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.
You’ll need more than one: Facials can clear away comedonal acne and reduce breakouts for the following month, but your skin is an organ which continues to grow new cells and shed dead ones every day. Most aestheticians recommend getting a facial every 4 to 6 weeks to continue your clear complexion. Considering that most facials cost upwards of $80 each and take at least an hour, this can become very expensive and time consuming.
Whether you’re 47 or 17, male or female, whether your breakouts are once a month or multiple times a week, the reason everyday, noncystic acne comes back and back is frustratingly simple: Human error. The minute a breakout clears, suddenly, you’re a person with clear skin—one who no longer needs to be quite so vigilant with their skincare routine. But the only way to keep skin blemish-free on any sort of long-term basis is to constantly treat it as an active, broken-out complexion. The right products make a serious difference, but the key is unwavering consistency.
One study that gained a lot of traction in the acne vs. food debate appeared in the Archives of Dermatology in 2002. This research was based on the study of 115 people in Eastern Paraguay and 1,200 individuals in Papua New Guinea. The individuals in this study lived on a diet of self-raised lean meats and fresh plant foods, and scientists were astonished to record not a singular case of acne in either population. Based on this evidence, researchers concluded that the standard Western diet composed largely of starches and refined sugars might be a culprit between the high rates of acne in the Western world.
There is also a role for Bellafill and other injectable fillers, including fat, for some depressed scars. Bellafill is currently the only filler that’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help raise depressed scars. It packs a one-two punch by adding volume, and also encouraging collagen formation beneath the surface by creating a supportive scaffold. “Bellafill and other injectables can fill in scars but these tend to be better for one scar,” adds New York City facial plastic surgeon Jennifer Levine, MD. Filler results can last up to 18 months. “If you have a cheek full of depressed scars, it’s better to resurface the face with laser, radiofrequency, or another energy-based treatment,” she adds.
When it comes to skincare, we often put so much attention on the outside that we forget about our insides. Once upon a time, a common acne myth was that French fries and chocolate were to be avoided at all costs if you wanted clear skin. Now we know those foods don’t necessarily cause acne, but some foods do have properties that can trigger breakouts.
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.
With its natural inflammation-fighting properties, a 5 percent solution of tea tree oil is less harsh than a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide solution and can be just as effective against acne, though it may clear up a little less quickly. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with between 20 and 40 drops of witch hazel, then use a cotton swab to apply. Try this remedy up to twice a day; more could dry your skin and make the acne worse.
It's a myth that tanning clears up your skin. UV rays put you at risk for skin cancer, premature aging, and wrinkles. Don't lie in the sun or use a tanning booth. Also, some commonly prescribed acne medications, including retinoids that go on your skin, can make you more sensitive to damage from UV rays. So always wear sunscreen and limit how much sun you get.
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.
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.
Ugh, I know. This is the first piece of advice every dermatologist, esthetician, and nutritionist has told me time and time again, yet I've resisted. I'm aware that dairy is known to cause inflammation and increased sebum production, but I just love cheese (and ice cream, and milk chocolate) so damn much, okay? Because I was at my most desperate, I decided to swallow my cravings and go dairy-free for a very doable three weeks. After just one week into the experiment, my cystic bumps died down significantly, and I cursed everyone for being right.
Rhinophyma is a consequence of non-treated and sometimes retreatment-resistant rosacea due to granulomatous infiltration of the skin within the nose. If severe, the nose will be severely enlarged. It is characterized by enlarged pores and thickened skin. Papules on the nose and related rosacea in the surrounding areas of the face are often observed. It is more common in men.
Bacteria. Excess sebum clogs the openings to hair follicles -- especially those on the face, neck, chest, and back. Bacteria grow in these clogged follicles. This makes blackheads or whiteheads, also known as ''comedones,'' form on the skin's surface. Sometimes, this clogging causes the follicle wall to break under the pressure of this buildup. When this happens, sebum leaks into nearby tissues and forms a pustule or a papule -- this is called inflammatory acne. Larger, tender pustules are called nodules.
If you wear tight clothing when working out or don heavy equipment for sporting purposes, you may have experienced Acne Mechanica. This type of acne is prevalent among athletes, students, and soldiers, and is directly caused by excessive heat, pressure, and covered skin. It also may be triggered by consistent rubbing of different materials against the skin. This type of acne can be alleviated by changing out of sweaty gear and clothing and showering immediately after a workout. It’s also important to clean gear of acne bacteria and prevent friction by ensuring a comfortably tight fit. If you believe your acne flare up has been caused by a tight or heavy uniform, wearing a clean, cotton t-shirt underneath can help absorb the sweat and keep your skin protected.
Take a small fresh lemon and squeeze out its content juice. Apply the juice directly on the scars using the finger tips or a clean cotton ball, leave it for about 10 minutes and wash it off using cold water. Do this at least once a day for about two to three weeks during after which you can see the scars disappear considerably. If you want, you can also mix some honey with the lemon juice to make it some more effective in reducing of the acne scars.
Steroid injections: If you feel a stress pimple rearing its ugly head, a steroid shot can be administered the same day you call your derm because the process is very fast. Not only does it immediately reduce the inflammation of an existing zit, but cortisone can also help thick scars (keloids) appear softer and flatter. "These are specifically for raised scars, however," says Dr. Shah. "It'll help flatten out the scar, but it won't do anything to any discrepancies in the texture."
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.
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.
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.
The one food Dr. Schultz does recommend to avoid is iodine. "Iodine causes acne in everyone if you eat enough," he says. You can find it in shellfish, like lobster, shrimp, crab, and some greens like kelp and spinach. The different between iodine and those other "acne-causing foods" is that iodine builds up over weeks and months before it starts to affect skin.
Oral antibiotics: Doctors may start treatment with tetracycline (Sumycin) or one of the related "cyclines," such as doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox, and others) and minocycline (Dynacin, Minocin). Other oral antibiotics that are useful for treating acne are cefadroxil (Duricef), amoxicillin (Amoxil, DisperMox, Trimox), and the sulfa drugs.