Zits, spots, or pimples – regardless of what we call them, the seemingly superficial and temporary nature of acne is anything but superficial and temporary. While most acne sufferers go through adolescence with little to no consequences, a smaller part of the population goes on with life carrying permanent pimple scars.
Like a delinquent teenager, acne loves carving its “Acne was here” signature on people’s faces. But is there really nothing to be done against this bully?
In fact, there is. While some deep scars will never be fully healed, most acne scars aren’t too deep or serious to get rid of. However, in order to be able to deal with the problem, first we need to learn about it.
And can you actually get rid of them somehow? As you might have noticed, most bouts of pimples rarely leave any temporary or permanent scars. But when acne inflammation intensifies, it brings with it the possibility that the deeper layers of skin will be damaged as well. It’s exactly the modification of this deeper layer of skin that makes scarring possible. In this regard – not all acne is created equal, and not all skin types are equally prone to it. Some forms of acne, most notably the cystic kind, are especially prone to leave scarring. These marks may sometimes last for months and years – and there’s a special name for them.
Depending on the type of acne you’ve dealt with and the nature of the skin damage they’ve caused, scientists differentiate between several different types of scarring: atrophic scarring, hypertrophic scarring, and discoloration. Each type of skin damage necessitates its own specific regeneration treatment.
The most common type of pimple scarring - atrophic scars, are easily noticeable since they appear as hollowed out surfaces on the skin. Atrophic scars can take various shapes, such as shallow, round indentations on the skin surface, or even sometimes resemble sharp V-shaped or U-shaped cuts. Since atrophic scars are basically holes in the skin where healthy tissue was once present, they’re one of the most difficult types of scars to heal.
Opposite in nature to the atrophic scars, hypertrophic scars are made of the buildup of tissue over the affected area and therefore resemble raised, protruding skin features. If we can think of atrophic scars as valleys or lakes in the skin, hypertrophic scars would be small hills or ridges. These hills or ridges in the skin are built from all the excess collagen during the acne inflammation. While hypertrophic scars are less common, they are still very challenging to repair.
While technically not scarring, skin discoloration due to acne inflammation is also considered a permanent alteration of the skin. Moving horizontally instead of vertically, discoloration has to do with the changing of skin pigment which is often glaringly obvious to the eye. Dermatologists distinguish between three different types of skin discoloration:
Being a more superficial change to the skin, discoloration and skin tone is usually easier to treat than actual scars, and it can often fade away on its own after several weeks or months.
It goes without saying that a single person can suffer from any combination of the scars described above – even have all of them at once. Which ones do you have? It’s always good to check in the mirror under different light – certain types of light, such as fluorescent, sunlight or incandescent make different skin features more easily visible. But to be on the safe side, it always pays off to visit the dermatologist and receive a correct diagnosis.
There are many ways to treat anything, pimple scars included. Some people even consider that the best way to treat pimple scars is to not treat them at all. Time heals all wounds, but sometimes it really doesn’t.
Roughly speaking, the treatment of pimple scars can be divided into three groups: prevention, medical treatments, and home remedies.
As the saying goes, ‘Better safe than sorry.’ But sometimes we’re caught in the act, or realize it’s too late to do something about a situation. This is especially true for acne inflammations since they can flare up unexpectedly, and quickly escalate to more serious acne types in the blink of an eye.
So what to do once an acne inflammation has caught you off-guard? Well, whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel. Managing acne is actually a lot about preventing future pimple scars. And while a visit to the dermatologist is a must at that point, here are some general guidelines to follow:
While it’s very tempting to do so, most people usually don’t take all the necessary precautions to keep the area properly sanitized, so popping pimples often spurs further inflammation. Not to mention that popping your zits like that is actually piercing and damaging your skin – which increases the likelihood of inflicting deep damage to the skin and the formation of atrophic and hypertrophic scars.
Since harmful UV rays interfere with the healthy maintenance of the skin, they also aid in the creation of pimple scars of all kinds. Besides intensifying pigmentation and in doing so making discoloration permanent, UV rays can also make atrophic and hypertrophic scars appear more pronounced. All of this amounts to premature signs of aging and robbing you of your young looks.
Modern medical science makes continuous advances in the field of acne medications, aesthetics, and corrective surgery. Fear not, though, since most of the treatments for pimple scar removal are far from dangerous or invasive. They can feel slightly uncomfortable at most, but the payoff is much greater. Here’s a brief list of some of the most effective medical treatments for the removal of pimple scars available:
As the name suggests, this medical procedure involves filling up atrophic scars with collagen. The indentations are filled up, and the surface of the skin is smoothened as a result.
Medical lasers come in various configurations and types, and are used for different purposes. Hypertrophic scars are also very treatable by laser; a procedure known as laser resurfacing has been shown to be very effective in smoothing out elevated tissues of skin. For example, some medical laser resurfacing procedures are used in treating discoloration scarring, where the emitted light modifies the pigment under the skin. Other laser resurfacing methods are used in smoothing out skin by stimulating collagen production, making shallow atrophic scars less pronounced.
Chemical peeling is a procedure that makes use of certain acids in peeling off the surface layers of the skin (depending on the scar tissue). This gentle method of “chipping away” the outermost layer of skin cells enables the adjustment of the ‘height’ levels of relative areas of the skin, thereby achieving smoothing.
One of the latest technologies used in skin-rejuvenation and scar removal, the dermaroller has shown promising results in treating stretch-marks and scars. What’s more, dermarollers are nowadays widely available, easily affordable, and come in different shapes and sizes. Dermarollers apply a technique similar to acupuncture called microneedling which stimulates the production of collagen. By making hundreds of tiny, but harmless little holes in your skin, the dermaroller prods your body to produce collagen in order to heal the wounds. This has a relaxing, rejuvenating effect on the skin, which enables smoothening.
However, while high-tech medical treatments are effective, they can also be pricey and exceed your budget. Luckily, there are also other, more affordable options on the table.
More and more people report all kinds of positive results from using various sorts of DIY clay masks, spot treatments and home remedies. While the main advantage of these home remedies is their affordability, the health benefits, especially when it comes to smoothening out wrinkles used shouldn’t be discounted either. Many oils, foods, and ingredients popular in home remedy formulas possess strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Of course, as with any treatment aimed at acne or their consequences – patience and persistence are key. Don’t expect miracles in a few days, some of these remedies will need weeks or even months to show results. Keeping low expectations and sticking to a routine is your best bet.
Oils are… Oily, right? Right. So they have no place being used in anything even remotely involved in the treatment of acne or pimple scars, right?
Well, that’s where you’re wrong. In the past, there has been a misconception that oils are only supposed to be used on dry skin, but that idea has long since been discounted. Oils complement our own, even oily skin’s healthy function and are especially useful in normalizing the skin’s natural oil – the sebum. And sebum is one of the main contributors to acne inflammation. So, it’s wiser to keep our skin well-hydrated, oily and elastic, instead of starving it of those qualities. Depriving it of moisture and nurture, our skin may try to overcompensate by producing massive production of sebum and clogged pores. And those, as you might know, are the breeding grounds for acne inflammation.
So, which oils are most well suited for removing blemishes and smoothening scars? The following selection has generally proven the most useful:
Argan oil is one of the newcomers on the stage of skin care, but it’s so popular because argan oil is really a game-changer. It’s rich with water and therefore a powerful, natural moisturizer, but it also contains a huge amount of naturally-occurring Vitamin E. Argan oil has been reported to be especially effective in removing red marks from ‘ghosts of pimples past.’ So head out to the store and give it a try.
Perhaps one of the most popular ingredients in natural remedies, the reputation of the amazing tea tree oil is definitely well deserved. Due to its powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil has been used in healing balms throughout history, usually for the treatment of various kinds of wounds and scars. If used in the last stages of acne inflammation, research has shown that the application of tea tree oil minimizes the risk of hypertrophic, raised pimple scars.
While there is no hard scientific evidence that rosehip oil can help remove scars or smoothen skin, people who have used it report overall positive results backed with visible evidence. Check out our in-depth article dedicated to rosehip oil to learn more about its benefits.
Other oils that have beneficial skin effects are the following:
Besides using oils, there are other methods and ingredients which appear beneficial in getting rid of pimple scars and smoothening skin.
Honey is a well-known antiseptic and finds broad use in treating acne. Archaeologists still stumble upon the occasional ancient Egyptian jar of honey, typically filled with ingredients perfectly preserved for thousands of years. While some consider it to be ineffective when removing scars, honey is a quick wound-healer and, if applied at the right moment can almost certainly prevent scarring.
Turn around yourself and you’ll probably spot at least one ingredient or household item that boasts itself of containing some Aloe Vera. This precious, meaty cactus has built its well-deserved reputation as one of the most potent ingredients when it comes to treating burns. While it's best to apply some Aloe Vera before any scars form, some report that the wonder-cactus may indeed smoothen skin. All in all, Aloe Vera is one of the staples of the skincare industry, and it is intensely beneficial for healing acne.
At the risk of sounding cliche, this one is too true to omit: What you eat is what you are.
A good night’s sleep, coupled with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (vitamins and enzymes) can do wonders for both the body and the soul. But your skin will thank you too, since all those vitamins and enzymes and essential amino acids help it keep itself healthy and clean. While not a panacea and only tangentially associated with acne outbursts, a healthy lifestyle, in the long run, can only help. Exercise helps too, but if you decide to hit the gym - make sure that you keep everything clean, especially when touching your face.
A fancy word for removing dead skin cells, exfoliation makes room for healthy skin cells to grow, which can sometimes hasten the smoothing of the skin. However, depending on the ingredient, exfoliation isn’t exactly the gentlest thing you can do to your skin, so be careful not to further provoke and inflame your skin instead of calming it down. Always make sure that your skin has healed and the acne is gone before you choose to exfoliate. As for the means, some people use coffee, lemon or even strawberries, while others use skin care products. Whichever means you choose, however, make sure that you’re gentle and take care not to overdo it.
Acne comes and goes, but some scars are here to stay. However, modern medicine offers a number of treatments that have proven successful in acne scar removal and skin regeneration, and there is a vast selection of natural remedies to choose from as well.
It is crucial to understand that treating pimple scars can be a long, arduous and often discouraging process. The nature of the challenge is such that it inspires sharp, sometimes harsh self-reflection, leading to shaken self-esteem, anxiety and even depression.
But time is your ally. Sooner or later almost every treatment and routine produces an effect, as thousands upon thousands of people are showing us on a daily basis. The combined wisdom and support from others who have trodden this path can only benefit you, and dermatologists can guide you through the appropriate treatment plan that combines the right methods for you.