How to treat and prevent acne scars
Dealing with acne can be frustrating and can even take an emotional toll. While controlling a breakout is a massive accomplishment, residual acne scars can make you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. There are different types of acne scars, and the type you get depends on how your skin responds to the healing process when you have a pimple or breakout.
Atrophic (depressed) scars are the most common type of scar that occurs when there’s not enough collagen production during the healing process, resulting in a loss of tissue. Ice pick, boxcar, and rolling scars are three other common types of scars that also result in a loss of tissue — and look similar to what their names imply! Alternatively, as a wound or breakout heals the body sometimes produces too much collagen. This reaction can cause a mass of raised tissue on the skin’s surface known as a hypertrophic (or keloid) scar. People with darker skin tones have a higher risk of developing keloids, but keloids are a common scar across all skin types.
Sometimes a dark mark left behind by a breakout is mistakenly called an acne scar. These types of dark pink, red, or brown marks are actually post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, a temporary discoloration of the skin that typically fades on its own over time.
Regardless of what type of scar or dark marks you have, with patience, consistency, and the right products, you can effectively treat pimple scars.
How to prevent acne scars
The best way to avoid acne scars is to prevent them in the first place. Here’s how.
Stop acne before it develops
Preventing breakouts before they show up is one of the best ways to prevent acne scars. If the acne products you’re using aren’t working and you feel like you’ve tried everything, book an appointment to see your dermatologist. They’ll help you craft a results-driven routine that will help control your current breakouts while preventing future ones.
Hands off: Don’t squeeze, pop, or pick at pimples
While it can be tempting, keep your hands off your face. When you attempt to squeeze or pop a pimple (especially cysts and nodules), you can spread the infection, worsen inflammation, and encourage acne scars because your healing time is extended. Always allow acne of any kind to heal on its own so you can minimize damage to your skin. Make sure not to pick your scabs, either!
Larger breakouts that are inflamed are more likely to create scars than non-inflamed pimples. Immediately calming inflammation can prevent further irritation and scarring in the future. To help your breakouts heal faster, wash your face gently with warm water (never hot!) and a gentle cleanser and apply acne-treating actives to encourage healing. If your pimple is especially large or red, applying an ice cube (in a bag or towel, never directly on your skin) can help with the redness and inflammation. Be sure to avoid direct sunlight as well, which can further irritate acne, but if you do need to go outside make sure you apply a non-comedogenic, broadspectrum sunscreen to protect from harmful UV rays.
How to treat acne scars
When it comes to treating acne scars, there’s no quick fix. While skincare products can help control breakouts and fade the appearance acne marks associated with hyperpigmentation, those with severe pimple scars and pockmarks should consult a dermatologist. If you’re serious about getting rid of pimple scars, your doctor may encourage you to consider professional treatments that will help reverse the loss of collagen in your skin and encourage regrowth. These include microneedling, microdermabrasion, Ablative Laser resurfacing, and fillers. Just be aware that you’re going to need to be patient, consistent, and willing to invest financially in these procedures.
Skincare ingredients for acne scars
While you may have to execute a bit more patience, a skincare routine containing products formulated with ingredients that help fade scars can be effective for light to moderate acne scars. The key is using them consistently in your routine.
Salicylic Acid: This acne-fighting ingredient is known for unclogging pores to help prevent breakouts in the first place. It’s also considered one of the leading topical ingredients for treating the appearance of acne scars because it exfoliates, removing pore-clogging dead skin cells and encouraging cell turnover by promoting new cell growth.
Retinoids: This synthetic form of vitamin A is great at preventing breakouts in the first place: It works deep within pores to keep them from clogging so that acne is stopped in its tracks, before it can begin developing. It’s also a topical for treating the appearance of acne scars, because retinoids stimulate collagen synthesis, which means they can penetrate beneath the epidermis to smooth out its appearance.
Lactic Acid: Derived from lactose, this acid is a part of the alpha hydroxy acid family. It works similarly to salicylic acid in that it gently exfoliates the skin, deeply cleanses the pores, and helps fade discoloration from acne scars.
Bakuchiol: A plant-based retinol alternative, bakuchiol is making waves in the skincare world as an antioxidant that helps improve skin texture. It’s clinically shown to gently resurface and smooth rough, textured skin.
Take the guesswork out of figuring out which products are the best to treat and prevent acne and any residual scarring by opting for a proactiv skincare solution. Our Proactiv+ system features salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, plus a Brightening Complex to help fade post acne dark marks. ProactivMD is our prescription-strength retinoid that clears breakouts and helps restore clear, healthy skin. Our new Mark Correcting Pads helps fade the appearance of dark marks and scars left behind by past breakouts and is the perfect addition to any proactiv system.