If you’ve dealt with a breakout, chances are you’ve dealt with some level of scarring—whether temporary or permanent—at one point or another too. Just as there’s more than one type of pimple, the types of marks zits tend to leave behind can also vary. While it may be tempting to pop your pimples as soon as they appear, dermatologists advise against it as doing so can lead to a more permanent type of scarring. “Refrain from picking!,” Rachel Nazarian, MD, F.A.A.D, assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center of Dermatology, tells SELF. “The less a pimple is manipulated, the less inflammation and scarring there will be.”
True acne scarring typically appears indented or atrophic (meaning thin and flat) and can typically be classified into one of three subtypes: ice pick (a small depression in the skin), boxcar (a depression in the skin with very sharp edges), or rolling (have smooth edges and look like tiny hills and valleys in the skin), according to Shari Marchbein, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at NYU School of Medicine. “More commonly, however, hyperpigmentation (or darkening) of the skin after a breakout resolves is erroneously called scarring,” she explains.
While deeper acne scars generally are best improved with in-office treatments like lasers or cortisone injections by a dermatologist, dark spots—or post-inflammatory pigmentation—can typically be improved with at-home products like topical medications, chemical peels, and one of our long time favorites—daily sunscreen. Dermatologists usually recommend salicylic, alpha-, or beta-hydroxy acids as well as retinol to resurface the skin, plus hydroquinone, an ingredient that inhibits the production of melanin. For the low-down on some of the best items you can use at home to get rid of acne marks once and for all, we’ve polled a few dermatologists about the over-the-counter products they’ve given gold stars.
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