ACNE SCARS: AVOID, ABATE, ABOLISH
Acne scars are not easy to deal with. Depending on the level and severity of the scarring, treatments can range from inconvenient to excruciating, and the process can be lengthy. What’s worse, the scars can go much deeper than just the skin. They carry emotional weight as well. Preventing scars is definitely your best strategy, but if the damage is already done, don’t lose hope. You have options. Let’s explore them.
The best way to treat scars is to avoid getting them in the first place by keeping skin healthy with a consistent Skin Fitness Regimen. If you do get blemishes, don’t further irritate the skin by picking, popping, or poking. That can turn an inconsequential breakout into a lasting scar. Squeezing will spread bacteria, which causes more inflammation. Instead, see an aesthetician for extractions.
To reduce inflammation and redness, and lessen the chances of scarring, enlist the ice method. Rub ice directly all over areas prone to breakouts for a few minutes every day. Because it takes thirty days for a pimple to come to form and come to the surface, using ice daily, even when you don’t see blemishes, will help prevent the formation of new pimples. Bonus: Rubbing ice on your skin optimizes the performance of your products by making it easier for your skin to absorb them.
Because of hormonal factors, the lesions of the early teen years tend to be the most severe and are more likely to result in lasting scars, so controlling acne from an early age is important.
Dark marks left behind after pimples disappear are not true scars. They are post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Red marks left behind are post-inflammatory erythema (PIE). These marks are the body’s protective melanin response to inflammation and injury, and they fade with time and attention. You can find more information on PIH and PIE here.
You should be using sunscreen daily anyway, but especially if you have PIH or PIE marks. UV exposure will darken the marks and make them harder to remove. Start the day with Day Treatment Lotion SPF 15 for hydration and UV protection in one. Light-weight, non-greasy, and non-comedogenic.
This almond-derived alpha hydroxy acid is high-performance multi-tasker tailor-made for dispatching the marks left behind by acne. It’s a melanin inhibitor, and natural brightener, plus its exfoliating and antibacterial properties make it ideal for clearing and controlling breakouts, so it’s a preventive tactic as well. Because it has a larger molecular size than most AHAs, it’s absorbed more slowly by the skin and won’t trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It’s particularly good for skin of color. Try 8% Mandelic Acid 3-In-1 Serum to minimize the appearance of PIH and PIE and prevent new marks from appearing.
Retinoids are the first stop for mild scarring. Vivant’s vitamin A therapies accelerate cell turnover and stimulate collagen production to refine and retexture skin. They also refine pores, bring impurities to the surface, and encourage overall healthier, more even-toned complexion. Vivant’s Derm-A-Gel® Daily Vitamin A is your starting point if you have not used vitamin A products before. If your skin is already acclimated to vitamin A, you may want to try a more advanced formula like Exfol-A, which pairs vitamin A propionate with glycolic acid.
In addition to stimulating the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid—the essential ingredients for healthy, youthful, resilient skin—peptides are also highly effective redness reducers. Adding peptides to your regimen will help to fade red marks left behind by blemishes and also aid in plumping skin to reduce the appearance of depressions caused by past acne breakouts. Derm-A-Renew, which pairs peptides with vitamin A, is a great choice for reducing PIE and mild acne scars.
Beyond Surface Level
True acne scars are changes in tissue that occur when the skin tries to heal from damage. Depressions, raised areas, changes in texture and thickness, or small pockets. They’re known by names like box car, rolling scars, ice pick scars, and keloid scars, and they take a bit more commitment to change.
For filling in sunken scars that are often the result of long-term, inflammatory acne, dermal fillers can be a good option. A concentrated dose of liquid collagen injected into the site stimulates tissue growth and adds volume to raise the depression.
If you have a large, cystic-type lesion, a cortisone shot can quickly reduce the inflammation that leads to scarring. The steroid can also help with raised scars by giving the appearance of flattening the scar. This is more of a quick fix, temporary solution that should be used infrequently as too much cortisone can cause depressions in the skin.
A peel improves skin texture and tone by removing the top layers of skin including cellular buildup and impactions. A series of peels over time will also reduce scar tissue. Ask your esthetician about Vivant’s light- to medium-depth enzymatic ProPeels. For deeper peels, consult your physician.
Also known as collagen induction therapy (CIT), micro-needling works by introducing micro-injury to the skin to stimulate new collagen, which helps to fill depressions and smooth damaged tissue. The home kits won’t give you the results you’re looking for here because the needles are too short and don’t provide enough stimulation to have an effect on acne scars. See your dermatologist or aesthetician for this treatment.
This process uses rapid pulses of light to vaporize the top layers of skin and spur cell renewal and collagen production, replacing damaged scar tissue with new, smoother skin. For superficial scarring, non-ablative (non-vaporizing) treatment is best. For scarring caused by severe cystic acne, you can push up to the high-intensity, fractional treatment. At the fractional end of the spectrum, the process is painful, and skin can remain raw and red for several days following the procedure. And at either end of the scale, the heat of the laser can be a trigger for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, especially in dark skin tones, so be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your aesthetician. Laser treatments are usually done in a series of four to six treatments over a period of two months. Best for deeper scars.
This process of planing down the skin to a level below the scar tissue to allow new skin to grow back—has been around since the early 1950s. The process has come a long way since the earliest days when it was done with sandpaper. Dr. Fulton advanced the process with the invention of the diamond fraise, a rapidly rotating disc of diamond particles, that is still the standard today. This process is not the same as microdermabrasion, which just removes the top superficial layers of skin. Dermabrasion is a deeper process that can improve scars caused by acne, surgery, or injury. It comes with some caveats. It can be painful and the recovery time is lengthy. Skin will be pink and sensitive for several weeks. Best for deep scars and must be done by a trained dermatologist or physician.
Subcision with Dermabrasion
This technique involves punching out the scar tissue and resurfacing skin. Best for ice pick scars too deep to treat by resurfacing alone.