Ahhh, the indignities of acne. Although your teens and pimpled past may be long behind you, it can feel like acne has reared its ugly head again thanks to its long-lasting gift: acne scars.
There are many types of acne scars and just as many ways to treat them. Most acne scars show up as red or brown spots- but luckily these are not permanent. The discoloration occurs when the skin has been inflamed and the body is trying to heal itself. On way to prevent scarring is to not touch a pimple. We know it’s hard to resist, but don’t. Popping a pimple can lead to irritation, possible infection, and a darkening of the skin as it tries to heal. So hands off, and apply some drying lotion such as Formulyst’s Blemish Clearing Complex instead. Ingredients such as salicyclic acid, zinc and camphor will help to dry the pimple out, usually overnight.
The most difficult acne scars to treat are the ones often caused by cystic acne, which form deep in the skin and often painful. The most severe acne scars are depressed into the skin, and are often called ice picks or boxcar scars, as they look like craters. They’re caused when the body doesn’t produce enough collagen to treat an injury. Cystic acne can also cause keloid scars, which tend to be discolored and raised. They show up in the skin when too many dermal cells are produced during the healing process. These scars are usually permanent.
Using the right product can help minimize the appearance of scars, and also help them fade and become flatter. While it is impossible to fully eliminate a scar using a topical cream, applying the right product can make a big improvement. Some of the most effective treatments for acne scars are silicone gels and sheets, as well as skin smoothing and brightening creams. These products work best for flat or raised scars, rather than deeper, recessed ones. When using a product to fade acne scars, patience and perseverance is key, as well as managing expectations. Consistency is important, and results can take around two months to start showing so be patient. Remember that a quick fix doesn’t exist when it comes to treating scars. Scars can take around a year to fade, and improve with time.
Silicone has been used for over 30 years to help patients post-surgery with the healing process and to minimize scarring. It is often used for burn patients as well. Silicone is easy to apply and can be put on moving body parts such as joints. It can be tolerated even by people with sensitive skin.
Here’s how it works. Silicone helps keep the skin hydrate by trapping moisture, and protects the scar from bacteria. It also promotes healthy collagen production, and decreases scar tissue formation. Silicone can work to reduce itching. Silicone comes in sheets, strips, discs and gel for easy application. Another bonus is that silicone sheets can help shield the scar from the sun, to prevent further pigmentation. For best results, silicone should be applied when a scar is still new. Massage can also be effective when treating a scar and staying out of the sun is also key, to avoid further darkening of the spot.
Scar removal creams, gels and serums work in a multi-prong approach. They help exfoliate the skin to flatten any raised bumps, and also target discoloration. Dark spots are treated by skin brightening ingredients such as vitamin C and kojic acid, while ingredients such as retinol speed up cell turnover to reveal smoother skin with an improved texture.
Here’s a look at some of the best over-the-counter scar removal creams and silicone sheets to finally put your pimpled past behind you.
Scaraway is available as a sheet, gel or a disc, and works to flatten, shrink and fade scars. The medical grade silicone mirrors the protective functions of healthy skin. The products keep the scar tissue hydrated and work to soften and smooth out the skin. They also help with itching and discomfort.
Mederma Advanced Scar Gel
The active ingredient in Mederma Advanced Scar Gel is allantoin, found in the root of the comfrey herb. It does a little bit of everything, including boosting the water content of skin, and encourages natural exfoliation. It also helps with cell turnover to boost the healing process and help smooth out and fade scars. The gel should be massaged into the skin once a day.
Dermatix gel feels smooth and silky; after application, let the product dry on the skin. Silicone helps improve hydration to the scar and protect it from infection, as well as smoothing, flattening and fading the scar. Dermatix also contains vitamin C, which makes skin look brighter and clearer. It should be applied twice a day.
Derma E Scar Gel
Scar Gel from Derma E is powered by botanical extracts that target scars, to leave them softer, smoother and flatter. Plant and herb extracts work together to break down scar tissue and encourage skin cell turnover. Hero ingredients in this oil free formula include onion bulb extract, which is anti-inflammatory and prevents collagen production; allantoin from the herb comfrey, which boosts exfoliation; and panthenol, or pro-vitamin B5 which helps to repair skin.
Strataderm Scar Therapy Gel
Strataderm is made from several types of silicone to give it just the right consistency and effectiveness for optimal scar improvement. The lightweight gel is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and dries quickly. It works by creating a barrier on the scar to help draw and retain moisture, and normalizes collagen production. Apply the gel once a day.
SkinMedica Scar Recovery Gel with Centelline
This healing gel is powered by lactic acid to help exfoliate the skin and brighten the area. Why lactic acid? It’s an AHA (alpha hydroxyl acid) derived from milk and is known for its skin softening properties. SkinMedica’s Scar Recovery Gel works double time to brighten and exfoliate the skin but is also hydrating, thanks to olive oil and centella asiatica, an herb packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B1 and B2.
Formulyst Liquid Exfoliant Serum
Formulyst’s Liquid Exfoliant Serum is a go-to for anyone wanting smoother skin with a more refined texture. The serum is powered by powerful acids such as Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), which work by dissolving skin cells. They are more effective and gentle on the skin than physical exfoliants, which can irritate the skin.