This is Dr. Schultz's number-one piece of advice. "Exfoliation is the most important thing you can do on a regular basis to be fighting acne both in terms of preventing it and treating it." His go-to ingredient? Glycolic acid. While a glycolic cleanser will help, a treatment that really soaks into your skin is what will give you the results you want. Try BeautyRx Advanced 10% Exfoliating Pads or Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum.
Lasers: Dermatologists often remodel collagen using lasers, "which do not completely eliminate acne scars but can improve them by 30% or more," according to Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. "These can be helpful in reducing the redness associated with acne marks and scars. I use a pulse-dye laser called the V-Beam for red scars. When treating older scars that are no longer red, I like to use the Fraxel laser. When lasers are used to treat acne scars, the results can differ dramatically based on two things: how many treatments you have done, and how much social downtime you're willing to accept as part of the recovery process," says Dr. Bowe. "Erbium laser resurfacing is also another option and it's more aggressive than Fraxel," says Dr. Shah. "It's a minimal burning of surrounding tissues and has fewer side effects like less swelling and redness, but it's won't work for those with darker skin tones."
Hypo-pigmentation is characterized by the light spots that result from a lack of melanin. With this type of skin damage, melanocytes are depleted from the injured area or lose their ability to produce melanin. This occurs when healthy skin has been replaced with scar tissue. Because scar tissue has a light pink color, it’s more noticeable on people with darker skin tones.
"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."
Old marks still sticking around take patience and consistency to treat. One way to even out skin tone over time is with regular exfoliating. "[Exfoliating] is important in treating acne scars at home as it lifts dead skin and allows new skin to grow and proliferate," Dr. Moy explains. This exfoliator contains papaya enzymes to break down dead skin cells and microderm crystals to buff away acne scars. Aloe vera, coconut, and vitamins E and B nourish the skin simultaneously.
Medications prescribed for mental illnesses can have the unfortunate side effect of causing acne. Some antidepressants have been purported to trigger acne breakouts, including brands like Wellbutrin and Lexapro. Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often prescribed lithium to help handle their condition. Unfortunately, lithium can cause acne breakouts. Often the benefits of these types of drugs outweigh the negative onset of acne, but it’s important to look into various options to determine what might have the minimal amount of side effects.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is not an acne scar, but a red, pink, brown or tan skin discoloration where acne has previously flared up. It will usually disappear on its own in a year or so. Many skin lightening products claim to help reduce the visibility of these acne “scars." Their active ingredient, hydroquinone, works to slow melanin production and can reduce dark brown marks, but melanin isn't the cause of red and pink acne discolorations. A better option is to use the best foundation for acne prone skin you can find to hide the marks until they naturally fade away.
11. You need to clean your phone, too. If you're seeing pimples on your cheeks or anywhere near the area where you hold your phone, they may be from those hour-long convos with your crush. Your phone picks up lots of dirt and bacteria (from your hands, your bag, the kitchen counter), which can then get transferred to your face when you're chatting on the phone. Wipe your screen with an anti-bacterial wipe often to get rid of dirt and germs.
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.)
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.
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.
Consider cosmetic surgery. As a last resort, consult with a medical professional about surgery for large, deep lesions or scars. In this procedure, a doctor will use a punch excision to cut out the scar and replace it with stitching or a skin graft. Smaller lesions require only stitching, while large lesions may require a skin graft from another part of your body.
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.
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.
Ablative lasers deliver an intense wavelength of light to the skin, removing thin outer layers of the skin (epidermis). In addition, collagen production is stimulated in the underlying layer (the dermis). Patients are typically numbed with local anesthetic and the ablation is done as an outpatient procedure. CO2 and erbium are the ablative lasers most often used for acne scar treatment.
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.
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.