How to Get Rid of Acne Scars
Acne can wreak havoc on your skin, but even worse, long after the blemishes themselves are gone, acne continues to ravage your skin with red or brown marks and scars. These marks can be upsetting to you if you have acne-prone skin and they sometimes feel like they’ll never go away. So what can you do about it? First, you need to understand what you’re dealing with before you can treat it properly. Let’s explore the difference between acne scars and red marks.
What Causes Acne Scars
Often, after a breakout has healed, there are red marks or brown marks left where the blemish was before. This mark is not actually a scar, but rather a spot of discoloration called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). This discoloration is the skin’s response to any wound—like a scrape or a pimple—that has caused inflammation in your skin. As your skin heals, it can produce too much melanin, causing darker, discolored skin that remains after the wound or pimple has already healed. The color of the hyperpigmentation can vary depending on your skin tone, but hyperpigmentation is quite common in those who suffer from acne and can occur with even the smallest pimples. Pimples that are particularly inflamed or have been picked or popped are especially likely to develop hyperpigmentation.
The good news is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is not a true scar and will fade over time, especially with proper treatment. Depending on the contrast between the PIH mark and your regular skin tone, these marks can take up to two years to fade completely without treatment. However, if they are treated properly, these marks can fade much faster and more effectively, leaving your skin clearer and brighter.
Acne Scar Treatments
Products with Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and antioxidants like vitamin C can brighten skin and help lessen the appearance of any discoloration from PIH. Advanced C Radiance Treatment uses stabilized Vitamin C to help lessen the appearance of over-pigmentation. Retinol exfoliates to help eliminate the appearance of discolored surface skin and allows healthier-looking, more even skin to shine through. Dr. Lancer’s Retexturizing Treatment provides a powerful 10% glycolic acid—an AHA—to exfoliate the surface of the skin and brighten discoloration, while also protecting the skin from free radicals with coenzyme CoQ10. For advanced discoloration, try a brightening treatment like Fade Serum Intense with LES 10 Brightening Complex. This powerful combination of red algae extract, sugar cane extract, and licorice root extract—along with other brightening agents—helps reduce the appearance of discoloration and makes skin appear brighter and more even.
PIH is treatable, and the marks will fade over time, regardless of how you treat them. True acne scars, on the other hand, do not fade on their own and require different treatments. There are two kinds of acne scars. The first, hypertrophic and keloid scarring, results from an overproduction of collagen when the body is trying to heal a wound. This causes raised tissue where the wound has healed. The second, atrophic or depressed scarring, results from a loss of tissue, causing the indentation. While AHA or Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) treatments, including cream treatments and peels, can help smooth the skin and minimize the appearance of the scar, they won’t eliminate the raised scar tissue or indented tissue. To address true scars, you’ll need to look into laser treatments, fillers, chemical peels, and dermabrasion. As each of these procedures carries certain risks, see an experienced dermatologist like Dr. Harold Lancer to determine which of these treatments are right for your skin.
One milder treatment for acne scarring is laser or light therapy, where a gentle yet powerful laser can treat the scars without damaging the tissue around them. A more assertive option for raised scars is ablative lasers, which eliminate the top layers of skin, including acne scar tissue. This permits collagen production, which encourages smoother skin to replace the scar tissue as it heals. Alternately, non-ablative lasers are effective for depressed scars as they activate your skin’s collagen production without damaging the skin’s surface and encourage the new collagen to fill in indented acne scars. Chemical peels can also be effective for acne scars as they remove the outer layer of skin, allowing the smoother new skin layer to come through, making the scars less noticeable. Similarly, microdermabrasion and dermabrasion are possibilities, both of which involve the removal of layers of skin. For particularly indented scars, fillers can be used to plump the indentation and temporarily smooth the surface of the skin. Maintenance is required, but this treatment is minimally invasive and does not involve the risk of discoloration that can come with peels, dermabrasion, and laser treatments.
Additional Steps to Prevent and Protect Acne-Prone Skin
Regardless of whether you have true acne scarring or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, resist the urge to pick at or pop your pimples. Picking and popping can cause more scarring, and can cause bacteria to go deeper beneath the skin than it would have, causing more damage. Do your best to leave your pimples alone. Instead, treat them with acne-fighting skincare that will help treat the skin and keep acne at bay. The Method: 3-Step Blemish Control Set uses potent plant extracts and salicylic acid to help slough dead skin cells and keep pores clear, while lilac stem cell compound and rare grape polyphenol provide anti-blemish benefits and help protect skin cells from environmental stressors. No matter what kind of scarring or marking you’re experiencing, try to stay out of the sun as too much exposure to UV rays can darken your scars and PIH marks, making them more pronounced. If you do go in the sun, make sure to wear a sun hat, protective clothing, and a broad spectrum sunscreen. Sheer Fluid Sun Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen is the perfect choice for acne-prone skin. This sunscreen sooths and calms skin with chamomile extract, while the sunflower sprout extracts and gamay grape stem cells provide a radiant glow and reduce the appearance of UV damage, all without the greasy film of many other sunscreens. You’ll protect your skin and reduce the likelihood of further damage while keeping your skin looking healthier at the same time.
Acne scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be distressing, but there are ways to treat the marks and prevent further marking or scarring from occurring. With the right preventative skincare and appropriate treatments, you can dramatically reduce the appearance of PIH and acne scarring so that you can enjoy your skin once again.