Acne scars are a pain.
First, you have to deal with the massive, red pimple on your face. Then when it finally heals after about a million years, you end up with dark spots that hang out for literally ever.
When I had acne, I hated seeing all of the scars on my face that looked just as bad as the pimples themselves.
Even though they will fade over time, there are some things you can be doing topically to clear the scars up more quickly. But first, let’s discuss the types of scarring acne sufferers are faced with.
We first want to distinguish: are they marks or scars?
The dark marks left behind from pimples are called Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH). They appear as pigmented spots on the surface of your skin.
Scarring, on the other hand, are indents or overgrowths of the skin. There are two main types: atrophic and hypertrophic.
Atrophic scars appear as depressions in the skin and are formed when collagen is damaged or missing during the healing process.
Hypertrophic scars appear as overgrowths or raised portions of the skin and are formed when too much collagen is created. A more extreme form of a hypertrophic scar is a keloid.
Over in The Clear Skin Solution, we have Ashley Shkodra, Holistic Esthetician and Certified Nutritional Practitioner, answering all of our clients’ skincare questions. Here’s what she had to share about scars and dark marks.
This first step is the most important because if you follow these guidelines to prevent scarring, you probably won’t have to deal with those annoying dark spots in the first place. Here are some ways to reduce your risk of developing them:
I know it’s tempting, but do not squeeze or try to pop the pimple. Picking at it can increase swelling and the likelihood of scarring. The pimple is deep under the skin and the more you touch it, the bigger and redder it will get. If you pop it, bacteria in the pimple can spread to other areas under the skin leading to more pimples. So leave it alone. You can also visit a well-trained esthetician who knows how to properly extract it.
If you’re breaking out, Alexis recommends trying to reduce the inflammation because untreated redness always leads to pigmentation. She says you can do that by using anti-bacterial, healing and soothing ingredients such as aloe, arnica, chamomile, cucumber, lavender, shea butter, tea tree oil and willow bark. If the swelling is too painful, you can also put an ice cube in a clean face cloth and apply it to the pimple to help reduce the inflammation and thus, scaring. Eminence Organics Clear Skin Willow Bark Booster Serum is lovely for this.
In order to prevent and lighten pigmentation, Alexis says you need to inhibit the skin’s natural immune response of producing melanin, which is the amino acid responsible for skin colour. You can do that by using a serum with ingredients such as African potato, licorice root, tara tree and vitamin C. Serums penetrate deeper into the skin and can add much-needed fluid within your skin cells. Try Beauty Counter’s All Bright C Serum.
If you have acne marks, you can lighten them by exfoliating the skin. Do not over-exfoliate or use harsh chemicals because this may lead to dry, flaky and irritated skin. Instead, gently exfoliate using alpha and beta hydroxy acids to support the skin while it tries to heal. I’m obsessed with Beauty Counter’s Overnight Resurfacing Peel. The AHA/BHA acids help to quickly diminish acne scars and kick dull skin to the curb.
From a nutrition perspective, there are certain nutrients you can consume to correct dark spots. One of them is vitamin A. This antioxidant can help fight off acne and scars because it stimulates cell turnover, decreases oil production and clears your pores. Vitamin A also prevents signs of aging, brightens the skin and protects your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Foods that are rich in vitamin A include egg yolks, butternut squash, sweet potato, kale, carrots, spinach, dried apricots and broccoli.
Other foods to include are those rich in collagen. Similarly to vitamin A, collagen promotes cell turnover. This protein also helps to keep your skin firm and repair and strengthen your skin’s structural matrix. My homemade bone broth is a great source of collagen.
Find a reputable medical spa that offers facials like micro-needling, peels, microdermabrasion or laser resurfacing. Those treatments are amazing for helping with a multitude of scars from hyperpigmentation to indents. I live in the Niagara region of Ontario, Canada and love the services offered at Kane Medical Aesthetics, Martindale MediSpa & The Loft Beauty Bar & Medspa.
Another popular treatment is retinoids. Instead of retinol, opt for retinaldehyde. It’s one step closer to the retinoid conversion needed for your skin so it’s more potent than retinol. It also doesn’t have the same purging and drying effects as traditional retinol. I’ve tried (and loved!) both Sorella Resurfacing Elixir and Maelove Moonlight Retinal Super Serum.
The final level is to protect your skin. Alexis recommends using a moisturizer or facial oil to do so.
“That will maintain the balance of your pH and hydro-lipidic layer, which means you are not over-producing oil or under-producing water,”Alexis Fletcher
Alexis and I both love Eminence Organics Recovery Facial Oil. For face cream, my clients really enjoy the lightweight and nourishing benefits of BeautyCounter’s Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion.
No matter the season, you need to apply SPF every single day. UV rays cause melanin to set up shop in those dark spots, which make them look much more pronounced. Apply SPF under your face cream and makeup anytime you head out the door. Alexis says to use sun protection that is all natural and contains zinc because this mineral reduces redness and inflammation. I recommend BeautyCounter’s Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20.
Ultimately, it is critical to talk to a knowledgeable esthetician about the best skincare ingredients for the types of marks or scars you’re dealing with. Look for a more holistic-based spa in your area to help ensure the products you’re being recommended are not full of toxic ingredients.