Battling breakouts is bad enough, but then come acne’s annoying after effects: scars, unevenness, and changes in pigmentation. While scarring typically results from cystic acne or lager blemishes, your zit-zapping approach also affects whether or not you’ll be left with evidence of skin problems past.
Popping zits will likely leave you marked. Picking or pinching tears skin, which can lead to scabbing, scarring or tiny “scoops” in skin’s surface. Bottom line: leave ‘em alone. Also, treat breakouts early. The sooner you attack acne with a spot treatment, the better. These products will help dry up excess oil, reduce inflammation, and lessen the risk of scarring.
Sticking to a strict skincare regimen, but still left with stubborn scars after zits clear? These five treatments can help you reclaim your all too personal real estate.
1. Drugstore products
To even out redness or discoloration, opt for an over-the-counter scar-fading cream that contains kojic acid, arbutin, and vitamin C. These ingredients exfoliate skin to restore texture and tone. Try Ambi Fade Cream ($6, walgreens.com). If your skin’s oily, pick a gel, like Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Clinical Dark Spot Corrector ($17, drugstore.com). Not seeing results? Ask your dermatologist about prescription products. They work similarly to these drugstore picks, but pack a stronger punch due to higher doses of active ingredients.
2. Laser treatments
Laser treatments fix the same problems as creams and gels, but they hit scars and discoloration on a deeper level and increase skin cell turnover much faster. CO2 and Fraxel lasers get rid of the top layer of skin (think deep exfoliation), exposing a fresh, clear layer of skin below. Most scars will fade after one or two treatments. For best results, ask your doctor about the recommended post-treatment washing and moisturizing protocol.
3. Tissue fillers
If your face is speckled with tiny scoops and dents, a dermatologist can inject a filler (usually hyaluronic acid) to plump up skin and smooth out that golf ball-like texture. You’ll see results immediately (dents virtually disappear after the procedure), but results only last a few months. Another type of filler, silicone microdroplets, stimulates collagen production—the skin’s natural cell-rebuilding process—so fresh skin grows back on its own. Treatments require multiple injections spaced out over the course of a month, so results take longer but are generally permanent.
4. DIY treatment
Lemon juice, a light exfoliator, can help fade minor discoloration. Rub it on skin weekly until you see results, and be sure to moisturize after each citrus scrub-down.
Small acne scabs can sometimes be frozen off at home. Hold an ice cube to the scab for 15 minutes a day. If you can tough out the chill, you should start to notice scar shrinkage in just a day or two.
For an instant, short-term fix, reach for a concealer or lightweight foundation, like Dermablend Smooth Indulgence Concealer SPF 20 ($22, ulta.com). We won’t tell…
If none of the above treatments do the trick, ask your dermatologist about surgery options, which are reserved for the deepest, most sizeable scars. In most cases, scars are cut away one by one, and skin is resurfaced. In other cases, a doc goes beneath the skin’s surface to break up the fibrous tissues that cause scarring. Though some procedures can be done in-office and take less than a half-hour, surgery is usually the highest-risk option (some require anesthesia) and usually the most expensive one.