'One common mistake I have seen acne patients make is to start treating the acne scarring while still suffering with active breakouts. Before even thinking about treating potential acne scarring, all active acne lesions must be completely cleared', explains Dr Stefanie Williams, dermatologist and medical director of EUDELO Dermatology & Skin Wellbeing.
We’ve all been through the trials and tribulations of experimenting with what works to get skin clear and even. A natural reaction may be to reach for a rough scrub to brush the spots away but an abrasive take often leaves skin angry and red - not ideal. Don’t even get us started on the toothpaste myth.
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Don’t fret, there are some treatments that actually work to fade and eventually get rid of the traces of acne that don't involve any fluffy facials you might experience in spas. 'A very useful adjunct for any acne sufferer is a dermatology grade facial,' says Dr Williams. 'Dermatology grade facials are totally different from beauty facials in salons and spas though, which anyone with a tendency to breakouts should avoid, as they often cause an acne flare up.'
How To Get Rid Of Acne Scars
Acne Scar Treatment No.1: Dermal Fillers
Not just here to make you look like a contestant on Love Island, fillers can be used to help an array of skin problems, one of them being acne scars. A tiny amount can temporarily plump and smooth over any skin craters left behind from acne.
'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.'
Your skin's initial reaction may be to bruise, swell up and go red but be patient and wait for the magic to happen. As acne scarring treatments go, this one isn’t the priciest and is relatively non invasive and pain free. Hooray!
To find your nearest cosmetic dermatologist, head to the British Association of Dermatologists.
Acne Scar Treatment No.2: Exo Needling
Microneedling on it's own isn't effective enough to get rid of acne scarring but combining it into a treatment does do the trick. 'Exo Needling is a combination of deep microneedling with simultaneous Exo infusion. Exo is a serum exceptionally high in growth factors, derived from the patient’s own blood (an advancement of the more well-known PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma)', explains Dr Williams. Might sound a bit Twilight-esque but PRP works to promote collagen and elastin production, key players in keeping skin it's glow-y best self.
Acne Scar Treatment No.3: Chemical Peels
Whenever chemical peels are mentioned, an image of Samantha from Sex And The City turning up to Carrie’s book launch party with red raw skin and a black veil immediately comes to mind. But, peels have come a long way since then and, thankfully, veils are no longer required.
The best update? You can now use them (at a lower dosage) in your own bathroom. AHAs and BHAs have become a staple in most skin lovers routines because they tackle an array of issues. From whiteheads to blackheads, acids are a top problem solver if you choose the right one.
Glycolic acid is the most popular when it comes to AHAs. It’s the most potent when it comes to exfoliating, which means it’s incredibly efficient but can be too strong for sensitive skin types. Lactic acid actually comes from lactose in milk, rather than fruit acids like other AHAs which means it’s particularly effective when it comes to erasing signs of ageing.
When it comes to BHAs, salicylic acid is the most commonly used. Good news for sensitive skin sufferers, this one's for you. It helps calm down redness and inflammation, which also makes it super useful when it comes to getting rid of any blemishes.
You'll be hard pressed to find a Beauty Editor who doesn't love Dr Dennis' peel pads. Easy to use, and with a range of strengths for all skin types, they provide a thorough yet foolproof way to fresh, soft skin. Our favourite? These 'glow' version, which also add a hint of bronzy tan to your complexion. Genius.
Natural and gentle, so better if you've got a more sensitive skin type, the fruit enzymes nibble away at dead skin revealing a smoother, brighter complexion after use. Simple to use, it's a great option for beginners who are nervous of more aggressive formulas.
Ok so this isn't strictly a peel, but there is a potent peel as part of this 10 day skin reset formulated by facialist to the stars Sarah Chapman. Bookmarked by hydrating and glow-boosting 'skin care shots', the lactic acid based peeling ampoules are allllmost clinic strength, meaning you'll be looking at facial- level results at home. Worth the investment.
Easy to use (just shake it to mix the bi-phase formula, sweep on with a cotton pad at night: simples), this AHA/BHA blend is formulated to accelerate cell renewal, and is proven to speed it up by 33%. Which means brighter skin, plumper skin, and even reduced scarring and lines.
Created by former laser and wound-healing specialist (aka expert at healing and rebooting skin) Dr Phillip Levy, this product is the perfect balance of effective and fortifying. Leave on for a few minutes and rinse off, then expect some light peeling a couple of days later. No redness, no stinging, just baby- soft skin.
If congested and sun-damaged skin is getting you down, then REN's Glycolic acid mask is the one for you. Formulated with 5-6.5% Glycolic acid, it'll slough away dead skin cells minus the irritation - which means it's ideal for even sensitive skin types.
Drenched in four different hydroxy acids, Zelens' quick pads blur lines, dark spots and send enlarged pores into submission. Just don't be confused by the PHA part. These acids are really similar to AHAs but have a higher molecular structure which slows down the rate at which they penetrate the skin, making them perfect for those who have issues with sensitivity.
Acne Scar Treatment No.4: Radiofrequency With Microneedling Treatment
This powerful combination is designed to rebuild collagen and elastin using pulses of light energy from radio waves with microscopic needles that gentle puncture skin to help fill the indentation acne scars tend to leave behind. The idea is to leave skin looking brighter and firmer with scars looking smaller and lighter in colour, whilst skin texture is left touchably smoother. Unlike with IPL, this can work no matter what your skin tone and has minimal downtime, with redness only sticking around for an hour or two after.
Acne Scar Treatment No.5: Retinol
Also known as vitamin A, retinol goes hand in hand with anti-ageing treatments but can also be used to unclog pores and fade scars. It’s a more gradual treatment but is popular for leaving skin looking brighter and smoother.
Associate Professor of Clinical Dermatology at USC, Keck School of Medicine, Dr Nada Elbuluk explains the benefits: 'Many darker skin patients who develop dark spots also known as hyperpigmentation, may refer to them as "scars". For others, acne scars can refer to textural changes in the skin such as indentations and uneven skin texture. If it's the former, then we often treat with products such as retinoids which can help with evening out skin tone and treating acne. If it's more of a textural change, retinoids can also help but typically a resurfacing treatment is also needed'.
Avoid if you have rosacea - it can upset and irritate. Do try bakuchiol - it's a natural alternative rich in vitamin C and E that works to provide the same brightening results.
Acne Scar Treatment No.6: IPL Laser
If it’s good enough for Kendall Jenner, it’s good enough for us. The reality star admitted that laser treatments did wonders for her skin when she was scrutinised by the public for suffering from acne. IPL lasers are non-invasive and extremely gentle to skin, so it’s the perfect lunch time treatment.
'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.'
The problem with most lasers are that they work better on paler skin due to pigments, so won’t be your best bet for darker skin tones.
Acne Scar Treatment No 7: Wear SPF
It might seem like the simplest way to get rid of acne scars and we bang on about it a lot but SPF really does solve all your skin troubles. Not only does it protect against the dreaded sun damage but it helps avoid the more long term risk of skin cancer and, in turn, the marks it can leave on your skin.
But SPF is never more crucial than when you’re using acids, retinol or extensive treatments that can leave your skin vulnerable. '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.
So SPF up ASAP.
Acne Scar Treatment No.8: Skincare with Niacinamide
Niacinamide is the magical treatment can tackle everything from wrinkles, acne, rosacea and pigmentation so it’s definitely one to look for on an ingredients list. It’s a form of vitamin B3 and although it’s been popular with dermatologists for decades, it’s only just hit the mainstream when it comes to skincare you can buy. It not only tackles the spots themselves but also the scarring that comes with it without irritating skin.
However, it's important to be realistic with exactly how much it can do to change the skin texture. 'Niacinamide can help with evening out pigmentation and reducing redness and inflammation. It typically won't create major changes for indentations and deeper textural changes in the skin', explains Dr Elbuluk.
Mix a few drops of this concentrated booster into your moisturiser (or serum) for extra protection throughout the day. The best choice for anyone who can't bear thick, tacky serums. A dream for oily skin, this niacinamide serum contains a drop of hyaluronic acid to hydrate with none of the suffocating, sticky feeling. Perfect for skin that tends to look greasy by lunch. Niacinamide is great on its own, but when you pair it with zinc you've got a serious power- couple situation. This no-messing water-light serum is especially good for balancing overly oily skin. This is the best budget niacinamide serum out there – it's potent, easily absorbed, and blended with zinc for extra blemish-busting powers.