Clearing things up.
Acne's tough. It's painful, it can be difficult to treat and it can knock confidence.
Even if you're able to get things under control, there's still the question of the acne scars left behind, which can last long after the initial breakout.
The good news is that dermatologists and skincare experts are confident that acne scars can be cleared – or at the very least, faded – as long as you're willing to commit.
Stop picking your face
We know the drill – we've heard it countless times before: spot picking is a slippery slope which can lead to lasting damage. In fact, it's one of the main contributors to acne scarring. Bottom line? Knock it off.
"When a pimple heals, it leaves behind either a red or brown mark on the surface of the skin," says Julie Morris, Aesthetics Nurse, Effortless Skin. "If this pimple has been squeezed or picked at, the damage can go much deeper."
However, that's not to say that unpicked pimples won't cause scarring, but you'll certainly be lessening you avoid aggravating your skin further. If you absolutely, absolutely have to squeeze it, then follow our guide to spot squeezing by Dr Pimple Popper herself.
And, if you've already picked the spot, dab on some antiseptic tea tree oil to keep the wound clean and cover with a hydrocolloid acne patch – this will help with the healing and redness, and will prevent scabbing, making scarring less likely.
Keep on top of your cleansing
Another key tip is to make sure you're maintaining a good cleansing routine – morning and night. "A proper twice-a-day cleansing routine is paramount in acne control", says Dr Yannis Alexandrides, Founder and Head Of Surgical Practice at 111 Harley St.
"The amount of product you use is key – you should use an amount equal to the size of a water bottle lid. Any less can result in breakouts as dirt and makeup debris may still be clogging pores." Double cleansing can also be extremely beneficial for acne-prone skin, especially when removing makeup.
Use resurfacing products
If you have existing acne, as well as acne scars, your best bet for addressing both is to use products with resurfacing ingredients. "Glycolic acid and lactic acid (which is gentler on the skin), help to minimise the depth and severity of scars, while working to keep the pores clear," says Morris.
For creams, look for "an active ingredient that contains either salicylic or glycolic acid," says Alexandrides. "I would also recommend the effective anti-bacterial Anti-Blemish Tonic NAC Y2 to retexture acne-prone skin." If you're unsure which kind of resurfacing product will work best for your skin, check out our guide to acids.
Don't disregard retinol
Retinol AKA vitamin A carries a lot of clout for its youth-boosting abilities, but its resurfacing powers can also help with acne control and scar healing.
"Vitamin A in mild doses dries out sebum production," says Shabir Daya, co-founder of Victoria Health. "With less sebum in the pores, the chances of the pores becoming clogged are reduced, ultimately decreasing the chance of acne breakouts."
As for acne scarring, it also encourages the proper shedding of dead skin cells. "This will stimulate cell turnover and collagen production to help minimise the depth of scarring and combat existing blemishes," says Morris.
When using retinol, avoid using other acids in your routines – AHAs & BHAs – and always apply suncream. Just remember, if you're using retinol for the first time, it's important that you ease the new ingredient into your skincare regime gradually (ideally once a week for two weeks, upping to twice a week and then every other day) and always start at a low-dosage.
Try a professional treatment
If your active acne is cleared and scarring is your main concern, both Morris and Alexandrides recommend trying a clinic treatment.
"The most effective way to rid the skin of acne scarring is through a treatment performed in clinic, such as microdermabrasion, laser resurfacing or a peel," says Morris. Scarred skin can be fragile, so it's extremely important to speak to a skin specialist before deciding on a treatment.
Another option is microneedling, "a unique, non-surgical treatment, which boosts the skin’s natural repair system without having to remove the top layer of skin," says Alexandrides. "This, in combination with laser treatment (dependent on the patient's skin type), is a great way to treat acne scarring."
Eat for your skin
Diet plays a big part in the health of our skin and one of the best things you can do to help clear both acne and acne scarring, is to pay attention to what you're eating and drinking.
"Gluten can be very bad for the skin’s complexion and the shape of your face," says Alexandrides.
"There is a protein in gluten which often results in ‘leaky gut syndrome’ whereby food proteins enter the circulatory system resulting in an inflammatory response, translating itself into swelling of the face and skin pigmentation problems."
If you think your diet may be affecting your skin, there are easy switches you can try. For instance, swapping in sweet potatoes, “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) or chickpea-based pasta instead of regular pasta.
Alcohol, sugars and carbs are best consumed in moderation and lots of plenty of seasonal fruits, vegetables, and water are all smart picks for flushing toxins from your skin.
Use non-comedogenic makeup
Some of your everyday products could be exacerbating your acne and scarring problems – so to be on the safe side try switching to non-comedogenic or mineral makeup.
"Makeup products which include parabens and artificial oils in their ingredients can sometimes worsen one’s skin if not properly removed at night," says Alexandrides.
This originally appeared on Glamour UK