You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Dermatologists Say These Creams and Serums Actually Help Fade Acne Scars

Prevention Logo By Krissy Brady of Prevention | Slide 1 of 16: It took a century and a half to get your pimples to go away, but now you've received their parting gift: red, sometimes indented scars. Unfortunately, these spots like to overstay their welcome too. First, let's figure out exactly what kind of spots you're looking at: “There's the pitted scarring that can occur when an inflamed blemish resolves with an ice-pick-like divot in the skin, and discoloration that occurs from inflammation, or the darkened spots as blemishes resolve,” says Susan Massick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. This is actually called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and is mistaken for “scars.” While pitted scarring tends to be more challenging to treat, “PIH is reversible and will fade with time, a process that can routinely take three to six months or longer,” says Dr. Massick. Hey, better than permanent damage! So what causes acne scars, exactly?Post-breakout tissue damage. Those annoying pink spots, for example, are “known as post-inflammatory erythema, which is when your acne goes away and you still have a pink area for a few weeks to a few months, much like with a cut or scratch,” says Jennifer T. Haley, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in Scottsdale, AZ, and Park City, UT.Then there’s post-inflammatory pigmentation. “It occurs in those with medium-to-dark skin, where the inflammation invites pigment cells to the area and when the acne resolves, a brown spot is left for weeks, months, even years,” says Dr. Haley.The toughest form of acne scarring is a result of severe inflammation destroying the collagen in the deeper layers of skin. As the body attempts to repair the damage in the skin, “over-production of collagen may result in raised acne scars, also known as hypertrophic scars,” explains Philadelphia-based dermatologist Rina Allawh, M.D. “Under-production may lead to depressed or pitted scars (a.k.a. atrophic), and are referred to as ice-pick scars, rolled scars, or box-car, depending on appearance.”Choosing the best acne scar treatment for your skinPrevention is key: Not to be all Captain Obvious, but getting your acne under control is the best first step to not only healing your acne scars, but preventing future scarring. Your skincare regimen should include a gentle or medicated cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup remover at night, all of which should be hypoallergenic (which won’t cause inflammation) and noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores).Look for key ingredients: “There are numerous products being sold for acne scarring today,” says Manhattan-based board-certified dermatologist Emmanuel Loucas, M.D. “Many of the products are good, but many product’s ingredients haven’t been proven to be effective.” To ensure you have a legit product, look for one that contains retinoids (vitamin A), alpha and beta hydroxy acids, azaleic acid, niacinamide, vitamins C and E, hydroquinone, kojic acid, or resorcinol. Know your scars: “Best results are often obtained by using many of these ingredients in combination,” says Dr. Loucas, who recommends applying your acne scar treatment after washing your face and before moisturizing.If your acne scarring is dark, the best ingredients to look for in your OTC products are retinol, hydroxy acids, azaleic acid, vitamin C, and hydroquinone, says Dr. Loucas.If acne scars have caused some deformity in the skin, “retinols and hydroxy acids are often the most effective ingredients to try and remodel the skin,” he says.If your acne scars are inflamed and red, you should proceed with caution. Consider dealing with the inflammation first (with ingredients such as niacinamide, ceramides, and licorice extract) before tackling your acne scars.If the acne scarring is significant, you may need to combine your topical regimen with dermatological procedures. “This is because these types of scars are often bound down by excessive scar tissue and need to be surgically released or removed to see improvement,” says Dr. Loucas.Ready to get bright, even skin? Here, the best dermatologist-recommended products to help fade your acne scars, plus your full guide on how to boost their efficacy.

It took a century and a half to get your pimples to go away, but now you've received their parting gift: red, sometimes indented scars. Unfortunately, these spots like to overstay their welcome too.

First, let's figure out exactly what kind of spots you're looking at: “There's the pitted scarring that can occur when an inflamed blemish resolves with an ice-pick-like divot in the skin, and discoloration that occurs from inflammation, or the darkened spots as blemishes resolve,” says Susan Massick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. This is actually called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and is mistaken for “scars.” While pitted scarring tends to be more challenging to treat, “PIH is reversible and will fade with time, a process that can routinely take three to six months or longer,” says Dr. Massick. Hey, better than permanent damage!

So what causes acne scars, exactly?

Post-breakout tissue damage. Those annoying pink spots, for example, are “known as post-inflammatory erythema, which is when your acne goes away and you still have a pink area for a few weeks to a few months, much like with a cut or scratch,” says Jennifer T. Haley, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in Scottsdale, AZ, and Park City, UT.

Then there’s post-inflammatory pigmentation. “It occurs in those with medium-to-dark skin, where the inflammation invites pigment cells to the area and when the acne resolves, a brown spot is left for weeks, months, even years,” says Dr. Haley.

The toughest form of acne scarring is a result of severe inflammation destroying the collagen in the deeper layers of skin. As the body attempts to repair the damage in the skin, “over-production of collagen may result in raised acne scars, also known as hypertrophic scars,” explains Philadelphia-based dermatologist Rina Allawh, M.D. “Under-production may lead to depressed or pitted scars (a.k.a. atrophic), and are referred to as ice-pick scars, rolled scars, or box-car, depending on appearance.”

Choosing the best acne scar treatment for your skin

Prevention is key: Not to be all Captain Obvious, but getting your acne under control is the best first step to not only healing your acne scars, but preventing future scarring. Your skincare regimen should include a gentle or medicated cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup remover at night, all of which should be hypoallergenic (which won’t cause inflammation) and noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores).

Look for key ingredients: “There are numerous products being sold for acne scarring today,” says Manhattan-based board-certified dermatologist Emmanuel Loucas, M.D. “Many of the products are good, but many product’s ingredients haven’t been proven to be effective.” To ensure you have a legit product, look for one that contains retinoids (vitamin A), alpha and beta hydroxy acids, azaleic acid, niacinamide, vitamins C and E, hydroquinone, kojic acid, or resorcinol.

Know your scars: “Best results are often obtained by using many of these ingredients in combination,” says Dr. Loucas, who recommends applying your acne scar treatment after washing your face and before moisturizing.

  • If your acne scarring is dark, the best ingredients to look for in your OTC products are retinol, hydroxy acids, azaleic acid, vitamin C, and hydroquinone, says Dr. Loucas.
  • If acne scars have caused some deformity in the skin, “retinols and hydroxy acids are often the most effective ingredients to try and remodel the skin,” he says.
  • If your acne scars are inflamed and red, you should proceed with caution. Consider dealing with the inflammation first (with ingredients such as niacinamide, ceramides, and licorice extract) before tackling your acne scars.
  • If the acne scarring is significant, you may need to combine your topical regimen with dermatological procedures. “This is because these types of scars are often bound down by excessive scar tissue and need to be surgically released or removed to see improvement,” says Dr. Loucas.

Ready to get bright, even skin? Here, the best dermatologist-recommended products to help fade your acne scars, plus your full guide on how to boost their efficacy.

© Courtesy of brands

More from Prevention

FIND SALONS NEAR ME

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon