Pimples occur due to an inflammation under the skin that is caused by the pores becoming clogged with dead skin cells as well as excess oil and bacteria. Exfoliating the skin with a chemical exfoliant is necessary to keep the skin healthy and clear especially with people who are prone to breakouts. Although many people see themselves as expert pimple poppers, this generally leads to further destruction of the tissue and even an acne scar. Therefore, popping pimples should never be the option. However, some pimples, when left alone, can create a scar on their own. Cystic acne is a type of inflammatory acne which causes painful lesions under the skin. Due to a rush of white blood cells and enzymes in that region, the lesions never really make it to the surface and the infection spills out under the skin’s surface. As the skin tries to heal itself, acne marks and scars may form.
Acne Marks VS Acne Scars
An acne mark is not the same thing as a scar but it can still leave the person with noticeable flaws on the skin. People with lighter skin tones usually develop post-inflammatory erythema or marks that appear as red or purple. People with darker skin tones will generally have marks that appear brown in color and this is known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. These marks generally go away on their own but they can take 6 months or more to disappear. Acne scars are generally formed when the acne lesion destroys the collagen and elastin in the area but they often happen during acne popping or picking. This is because an indentation is created and the body is not able to regenerate the tissue properly and this results in a scar. Therefore, the best way to prevent an acne scar from occurring is to leave it alone. People who are prone to cystic pimple outbreaks may benefit from a cortisone injection to reduce the body’s inflammation levels and pimples within 24 to 48 hours and to lessen the chance of scarring.
Treating Acne Marks and Scars
If acne marks or scarring does occur, there are many treatments which can be used to improve the skin’s appearance.
- People with darker skin tones may be able to treat a brown mark using an at-home exfoliating product with glycolic or salicylic acid to bring the dark skin cells to the surface
- Retinoid skin products can be used for both types of acne marks
- Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever going outside can help to reduce the appearance of marks and scars since the sun can intensify or darken a scar
- Cortisone cream can be purchased, without a prescription, and used to reduce the appearance of a red or swollen scar
- Cortisone injections can be used to calm down a red or raised scar
- Ablative lasers can vaporize the scar and promote smoother skin
- Non-ablative lasers can promote new collagen formation to fill-in acne scars
- Dermal fillers can be used to fill-in depressed or “ice pick” scars but this method is temporary and will need repeat treatments, every 4 to 6 months, to maintain the results