8 Specialist Approved Ways to Get Rid of Acne Scars
From resurfacing treatments like retinol and professional peels, to lasers and lotions packed with skin-friendly BHAs, we ask the experts how to get rid of unsightly acne scars - whether raised bumps, indentations or red blotches - for good.
Pockmarks, blemishes, blotches, craters - however you refer to them, all acne scars can be upsetting and debilitating.
You avoid picking spots so as not to make scars appear, buy scrub after scrub when they do appea rand then cover them with a heavy layer of concealer to pretend they haven't, but somehow, that just makes everything worse!
Thankfully, though, there are a range of specialist treatments out there targeted at minimising and even banishing them completely - you just need to pick the right one for you.
1. Dermal Fillers
Thought fillers were just for plumping up lips and ironing out crows feet? Think again. Fillers can actually be used to smooth over unsightly indented scars, or 'craters' as most of us know them, and they can be administered by your local cosmetic dermatologist.
'Dermal fillers are very good for indented scars, 'says Dr. Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation Spokesperson, 'However, depending on the type of filler used, the treatment will need to be repeated at regular intervals - most probably every six months - to maintain the results.'
If you're impatient, though, fillers may not be the best option. Because there are so many different types of scars, (some of yours might be deeper than others or in areas difficult to get to) they often require multiple treatments to get the best results, which leads us on to the next scar zapper.
Credit: GETTY S. ALEMDAR
'It may sound a little strange and uncomfortable, but microdermabrasion involves using a jet of abrasive crystals to exfoliate the skin,' says Dr. Mahto, 'and while it can play a role in minimising stubborn red marks, it needs to be used with caution in darker skin types.'
And if you have sensitive skin, the microdermabrasion technique might not be for you. 'It is an ablative method,' says laser and aesthetic skincare specialist Mieke Morgan, 'meaning it removes thin layers from the skin's surface.'
Deterred by the downtime? Chemical peels might be a better option.
3. Chemical Peels Involving AHAs And BHAs
If you suffer from whiteheads and blackheads, you're no doubt already using a cleanser, moisturiser or topical treatment containing an AHA like Glycolic or Lactic Acid and a BHA such as Salicylic acid, all great at banishing the oil and dead skin cells that combine on the surface to form blemishes.
But the best part is that the exfoliating properties also work to diminish red marks and pigmentation left behind by said acne - if you're persistent. Medical grade chemical peels tend to contain the same ingredients, just at a higher potency, and while they work wonders on superficial scars, they are less likely to tackle those that are deeper.
4. Try A Radiofrequency With Microneedling Treatment
Once indented scars have developed, it is difficult to diminish the appearance, but radiofrequency with microneedling - a new treatment which uses energy instead of light like popular LED options - helps to remodel the collagen, significantly reducing the shape of 'holes' or 'craters.'
So how exactly does it work?
An intense pulse of energy and heat from radiowaves, along with microscopic needles, penetrates the skin and breaks up the difficult scar tissue whilst remodelling it in the process.
Unlike IPL, it is compatible with darker skin and doesn't have any downtime apart from a few hours of redness because the waves target the deeper layers, rather than those on the surface. Clinical studies have found that just 3-4 sessions delivered up to 75% improvement in acne scars.
Retinol - another name for Vitamin A in its purest form - is great for all skin types and works especially well for those who suffer from clogged pores and superficial scars aka those pesky red blotches that don't seem to let up.
'Once applied to the skin, products containing retinol work to diminish skin concerns by encouraging the shedding and building process,' explains facialist Sophie Ace.
'Thanks to the increased cell turnover, skin becomes more even, meaning less pigmentation spots and marks.'
But this isn't the case for all scars.
'Deeper scars that leave indentations in the skin are unlikely to respond to treatments containing retinol,' warns Mahto, so it might be best to avoid them if you have super-sensitive skin.
Credit: GETTY MATTEO VALLE
6. Choose An IPL Laser Treatment
After admitting to suffering from debilitating acne in a blog post, model of the moment Kendall Jenner revealed that her skin responded well to laser treatment . Laser treatments are gaining even more traction in the beauty sphere thanks to the fact that it is non-invasive and non-ablative, i.e. much gentler and less likely to wound the skin.
'Not just for hair removal, IPL lasers have a fantastic anti-inflammatory role and can take action against the bacteria that cases acne,' says Dr. Mahto, 'but they also work well to reduce redness and skin staining. Just be prepared to undergo multiple sessions and maintenance treatments for good results.'
Skincare specialist Mieke agrees: 'In particular, the Ellipse Frax 1550 laser is great for reducing surface scars as it heats the skin and encourages the formation of new collagen. This is a great, virtually pain free method, but it is important to remember that this might not remove deeper, indented scars completely.'
It's also good to keep your skin tone in mind, as most lasers have difficulty responding to pigmented skin types - currently, they work better on fairer tones.
7. Wear An SPF Daily
There has always been a huge buzz around wearing SPF, and rightly so if you want to protect against long-term damage such as skin cancer and ageing. But, if your skin is prone to breakouts which leave you with pigmentation 'scars' or you're currently following an acne-zapping regime that involves exfoliators, they become even more important.
'The skin is more vulnerable to damage and pigmentation change following acne treatments such as IPL laser and even using products that contain AHAs (like glycolic and lactic acid) and BHAs (including salicylic acid, found in acne moisturisers and cleansers) and pigmentation spots can potentially get worse is SPF is not applied,' says Dr. Mahto.
If you're prone to spots, your best bet is to use a gentle daily moisturiser that contains an SPF. Perricone MD's More Than Moisture SPF30 Cream, £48 protects skin without that dusty, chalky feel while the Superfacialist Rose Hydrate Radiance Day Cream SPF15, £14.99leaves skin feeling matte to the touch for hours on end. benefit's Triple Performing Face Moisturiser SPF15, £27 is also oil-free.
8. Choose Skincare Containing Niacinamide
We're all familiar with exfoliative ingredients like Salicylic and Glycolic Acid but niacinamide is also very effective at reducing pigmentation scarring and uneven skin tone thanks to its ability to strengthen and smoothe skin.
So how do you incorporate it into your routine?
Try mixing the Paula's Choice RESIST 10% Niacinamide Booster, £40 in with your usual moisturiser to banish rough surface skin texture including raised bumps or scars.
Using the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo [+], £15.50 in conjunction with an exfoliating cleanser will also help to restore the skin's natural barrier and keep acne at bay.