brilliant, combining both ingredients.
Eat healthily. Foods that are highly processed and contain a lot of oils greatly increase the amount of acne on your body. Getting the proper amount of nutrients from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein help your skin to regenerate faster and limit unnecessary oil production. When at all possible, avoid foods that are processed or contain a lot of sugar (think junk foods).
Take a fresh lemon and squeeze out its juice. Apply this juice directly on your scars with fingertips or a cotton ball, leave it for ten minutes and wash it off with water. Do this once a day for two to three weeks during which you can see your scars diminish considerably. If you want, you can also mix honey with your lemon juice to make it some more effective in reducing the acne scars.
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.
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.
Acne treatment that you apply to the skin: Most acne treatments are applied to the skin. Your dermatologist may call this topical treatment. There are many topical acne treatments. Some topicals help kill the bacteria. Others work on reducing the oil. The topical medicine may contain a retinoid, prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide, antibiotic, or even salicylic acid. Your dermatologist will determine what you need.
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.
Instead, you’ll want to talk to your dermatologist about what can be done about your scarring. There are professional procedures that can smooth the skin and minimize scars. Laser treatments are often used to treat acne scars. Your dermatologist might also suggest dermal fillers to “plump up” the depressed area leaving the skin, albeit temporarily, more smooth and even.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.