Those who have struggled with severe cases of acne in the past, particularly cystic acne (the sore, painful bumps that develop deep within the dermis layer of the skin and can linger for weeks), may find that their acne has caused their face and skin’s texture to have indents and severe scarring.
As an esthetician and skin care expert, a common question I’m often asked by previous acne sufferers is, “How can I smooth out the indents in my face from acne scars?”
For these deep-pitted scars, you must get professional skin treatments and use products at home that focus on aggressive exfoliation and collagen regeneration to create a smoother texture. And the sooner you get on it, the better. Note: The below approach is also used for wrinkles, since lines and wrinkles are essentially indents in the skin too, except caused from sun damage and aging. The same protocol applies to chicken pox scars, too.
Here’s how to smooth out indents in the skin from acne scars:
Schedule a professional chemical peel.
There are many different strengths of chemical peels, your esthetician or skin care professional will suggest a series of peels appropriate for the severity of the scarring.
What is a chemical peel? A chemical peel involves applying a chemical solution (acid) to skin of the face to remove and exfoliate the outer layers of the skin so that a clearer, more evenly pigmented, glowing layer of skin can appear. The new regenerated skin is smoother than the old skin. It is instrumental in the stimulation of fibroblasts and creating new collagen. The new skin is temporarily more sensitive to the sun, so daily use of sunscreen is a must. Depending on the type of peel, the treatments are often repeated every 1-6 weeks to achieve the desired results. You can also maintain the results of a chemical peel by using Triple Berry Smoothing Peel.
*Caution: when it comes to chemical peels, it’s extremely important that the person administering the treatment is well-versed and experienced—if the peel isn’t left on long enough, there will be no effect on the skin; if it’s left on for too long, you may run the risk of potential damage. See the chemical peels here offered at Renée Rouleau Skin Care Spas.
Use a retinol product or a prescription retinoid.
As you can see in my video here, I’m a huge believer in what retinol and prescription retinoids can do for smoothing the skin. While it’s important (and necessary) to have professional treatments like chemical peels that work deeper within the skin to affect change, using an at-home retinol treatment at least five nights at week will dramatically improve the skins texture. If your skin is sensitive and can’t tolerate Retin A or other prescription retinoids, your skin will respond favorably to a strong over-the-counter version like Advanced Resurfacing Serum. Use it faithfully and you get results. I promise.
Wear sunscreen every single day–rain or shine.
My skin smoothing suggestions will not deliver the best result if sunscreen is not worn daily. The sun’s UV rays cause damage to the skin and collagen breakdown so it’s very important to protect the skin. In addition, acne scarring can leave behind dark, red or purple scars that can linger for months. If these scars are exposed to daylight, the UV rays stimulate melanin cells to make the scar darker and more red in color, and visible longer.
You can get UV damaging rays through windows in your home or office and while driving in your car, so be sure to wear a sunscreen moisturizer 365 days a year, rain or shine, inside or out.
For acne-prone skin, it’s very important to find a sunscreen formula that doesn’t clog the pores or encourage acne breakouts. Check out our best-selling Daily Protection SPF 30.
Read: How to Apply Sunscreen to the Face and Neck
Get injectable fillers, if needed.
Certain cosmetic dermal fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm can be injected into the indented area to lift the depressed scar but their effect is temporary, only lasting anywhere from 6-12 months. Since this is a temporary solution, you’ll want to follow the above steps first to see what kind of permanent change you can make in the skin. Be sure you consult with a reputable nurse or cosmetic dermatologist to see which procedure is the best choice for your needs.
Consider ablative laser resurfacing, if needed.
This would be the last resort if your scars are deep and chemical peels are not giving you the desired result. With ablative laser resurfacing, a laser destroys the epidermis and heats the dermis, leading to collagen destruction and subsequent regrowth. You’ll have a wound after this treatment. As the wound heals, new smoother and tighter skin forms. Ablative laser resurfacing can be harsh, but results are often dramatic and may last for years. There is also fractional laser resurfacing which is a newer technique to stimulate collagen which are often nearly as good as with nonfractional ablative resurfacing, but it may take several treatments to reach that level. If you decide to proceed with skin resurfacing, you might need to take a number of preparatory steps. These include taking an antiviral or antibacterial medication to prevent infection, applying a retinoid skin cream to help prepare the skin, stopping certain medications such as drugs to prevent blood clots. Smoking must be stopped too as it can interfere with healing.
Severe acne scarring can be a challenge to improve but the sooner you address it, the better results you will have.
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