Skin by Sonya: How to avoid post-acne scars

September 29, 2009 at 7:43 pm 6 comments

Sonya DakarScarring from acne breakouts and discoloration from sun damage and medication is something I see my clients concerned with every day. These are also two skin conditions that many people do not understand how to properly treat. I would like to shed some light on the topic today and give you some advice that will put you on the path to beautiful and healthy skin!

Here’s what you need to know:

It is very common for post-acne scars to develop, as scars form at the site of an injury to the tissue. In the case of acne, the injury is caused by the body’s inflammatory response to sebum, bacteria and dead cells in the plugged sebaceous follicle. They are the visible reminders of injury and tissue repair. When tissue suffers an injury, the body rushes its repair kit to the injury site. Among the elements of the repair kit are white blood cells and an array of inflammatory molecules that have the task of repairing tissue and fighting infection. However, when their job is done they may leave a somewhat messy repair site in the form of fibrous scar tissue, or eroded tissue.

Macules, or “pseudo-scars” are flat, red or reddish spots that are the final stage of most inflamed acne lesions. After an inflamed acne lesion flattens, a macule may remain to “mark the spot” for up to 6 months. When the macule eventually disappears, no trace of it will remain—unlike a scar.

Post-Inflammatory Discoloration is discoloration of the skin at the site of a healed or healing inflamed acne lesion. It occurs more frequently in darker-skinned people, but occasionally is seen in people with lighter skin. Early treatment may minimize the development of post-inflammatory pigmentation. Some post-inflammatory pigmentation may persist for up to 18 months, especially with excessive sun exposure. Professional peels may hasten the disappearance of post-inflammatory pigmentation.

I also see a lot of hyperpigmentation as a result of harsh acne treatments, not just the acne itself!

Many times, hyperpigmentation can develop from:
1. Medications such as birth control that sensitize the skin to the sun
2. When you do not wear an SPF of at least 30 every day, your scars get darker in the sun and do not fade
3. Picking at breakouts, which leads to the tearing of the skin’s tissue (and a scar develops as a result)
4. Overusing products that are too harsh such as glycolic acid, retin-A or hydroquinone. These can either burn the skin, or over exfoliate it, leaving it more sensitive to the sun and discoloration. This is especially true for ethnic skin.

What to do:
The occurrence of scarring is different in different people. It is difficult to predict who will scar, how extensive or deep scars will be, and how long scars will persist. It is also difficult to predict how successfully scars can be prevented by effective acne treatment.
Nevertheless, the only sure method of preventing or limiting the extent of scars is to treat acne early in its course, and as long as necessary. The more that inflammation can be prevented or moderated, the more likely it is that scars can be prevented.

At home and professional options:
At home:
Always wear an SPF30–every day. This will help protect your scars and keep hyperpigmentation from worsening.

Invest in a gentle lightening product. Look for lactic and/or kojic acid, as well as Japanese mulberry licorice, and avoid hydroquinone…Use as directed, you will usually need to build up skin tolerance.

Exfoliate 1-3 times a week; this will help shed dead skin, allowing the product to penetrate deeper and fresher, lighter skin appear faster. Look for an exfoliating enzyme cream or a very gentle scrub.

Peels- These should ideally done in a series of 6-12 sessions, about 5 days or a week apart. If you are trying to lighten pigment and scarring it takes time. I recommend light lactic acid peels; it’s better to take smaller, safer steps, rather than risk burning skin with harsh peels.

Diamond peels are great too; they resurface the skin with a physical exfoliation. If done correctly, they can yield beautiful and dramatic results. Only the very surface cells of the skin are removed, so no additional wound is created. Multiple procedures are often required but scars may be significantly improved.

In summary, acne scars are caused by the body’s inflammatory response. The best way to prevent scars is to treat (and ideally prevent!) acne early, and as long as necessary.

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Entry filed under: Skin by Sonya. Tags: , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. imjonnyny  |  July 7, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Thank you this has really helped me with my acne problem

  • 2. Aurelio Goyen  |  October 30, 2012 at 1:31 am

    Acne is really a debilitating disease both on the physical and psychological aspects. It can scar the confidence of a person. ..

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  • 3. Emory Eriks  |  January 4, 2013 at 11:10 am

    i really hate acne because it can hurt you emotionally and they can also leave emotional scars.:

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  • 4. acne treatment los angeles  |  September 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Pimples is really a devastating illness both on the real and mental factors. It can scratch the assurance of a individual. Thank you this has really assisted me with my acne problem….

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