How to Prevent Acne Scars & Heal Them Too
When you first learn about acne, it's often presented as something that only occurs during the awkward teenage phase. Of course, as we get older, we learn that is anything but the truth. Acne doesn't discriminate and with acne often comes acne scarring.
Thanks to the likes popular creators who share their journeys, acne feels like less of a taboo topic these days, which is good since 80% of people from ages 11-30 are affected by acne and acne scarring—so we should be able to talk about it.
But what exactly is acne scarring? Why does it happen, and can it go away? Ahead, you’ll find the answer to all your questions about acne scars, plus we offer the best tips on how to prevent and fade them.
What Are the Types of Acne Scars?
Acne scarring can come in different forms and variations. Acne scars refer to marks that are left behind after a pimple goes away. Acne scars can appear as red or brown discoloration or a blemish or as a change in skin texture. Ahead, we break down the types of acne scarring one might experience.
- Atrophic scars: Also known as depressed acne scars, these form an indentation on the skin. These are often noticeable when light shines on the skin from a certain angle, causing the surface of the skin to look uneven.
- Hypertrophic scars: This type of acne scar is thick and raised above the skin. Hypertrophic scarring may look similar to a keloid.
- Ice-pick scars: These are narrow, deep scars that almost look like the skin was punctured.
- Box car scars: A box car scar is a shallow, depressed scar with sharp edges.
- Rolling scars: These acne scars are shallow and depressed with a smooth edge.
- Hyperpigmentation: While technically not a scar, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be a result of acne. This is characterized by skin discoloration as a result of a prior acne lesion," Camp says. "Hyperpigmentation can persist for months to years.
What Causes Acne Scars?
Like regular scarring, the root of acne scarring is more than just picking a pimple or scab (though, you should avoid doing so). It's also important to note that some people are more prone to acne scarring than others, and while you can take certain steps to avoid it, it sometimes comes down to the luck of the draw. Studies show that in up to 90% of cases, there is a net destruction of collagen in the skin that results in an acne scar, meaning that most scars are atrophic (indented) rather than raised.
Scars occur as a result of injury to the skin, and in the case of acne, the injury is related to excess oil production, inflammation, and bacteria. When the skin is injured or damaged in some way, it tries to repair it, and when it’s repaired, it leaves a scar behind. Fortunately, many breakouts that are more superficial heal with time without any significantly noticeable mark, while others that are deeper or more stubborn may be more likely to leave a more obvious scar behind. This is why it is advised to avoid picking pimples, because it can lead to more injury to the skin, which can lead to a greater chance of a scar.
How to Treat Acne Scars
1. Retinol + Retinoids
When treating acne scars, the experts note that retinols and retinoids are a great place to start. To help improve texture and color of acne scars, a key ingredient is retinol or retinoids, which are also known to prevent and treat acne breakouts. Retinoids help regulate skin cell turnover, which helps to even skin tone, and they also work to boost collagen production, which can improve the textural changes to the scars. For this reason, even when breakouts subside, it is important to continue to use a retinoid or retinol to maintain the benefits and improve the appearance of acne scars.
Exfoliants, including chemical exfoliants—alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid, or beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid—work to eliminate dead skin cells, leaving the skin looking soft and smooth, which can improve both texture and tone. For those who are oily or still dealing with active breakouts, salicylic acid can be a particularly good option, while those with discoloration and dark spots may find the alpha-hydroxy acids most helpful.
The answer to all your skin needs has—and always will be—sunscreen. (Kidding, sort of.) Sunscreen, while it may seem obvious to some, is a key ingredient to help reduce the appearance of acne scars, especially hyperpigmented scars. With sun exposure, scars have the potential to darken, which can make them more noticeable. While those with acne are often hesitant to apply different products to their skin for fear of worsening breakouts, it is important for those with acne to remember to apply sunscreen and look for one that is non-comedogenic and won’t clog the pores. Even if you don't have acne scars, be sure to wear sunscreen every day to protect your skin from various consequences of UV damage.
A good skincare routine can have enormous benefits, including when it comes to limiting acne scarring. Antioxidants can be incorporated into a skincare routine to help with scarring as certain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, can help brighten the skin and improve the overall appearance of discoloration. Additionally, niacinamide is another ingredient that can improve overall skin tone, as it can help reduce redness and inflammation, while also helping to improve discoloration.
5. In-Office Treatments
If the typical home-accessible treatments aren't delivering the results you need, you can go see a dermatologist for potential in-office treatments. You’ll have many procedure options, which include but aren't limited to:
- Chemical peels
- Microneedling with or without radiofrequency or platelet-rich plasma
- Laser treatments and resurfacing
- Intralesional steroid injections for keloid or hypertrophic scars
- Injectables like fillers, which may help for some depressed scars
The best treatment for you will vary depending on your skin and the type of scarring you're dealing with, so talk with your dermatologist to decide on the ideal plan.
How to Prevent Acne Scars
While acne scars happen and are treatable, there are several ways to prevent many of them in the first place and avoid the hassle. Ahead are the top tips for avoiding acne scarring when possible.
- Hands off: The first and foremost way to prevent acne scars is to leave your face alone: Don't pick or pop, no matter how tempting it may be.
- Wear SPF: Just like when it comes to treating acne scars, wear sunscreen regularly to prevent worsening of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Use retinol and retinoids: Using topical products like retinoids not only prevents breakouts but can also stimulate skin cell turnover and collagen production to prevent scarring.
- Avoid over-exfoliation: Exfoliating too often or too vigorously can lead to disruption in the skin barrier, which can make the skin appear more inflamed and more likely to scar. Stick to gentle exfoliation methods, go slow, and be sure to rehydrate your skin afterwards.
- Use acne medication: Some of the same products you use for your breakouts can be helpful when it comes to scarring, as well—acne scars can be prevented with appropriate acne medications.
- Try steroid injections: If you have a lot of inflammatory acne and tend to scar afterwards, try talking to your dermatologist about the option of steroid injections, which can help reduce cystic acne while minimizing scarring.
The Final Takeaway
If there's one thing we want to leave you with, it's the reminder that acne and acne scarring is normal. Seeking a dermatologist can help make the world of a difference on your acne journey, so don't hesitate to make an appointment early on: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
However, if you don’t want to take the expensive leap to see a dermatologist, then maybe take another gander at your skincare! At Wild Naturals, our products are formulated with ingredients known to heal and reduce scars. Check out our online store today!