Sunscreen:“Sun exposure makes scarring appear more prominent,” says Dr. Shah. “And sunlight can even penetrate through your clothing so it’s important to be diligent about applying it everywhere, every day.” And don’t worry about the thought of breaking out from a pore-clogging sunscreen; the latest formulas are more innovative and acne-friendly than ever. Elta MD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a top derm-approved favorite. It contains niacinamide, which is an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce redness.
Topical vitamin C serum:“Vitamin C can help build collagen and promotes healing,” says Dr. Shah. “SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum is a combination of pure L-ascorbic acid, which is vitamin C and absorbs into the skin so that it continues working even long after it dries.”
Retinoids:“Retin-A is a superficial treatment that helps with acne marks by causing your skin cells to divide more rapidly and pushing out the cells with the discolored pigment,” says Dr. Shah. Retinoids make your skin sensitive to the sun, so it’s best to apply a treatment like RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream before you go to sleep.
Chemical peels:“A chemical peel is a treatment which uses the application of mild solutions for skin refinement and regeneration. Products containing glycolic acid promote cell turnover, which is the process where new skin cells form and help even out your skin tone,” says Dr. Bowe. You can try an at-home peel like Peter Thomas Roth 40% Triple Acid Peel, which uses both glycolic and salicylic acids to help fade spots by exfoliating dead skin cells and smoothing out skin texture. “Or, your dermatologist can prescribe you a stronger peel based on your skin type and treatment goals,” says Dr. Bowe.
Steroid injections:If you feel a stress pimple rearing its ugly head, a steroid shot can be administered the same day you call your derm because the process is very fast. Not only does it immediately reduce the inflammation of an existing zit, but cortisone can also help thick scars (keloids) appear softer and flatter. “These are specifically for raised scars, however,” says Dr. Shah. “It’ll help flatten out the scar, but it won’t do anything to any discrepancies in the texture.”
Dermal fillers:“Certain scars can be filled with a substance that elevates the depressed areas, like hyaluronic acid. This can make the surface of the skin more even and get rid of shadows,” says Dr. Bowe. Until recently, fillers weren’t a lasting solution. But now, if you’re over 21 years old, Bellafill is the first FDA-approved dermal filler designed for permanently correcting moderate to severely dented acne scars. Unlike other fillers, it contains two different ingredients to help improve acne scarring. “It’s 20% polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), which helps your body make more protein to allow itself to heal,” says Dr. Shah. “PMMA are tiny balls that sort of act as a scaffolding. Most fillers degrade over time, but since PMMA cannot be absorbed into the body, this offers a permanent result,” she says. The other 80% is collagen. The procedure takes about 20-30 minutes, and while you may need a touchup a couple months later, some people just need the single treatment, says Dr. Shah.
Lasers:“These can be helpful in reducing the redness associated with acne marks and scars. I use a pulse-dye laser called the V-Beam for red scars. When treating older scars that are no longer red, I like to use the Fraxel laser. When lasers are used to treat acne scars, the results can differ dramatically based on two things: how many treatments you have done, and how much social downtime you’re willing to accept as part of the recovery process,” says Dr. Bowe. “Erbium laser resurfacing is also another option and it’s more aggressive than Fraxel,” says Dr. Shah. “It’s a minimal burning of surrounding tissues and has fewer side effects like less swelling and redness, but it’s not appropriate for those with darker skin,” says Dr. Shah.
Punch excisions:“This procedure is best for those with icepick scars which aren’t as wide as rolling or boxcar scars,” says Dr. Shah. “If you use a punch excision on a scar that’s wide at the surface, you’re making a bigger punch and trading in one scar for another,” she says. “Your dermatologist will numb up the area and use a tiny cookie-cutter like device to cut out the scar, and then sew it closed with a tiny stitch. The stitch is removed in less than a week,” says Dr. Bowe.