As if acne wasn’t bad enough by itself, many suffer from scarring and discoloration, constant reminders of a pimple-ridden past. So although the days of picking and scratching are over, you still don’t have that clear skin you’ve always dreamed of. Thankfully, there are lots of treatments and products out there that can reduce the appearance of acne scars and marks, not to mention makeup that can hide the blemishes while they heal. Keep reading for more information on how to prevent and erase acne scars.
Types of post-acne damage
Not all scars are created equal. An acne scar (on left) is formed when there is damage to your skin that exists beyond the surface layer. In other words, the support structure is damaged, which causes collagen and elastin to breakdown. Severe and even moderate acne can cause acne scars. When this happens, you are left with an indented scar (also called an “icepick scar”). Unfortunately, you will have to visit a dermatologist in order to treat this type of blemish.
Although often referred to as acne scars, the post-breakout discoloration (on left) that acne leaves on your face (can be red, pink, brown, dark grey, or purple) is not actually a scar. Medically speaking, this type of mark is a “post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation mark.” Over time and with proper skincare, these marks will eventually disappear. But there is much you can do to speed up the process!
As we age, some of us will develop melanin-related “age spots” or “liver spots” which can appear on the face, hands, and chest. These are caused mainly by the body’s reaction to UV rays (sun exposure). Although previous acne damage and hormone changes can contribute to the appearance of age spots, these marks are not acne scars. Age spots are best treated with the use of a serum spot corrector.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This famous quote by Benjamin Franklin rings true in this scenario. The best way to prevent a scar is to never let it occur in the first place. Although we can’t always prevent acne from occurring, there is a lot we can do to prevent future scarring.
The #1 cause of post-acne scarring is picking and scratching. Do not pick, pop, or scratch at those pesky blackheads and pimples. This behavior causes scarring that will show up when your acne has cleared, causing you to feel self conscious and annoyed! Click here for more information on how to remove blackheads.
Acne irritates the skin. To sooth inflammation and decrease the risk of future scaring, look for products that include the following ingredients:
- Horse chestnut
- Green tea
Products with those ingredients will help your zits heal, eliminate redness, and reduce the urge to pick.
Do you have red or brown spots on your face from long-ago acne? There are many skincare products out there that can help heal those old wounds. Products that exfoliate and brighten the skin are best. Look for products containing:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Rice Extract
- Lactic Acid
And don’t forget to exfoliate regularly! Look for an AHA/BHA (alpha/beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant, which will help prevent future breakouts while at the same time lessening the appearance of post-acne discoloration.
When you wash your face, use a washcloth and a gentle face wash. Some people will tell you that lemon juice or bio-oil can help with acne scars – this is not true! In fact, rubbing citrus juice on your face may even extend the healing process. Bio-oil, introduced in the US in 2002, is mainly aimed towards healing stretch marks. Because acne scars are very different than stretch marks or “normal” scars, bio-oil is not recommend for depressed scars on the face.
Another important fact to note is that UV damage can prevent healing and increase discoloration. Use a light sunscreen every day – or even better, a skincare product with SPF 15+ already included. Look for non-greasy or oil-free sunscreens.
If you have deep or stubborn scars that persist through all your efforts to heal them, it might be time to see a dermatologist. He or she can write you a prescription for stronger medication that will help build up dermal collagen and lessen the appearance of scars over time. These medications are called retinoids. Ask your doctor about other treatments such as Juvederm, Fraxel laser therapy, and IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment.
You may have heard that microdermabrasion can help heal acne scarring and discoloration, but there is a risk of damage to the skin with this one. Lasers or AHA/BHA peels are a much better choice.
Hide your scars while they heal
No matter what type of treatment you choose, post-acne damage takes time to heal. While the process is underway, however, follow these makeup tips to hide your acne blemishes:
- If your scars are red, use a green color corrector. If your scars are purple/dark grey, use a rust color corrector. These will help to neutralize your skin tone and are often inexpensive.
- If you have deep indentations on your face, check out a primer. Use this before you apply concealer in order to smooth the surface of your face.
- Visit a makeup counter to find the perfect shade of concealer and foundation.
- Use a non-comedogenic/non-acnegenic concealer. In depressed areas, use a slightly lighter shade of concealer to help even out skin tone. Make sure to blend both concealers together.
- Use a foundation with a matte finish to help hide imperfections.
Remember, if you have deep indentations in your face caused by acne, your best bet is to discuss your options with a dermatologist. If you have discoloration caused by acne, follow the tips above and you are sure to be on your way to clearer skin. In addition to wearing sunscreen and using the right products, it’s also important to stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet to achieve the clearest, healthiest skin possible.