By Shilpa Bhim
Having your acne flare up, usually right before a big event (am I right?!), is super annoying.
But you know what’s even more annoying? The marks and scars that often remain after the actual acne has cleared.
While acne scars are normal, and affect a lot of people, they can have a detrimental impact on a person’s sense of self-worth, especially if they’ve spent a lot of time and money looking after their skin.
Fortunately for us, there are ways to help clear up acne scars and we’re breaking it all down for you. Keep scrolling to find out more!
WHAT CAUSES ACNE SCARS?
Acne is broken down into three key groups:
Mild: this refers to acne that causes the whiteheads or blackheads that basically everyone gets at various points in their life.
Moderate: this acne causes red, inflamed pimples (papules) and red pimples with white centers (pustules)
Severe: this acne causes painful, pus-filled cysts or lumps (nodules) under the skin.
Acne cysts are the most common cause of scarring, but scars can also be caused by papules and pustules.
Additional factors are also attributed to acne scars, including genetics and picking at your skin (as everyone always says, just don’t do it!).
Dr Claire Chang, a New York City based dermatologist, breaks three factors down:
Genetics: as with many things that relate to your body, your genes play a role in acne scars. If you’ve got family members who have acne scars, there’s a higher chance you may develop them too.
Skin Tone: those with lighter complexions are prone to persistent redness and inflammatory acne whereas those with darker skin tones are more likely to have post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or brown blemishing.
Picking at the Skin: picking at the skin can cause excess trauma which increases inflammation and can lead to scarring. As tempting as it may be to pick at or pop a pimple, just let it be!
KNOW YOUR SCAR
There are four main types of acne scars: Boxcar, Rolling, Ice Pick and Hypertrophic.
Boxcar Scars are broad, box-like depressions in the skin with sharply defined edges. They are often found on the lower cheeks and jaw.
Rolling Scars have sloped edges that make skin look wavy and uneven. They vary in depth.
Icepick Scars are small, narrow indents that point down into the skin’s surface. They are usually found on the cheeks.
Hypertrophic Scars form as raised lumps of scar tissue. They occur when the skin overproduces collagen because it doesn’t realise that the wound has healed.
HOW DO I CLEAR ACNE SCARS?Treating acne scars starts with broad, topical treatments and can be supported by targeted treatments.
Topical treatments involve addressing the discolouration that is caused by acne.
Using chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs) to exfoliate any dead, darker, skin cells while stimulating collagen production, and following up with anti-inflammatory and skin brightening ingredients like Vitamin C and Vitamin E are likely to help reduce discolouration.
In addition, incorporating retinol into your skincare routine will help boost cell turnover and stimulate collagen production, which can help to treat discolouration. Just be mindful of not mixing your AHAs/BHAs and Vitamin C with retinol!
Dr Chang also warns that excess sun exposure can make acne scars darker, so wear your SPF daily, Zovers!
Knowing what type of acne scar you have helps to determine the targeted treatment, in addition to advice from your dermatologist.
When it comes to Boxcar, Rolling and Icepick scars, most skin specialists recommend a collagen boosting treatment, to help the indented scar to raise and match the rest of your skin’s surface.
California based dermatologist, Dr Naissan Wesley, highlights that non-ablative and ablative resurfacing lasers are some of the best treatments for treating indented acne scars. Ablative lasers remove the top layer of skin and non-ablative lasers then heat up the underlying skin tissue (without harming the surface) to stimulate collagen in the skin.
For hypertrophic acne scars, Dr Wesley notes that most dermatologists combine cortisone (topical or injected) with vascular or resurfacing lasers.
She also highlights that medical-grade chemical peels and microneedling can help diminish acne marks and scars.
ACNE TREATMENT HELPS PREVENT SCARS
Preventative measures are always handy.
Managing and treating your acne avoids a continuous cycle of scarring, notes Dr Wesley.
Our skin experts suggest using over the counter treatments that contain either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to help to shed dead skin cells and manage the oil in your skin.
If an over the counter treatment isn’t helping you with your breakouts you may need to seek professional advice via a dermatologist. They may prescribe treatment like retinoids or antibiotics to help manage and prevent your breakouts.
Has your skin been affected by acne scars? How did the acne scars affect you? Let us know your thoughts, experiences and how you go with these tips via the little icon on your right, via Instagram or email us!
Shilpa is a freelance health, beauty and travel writer from Melbourne, Australia. You can keep up with her adventures over at @skb.ontherun and check out her latest articles here.