Inflammation is the single greatest gauge of scar development. The greater the inflammation on the skin, the more likely scarring is to occur. Deep breakouts that take a long time to heal also increase the chance of scarring. Blackheads, whiteheads, and other non-inflamed blemishes typically don't cause scarring because these types of lesions don't injure skin tissue.
Wondering how to get rid of acne fast? While you can't get rid of a pimple overnight, there are plenty of doctor-approved acne treatments that can shrink zits significantly—and zap redness and irritation—in a mere 24 hours (which should make it much easier to cover up. We talked to top dermatologists to get the scoop on what actually works when it comes to banishing blemishes. Read on for 11 ways to get rid of acne, plus learn about the different types of acne and what each type responds to best when it comes to treatment.
"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.
However, if you have a scar, you’re dealing with permanent skin damage that needs treatment in order to disappear. An acne scar changes the texture of the skin. If acne has left indentations, or raised spots, the damage has occurred at a deeper level in the skin. This “cobblestoning” effect indicates scarring that needs more than a surface-level treatment.
The bad news: There's no secret ingredient or miracle gadget that makes scars totally disappear. Don't get discouraged, though. A lot of what you think is acne scarring is really just hyperpigmentation or erythema (brown or red spots) rather than an actual change in the texture of the skin. Plus, there's a bevy of gels, creams, and treatments that can bring that discoloration down. We asked top dermatologists to recommend the most effective of the bunch.
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.
Many people believe that acne is a hygiene problem. This is a complete myth. Acne is caused by toxins and excess hormones. When your hormones become imbalance, your oil glands produce excessive quantities of sebum. This forms plugs and traps with bacteria, resulting in inflammation and acne breakout. The basic foundation in how to clear acne effectively is to control your hormones and toxins. This will prevent future acne breakout.
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.
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.
Your skin really is much like the cover of a book. It is the first thing people notice about you, and inside of it, holds many wonders and mysteries. However, much like how all book covers don’t look the alike, the same can be said for a person’s skin, as there are many factors, most of which are outside of our control, that can impact the way it looks.
Dr. Day says another product ingredient to look out for is retinol to "help minimize and even avoid scarring." Dr. Chiu suggests this particular SkinMedica product because it "induces new collagen formation, which can soften acne scars, as well as unclogs pores for acne prone skin while bringing pigment to the surface with its exfoliative properties." Start using it twice a week and you'll notice fine lines start to fade as well.
Skin care clinics and dermatologists across the country offer laser skin treatments for acne scar removal, but is it worth it? The best way to determine which laser acne scar treatment is right for you is to get different professional opinions about which type is best for your skin, and compare pricing, expected recovery time, and reviews. Here's how a few laser treatments work for acne scar removal:
90. If you’re going to pop a pimple at home, do it the right way. Sterilize your hands and a small needle with rubbing alcohol, then gently puncture the whitehead of the pimple, just enough to break the skin. Using a clean cotton swab, press on either side of the pimple until it’s drained. Cover with a bandage to keep the area clean while it’s healing.
But, sometimes a particularly aggressive blemish is truly on a mission to leave its permanent mark. "Acne scars occur when normal tissue in the skin is destroyed and replaced with fibrous tissue. You can think of an acne lesion as a wound. When the damage caused by acne is severe, the body can respond by creating too much tissue or too little tissue. The production of too much tissue forms a keloid or a hypertrophic scar, and too little tissue leads to that depression in the skin, or atrophic scar. The deeper and more inflamed the acne lesion, or the more that it is picked or squeezed, the more likely it is to scar," says Dr. Bowe.
Your dermatologist may prescribe Accutane®, if other treatments have not worked. This is a strong medicine that can help prevent scarring and treat active disease. But, Accutane also can cause birth defects. It is important that you are not pregnant and do not plan to get pregnant while taking this medicine. You must use two methods of birth control at the same time. This is done for one month before treatment begins, during treatment, and for a full month after stopping the drug. Talk with your dermatologist about when it's safe to get pregnant. Other side effects of this drug may include dry eyes, itching, mood changes, and changes in the blood and liver. You and your dermatologist can decide whether this medicine is right for you based on the pros and cons. Use any prescribed medicine exactly as you are advised. Taking more medicine than you are supposed to take may make acne or your general health worse. Ask your doctor what to do if you miss a dose.
Hormones are ruthless, and all the topical treatments in the world won't make a difference if yours are seriously out of whack. In that case, you need to fix things internally first. "Medications that manipulate hormonal levels, such as oral contraceptives and spironolactone, are helpful in curbing hormonal chin and lower face outbreaks," Dr. Tzu says. Ask your derm about what might work for you.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is one of the newly available treatments. PDT uses a topical photosensitizer liquid that one applies to the skin and a light to activate the sensitizer. Levulan (aminolevulinic acid) and blue light, commonly used to treat pre-cancers (actinic keratosis) and acne vulgaris, can treat some rosacea patients. The use of PDT in rosacea is off-label, since it is primarily designed for regular acne. PDT works at reducing the inflammation; PDT is performed in a physician's office. The treatment takes anywhere from one to one and a half hours to complete. Strict sun avoidance for approximately one to three days is required after the treatment. Mild discomfort during the treatment and a mild to moderate sunburn appearance after the treatment is common. Some patients have experienced remissions (disease-free periods) of several months to years from these types of treatments. Other patients may not notice significant improvement.
Yet another study took a look at the difference in rates of acne in first-degree relatives between patients and controls. The study used 204 acne patients, and 144 non-acne controls. Their study determined that having a first-degree relative who suffers from acne increases the risk of getting acne by four times. Genes play a role in several ways: firstly, they contribute to skin sensitivity. Acne-prone skin is more susceptible to oil production, and tends to shed and regenerate skin cells faster. Those prone to acne also exhibit strong inflammatory responses to skin irritants and bacteria in comparison to those who don’t have issues with acne.
Mix and match: "Since acne scars vary, so do treatments. Depending on the individual, I often use a multimodal approach to treating acne scars. First, I might use Fraxel treatments to smooth out the skin texture. Then, I often use a combination of the fillers Restylane and Belotero to lift the depressed scars. Finally, I perform a few punch excisions to surgically remove any deep scars that may remain," says Dr. Bowe. There are also topical treatment options for active breakouts that help prevent scarring, which can be used to get out ahead of things.
You've probably seen the Proactiv clear skin system advertised on television at some point over the last several years, but does it work? Proactiv is one of the better acne remedies out there for mild cases of inflammatory and noninflammatory acne, hormonal acne, and adult acne. The basic kit comes with a gentle glycolic acid and benzoyl peroxide exfoliator, a benzoyl peroxide pore cleanser, and an oil-free moisturizer that contains both glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Prices and shipping rates vary by location but Proactiv typically starts at $30.
Diet. Studies indicate that certain dietary factors, including skim milk and carbohydrate-rich foods — such as bread, bagels and chips — may worsen acne. Chocolate has long been suspected of making acne worse. A small study of 14 men with acne showed that eating chocolate was related to a worsening of symptoms. Further study is needed to examine why this happens and whether people with acne would benefit from following specific dietary restrictions.