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There are few things to like about acne. The lumps and bumps that form can be painful, hard to conceal, and overall distressing. And for many acne sufferers, that’s not even the worst of it. Once the blemishes have run their course, they may leave behind a trail of scars in their wake. These reminders of past breakouts are stubborn—perhaps more so than the blemishes themselves—and certainly unwanted. To add insult to injury, there are different types and severities of acne scars making it difficult to pinpoint the right options that will prove successful for all. Does that mean you should give up entirely on your acne scars? Not in the slightest! With time, patience and the right skin care routine, you can help address the look of your acne scars and pave the way toward clearer-looking skin.
Your skin care routine is flawless and you do your best to keep your hands off your face, yet you’re still dealing with acne scars once blemishes subside. So, what gives? Acne forms when a pore plug (blackhead or whitehead) becomes infected with bacteria, creating an inflammatory response that for some skin types and tones can be chronic.
To help reduce the risk of an acne scar forming, make sure not to pick at your blemishes at any stage. Since your hands carry bacteria and other germs, popping a pimple with dirty fingers can push bacteria deeper into the skin and increase the chance of a scar forming. Picking at your skin can also make blemishes appear more obvious, swollen, and red by aggravating them even further.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests that acne scars may also look more noticeable with age as collagen levels begin to decrease. The sun’s harmful rays can also darken the appearance of scars and marks so they appear more pronounced. In addition to hydrating your skin with anti-aging moisturizer and serum, apply broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher prior to heading outdoors. Take additional sun protection measures like seeking shade and wearing protective hats that can block harmful rays from hitting your face.
The good news is that there are many corrective options available to address acne scars. The bad news is that there’s no guarantee that one will work to get rid of your acne scars. According to the Mayo Clinic, mild acne marks that do not leave any indentations may improve with the use of dark spot correctors and proper sun protection measures. If your acne scars are deep and indented, there are other options that may help smooth their appearance. Depending on the type of acne scar, its severity, and how long it has been around, one of the below options (or a combination of them) may work to get rid of your acne scars.
If your acne scars are deep, your dermatologist may recommend a skin-resurfacing procedure known as dermabrasion. According to the Mayo Clinic, dermabrasion utilizes a device that sands the outer layers of skin to reduce the look of facial lines and improve the look of acne scars. This procedure is not always recommended as the first option, however, since it can irritate some skin types and the recovery period can be long.
Chemical peels are often used to help reduce the look of signs of aging (such as fine lines and wrinkles), certain types of acne, and skin discoloration. During a chemical peel, your dermatologist or skin care provider will apply a chemical solution to the skin which will encourage the top layer of skin to peel away.
Fractional or ablative lasers are commonly used to address the appearance of acne scars. According to the Mayo Clinic, these aggressive lasers can leave the skin swollen and red for a bit of time. Some skin care providers may prefer non-ablative lasers, which are arguably less harsh, to lighten scars. However, while this type of laser doesn’t require downtime, the AAD does point out that a series of treatments will be necessary for the desired results.
The AAD suggests that dermal fillers may improve the look of deep acne scars. These fillers can be injected into the acne scars to fill them out and soften their crater-like appearance. Note that this is only a temporary solution and would likely need to be done on a routine basis.
Given the complex nature of acne scars, it’s important to visit your skin care provider to determine the best plan of action for your acne scars. Talk about the side effects and risk factors associated with each option before coming to a decision.
Put simply, the best way to prevent acne scars is to avoid breakouts. That’s easy enough to say but much harder to make a reality. Still, do your best to keep your skin clean of any pore-clogging dirt and bacteria. Cleanse your skin twice per day (morning and night) with a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin. If your skin is prone to breakouts, utilize acne-fighting cleansers and moisturizers formulated with ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur.
If a blemish does appear, start addressing it as soon as you notice it. Cleanse, tone, and hydrate the skin to address the existing blemish and prevent future flare-ups. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to work for you, your skin care provider may be able to prescribe an acne treatment.
Pursuing an acne scar plan of attack can take time and there are truly no quick fixes. The closest thing is using the magic of face makeup to temporarily hide acne scars. If your scars are discolored, your best bet is a color corrector, like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Color Correcting Crayon. You can also follow our step-by-step tutorial on How to Hide Acne Scars with Makeup.
Next: Why Should You Wash Your Face Twice a Day?