Avoiding Acne Scars: Professional Tips and How-To Guide
An acne breakout comes with many worries. How bad will it be? How long will it last? Will I be able to cover it up without making it worse? And most worrisome of all, will it leave scars? Acne is generally a temporary problem, but any scars left behind are permanent. If you already have scarring, you can try out an at-home acne scar treatment, and here's what you need to know to prevent further scarring in the future.
According to dermatologists, there are three types of acne scars:
- Icepick: small, deep pits formed from cystic acne.
- Boxcar: Sharp edges and angles, and may look like you’ve pressed a fingernail into the skin.
- Rolling scar: These have soft edges or shoulders, and are wide and shallow, giving the skin a wavy look.
Sometimes the damaged area leaves a dark spot that can be mistaken for a scar but is actually post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, a temporary discoloration which can be long-lasting but will eventually fade.
While each of these types of scarring can be minimized by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, the best help for acne scars is to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
How Does Acne Leave Scars?
Scars are part of the body’s normal way of completing the healing process when it has endured a wound or other damage. Acne scars occur as the result of an inflamed acne lesion, pustule, papule, or cyst. When the cyst ruptures at the surface of the skin, there is rarely a scar. Scars occur when a lesion ruptures deep inside the follicle wall. The infection then spills out under the surface of the dermis and damages the healthy surrounding skin tissue. In its effort to repair the damage, tough fibrous collagen tissue is formed in the area. This effectively repairs the damage, but the repair job will never leave the skin as smooth as it looked before.
How to Prevent Acne Scars From Occurring
- Breakout Backoff: According to the Dermatology department at Mount Sinai Medical Department in New York City, the best prevention for acne scars is to prevent a breakout from occurring. Breakouts can be prevented or minimized by both topical and oral acne medications. If your skin is prone to serious breakouts, and over the counter acne washes and treatment products aren’t enough, see a dermatologist for a prescription treatment.
- Minimization of inflammation: When a breakout occurs, do your best to keep any inflammation at a minimum. Inflamed acne is the cause of acne scarring. Try to calm the inflammation with over the counter spot treatments. A paste of crushed aspirin and water applied topically will work if you don’t have a topical treatment handy.
- Stop the Pop: Don’t pop your pimples! As tempting as it is to try to speed the process into healing by causing the pimple to rupture sooner, the pressure you put on your skin to force the pop causes further inflammation, and inflammation is the number one cause of acne discoloration and scarring.
- Don’t Pimple Pick! If your pimple develops a scab, don’t pick at it! This may seem obvious, but some people find picking at a scab difficult to resist. Often people remove the scab before it falls off naturally, sometimes in the hope of being able to cover up the spot with concealer. Removing a scab prematurely will cause scarring.
- Get shot of it: Most dermatologists recommend coming into the office to get a cortisone shot if you have a deep, large cystic acne eruption. A cortisone shot will help the pimple to disappear more quickly and will greatly reduce the chance of scarring.
- Shun the Sun: When you have a breakout, be sure to use a noncomedogenic sunscreen. Dark spots left behind by acne occur because of the production of melanocytes, the same skin function that causes tanning. Protecting skin that is vulnerable from a recent breakout will reduce the chances of a dark spot being left behind.
How to Correct Acne Scars
If in spite of your best attempts to prevent acne scars from occurring, you do end up with scarring, a dermatologist can offer several treatment plans to minimize or correct your scarring. There are laser treatments, microdermabrasion, skin resurfacing, and chemical peels, all of which will help to correct different types of acne scars.