Having acne can feel like a never ending battle and a relentless one-two punch. First there is the hurdle of treating the acne and figuring out which products work best to zap zits. Once you have your products and use them faithfully, you wait, and wait, for the acne to clear up. When it has cleared, you may be left with scars (thanks acne). Unfortunately, dealing with acne can feel like you’re never getting a break from skin issues.
There are different types of acne scars, and causes behind them. One of the biggest culprits is popping a pimple. We know it is tempting to DIY an outbreak but consider this. Squeezing acne can make the problem worse. When you pop a pimple, all the gunk from inside comes to the surface and irritates the skin. This can lead to more pimples, possible infection, darkening of the skin and inflammation that can lead to scarring. So do not pick, pop or poke. Instead, spot treat the pimple with a targeted product to help dry out the acne overnight. Formulyst’s Blemish Clearing Complex contains a whole cocktail of bacteria fighting, pimple drying products including zinc oxide, salicylic acid, and camphor.
Most acne scars show up as red or brown spots- but technically these are acne marks rather than a scar, as they are not permanent. When skin becomes inflamed, it often leaves behind a stain as part of the natural healing process. These scars are smooth to the touch, and not raised or indented. They respond well to treatment as there is no permanent collagen damage to the skin.
True acne scars show up as pits or craters, and can also be raised. They are caused by abnormal collagen production. These are permanent scars and often need professional help to treat or fade. Cystic acne, which are painful bumps deep in the skin, often leaves the most visible scars.
The good news is that most scars are not permanent and can be minimized with the right products and treatments. Here’s how to get rid of acne scars, ranging from products to DIY solutions and professional help.
One way to tackle red or brown discoloration from acne scars is by lightening them. Look for a lightening/brightening cream with natural skin lighteners such as kojic acid (a chemical produced from fungi), licorice root, mulberry extract, green tea and vitamin C. They work by inhibiting an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is necessary for the production of melanin within the skin. Without the enzyme, melanin cannot be produced.
Many lightening products contain hydroquinone, which essentially bleaches the skin. It is effective but it has been banned in Europe as some studies indicate it could be a carcinogen. However, many dermatologists prescribe it and believe that using a small amount for a short time period is safe. Keep in mind that the amount of hydroquinone used in over the counter products is much lower than prescription levels.
For brighter skin, apply Formulyst’s Luminous Skin Serum. It’s highly concentrated and contains Triple Brightening Technology, a powerful combination of alpha arbutin, rumex extract and a biomimetic peptide.
You should be wearing sunscreen daily as part of your beauty and health regimen, but it’s doubly important if you’re looking to eliminate acne scars. That’s because UV rays trigger new pigment production, which means more dark spots. So slather on moisturizer with a high SPF sunscreen daily, so you don’t forget about it. Try Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, which contains niacinamide, an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce redness.
Retinol is the hero ingredient when it comes to fighting wrinkles but it also works its magic on acne scars. Retinol works by increasing cell turnover to reveal fresh, new, smooth skin. Dark spots and scars will fade as the cells are renewed and skin texture will be improved. Start slowly with a pea sized amount and work your way up to daily use. Skin can be sensitive while using retinol so make sure to apply sunscreen daily.
Before you go to bed, apply a layer of Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Night Cream. It contains Encapsulated Retinol Technology, which delivers a powerful dose of retinol but won’t leave skin dry or irritated thanks to hydrating jojoba and safflower seed oil.
Silicone has long been used by burn patients to help with the healing process. Silicone works by shrinking, fading and flattening raised scars. One of the easiest ways to apply silicone to the skin is with a silicone gel, such as one from ScarAway. For larger surface areas, consider a silicone scar sheet. The gel is transparent and dries quickly.
Azelaic acid is derived from grains like barley and wheat, and produced naturally by yeast that lives on healthy skin. It can also be created in a lab, and works as a skin lightener. Azelaic acid can help diminish red and brown acne scars and also brighten skin. Prescription only products contain 15-20% azelaic acid and it comes in a foam, cleanser and cream. Lower concentrations can be found in off the shelf products, such as The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% serum.
The anti-oxidant vitamin E is a skin care hero. It’s a fatty antioxidant that allows for long lasting moisture- it basically “seals” the cracks in the epidermis. It also neutralize harmful free radicals. Many people swear by applying a vitamin E cream or oil to scars to help the healing process, whether that’s an acne scar or one caused post-surgery. Pure vitamin E oil is available at drugstores but is also one of the key ingredients in Formulyst’s Active Serum Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic, and Niacinamide. The serum protects skin from environmental aggressors while leaving it well nourished and brighter.
Exfoliating, or sloughing off the top layer of dead skin cells, is one way to reveal brighter, fresher skin and should be incorporated into a beauty routine unless someone has overly sensitive skin or rosacea. It’s especially critical for anyone trying to get rid of acne scars, as exfoliation will lead to smoother, softer and more even looking skin. Skip the physical exfoliators, such as ones made from crushed shells, and choose one made with an acid instead. These acids work by gently dissolving dead skin cells to reveal fresher, smoother skin.
Formulyst’s Liquid Exfoliant Serum is packed with potent Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) to gently dissolve dead skin cells. Use daily for brighter, clearer skin.
Severe, permanent acne scars may need to be treated by a laser, especially scars that fall under the ice pick or box car category, when deep indentations are caused by the breakdown of collagen. The type of laser used depends on whether the acne scar is raised or flat, the color of the scar, and the severity of the acne. Downtime between treatments and recovery time will also vary.
Some options include Fraxel and the ND:JAG laser, which penetrate deep into the skin to trigger collagen growth, thereby smoothing out the skin surface. IPL (intense pulsed light) treats treat redness and pigmentation. The laser breaks up the unwanted pigment, which is then absorbed into the body. Laser resurfacing (or ablative lasers) remove layers of skin to reduce the appearance of scars; although it can be more effective than non-ablative lasers, there are more risks and down time associated with the procedure.
Vitamin C should be incorporated into just about every skincare routine, as it helps skin on so many levels. It fight free radical damage, and leaves skin looking brighter and clearer. It also helps tackle discoloration. The easiest way to get your dose of vitamin C is to apply a serum. Lightweight but potent, Formulyst’s Active Serum – Vitamin B, C, E, Ferulic + Niacinamide leaves skin looking brighter and more youthful.
One effective way to improve skin texture and minor scarring is with dermabrasion. Performed by a dermatologist or aesthetician uses, dermabrasion uses a high-speed brush or other instrument to resurface the skin. Removing a layer of skin helps to eliminate or reduce the appearance of a scar. The healing process can take several days. A less intense version is called micro-dermabrasion, where a spray of small crystals –usually aluminum oxide – buffs the outer layer of the skin. There is no down time but it doesn’t penetrate as deeply.
Microneedling is one way to improve the texture of the skin and smooth out any surface acne scars. A dermaroller is a facial instrument with a wheel containing hundreds of tiny needles. It works by creating injuries to the skin. As the body heals itself, it increases collagen and elastin production. This leads to reduced pigmentation and improved appearance of fine lines and scars. You can do it yourself at home with a dermaroller or see a professional.
For deeper acne scars, consider a chemical peel, which can be done at home or in a dermatologist’s office for a stronger solution. At home formulas contain glycolic acid and sometimes salicylic acid to help promote skin cell turnover. The new skin is fresher, smoother looking with an even tone. A DIY option is Peter Thomas Roth 40% Triple Acid Peel, or Pixi by Petra Glow Peel Pads which contain 20% glycolic acid as well as rose water. A deeper chemical peel can be performed by a dermatologist. It involves applying chemicals to the face to remove its outer layer and reveal regenerated skin. Milder chemical peels use alpha hydroxy or other acids but medium and deep peels can also be done. The depth of the peel will be determined by the doctor but patients can expect redness and peeling.
Some of the most extreme acne scars can be treated with punch excisions. This surgery removes acne scars by cutting out each individual scar using a punch biopsy instrument. Different widths are available depending on the size of the scar. The hole is then stitched together with a suture or fixed with a skin graft.