This post is in collaboration with Banish. This is a company I have loved and been using for several years, and all opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Eat With Clarity possible!
So, your acne is gone, your skin is clear, you finally aren’t breaking out up the wazoo, but now you have redness and scarring that won’t seem to budge. It’s annoying and frustrating and you just want clear, smooth, and even toned skin. I get it! In this post I’m going to explain everything you need to know about how to heal acne scars.
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with my skin in the past few years (read about my experience parasite cleansing and find my most recent acne update here) and now that I’m not breaking out anymore (for the most part), I’ve been on a mission to heal all of the scars my acne left behind. There is so much information out there about how to heal acne scars, so I figured I’d compile it all into one post to make it easy!
What are acne scars?
The term ‘acne scars’ is used to describe a broad range of things that happen to the skin after acne. The post common types of acne scars are post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory erythema, icepick scars, rolling scars and boxcar scars.
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) results from an increase in melanin production during a breakout. It’s more common in people with darker skin types since they’re skin naturally produces more melanin, whereas people with fair skin are more likely to have post inflammatory erythema (PIE). PIE and PIH look very similar, but PIE is the result of damage to the blood vessels in the area of the breakout and unfortunately is a bit trickier to treat.
Boxcar scars, icepick scars and rolling scars are types of atrophic scars which leave indents in the skin. These types of scars form when the skin is unable to regenerate tissue and this leads to uneven texture in the skin.
Acne scars can happen whether or not you picked or popped a pimple, but picking increases the chances of worsening the scar, so it’s best to keep your hands off and let your body work its magic!
How to treat redness and hyperpigmentation
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is among the easier forms of acne scars to treat, and dramatic improvement can be seen with just a few key products. Post-inflammatory erythema, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to treat and won’t respond to the standard skin lightening treatments. Give some of these ingredients a try to see how your skin reacts!
- VITAMIN C: Vitamin C is an amazing ingredient that is beneficial for not only acne scars, but anti-aging, sun damage etc. Vitamin C is found naturally in the dermis and the epidermis. It acts as an antioxidant, protecting your skin from free radicals and harmful UV rays. It is involved in collagen production and helps facilitate wound healing, making it an amazing ingredient for acne scars. Certain vitamin C preparations have skin lightening effects which it’s why it’s commonly recommended for people dealing with acne scars and skin discoloration.
- ALPHA ARBUTIN: Alpha arbutin is a hidden skincare gem that I only recently discovered. This is an incredible ingredient for skin lightening, so it’s essential for anyone dealing with hyperpigmentation. I discovered this ingredient after finding this vitamin C + Alpha Arbutin serum which is amazing.
- RETINOL: I feel like I have tried every retinol under the sun, and it continues to be one of my favorite ingredients for both acne and acne scarring. Retinol and retinoids are topical forms of vitamin A that work to increase cell turnover, unclog pores, even out tone and texture and also have incredible anti-aging benefits. It’s as magical as it sounds.
- ALPHA AND BETA HYDROXY ACIDS: Alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid, mandelic acid and lactic acid work to exfoliate the outermost layers of the skin. These water soluble acids remove dead skin cells, damage skin, and unwanted pigment to reveal clearer, more even toned skin. Beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid is a lipid soluble acid that can penetrate deeper into the skin, dissolving dead skin cells and oil build up to prevent clogged pores and acne.
- CHEMICAL PEELS: Chemical peels utilize either an AHA or BHA in higher concentrations than you would find in traditional skincare products. These need to be done by a professional, but because of the higher concentration, they are able to give you results more quickly. They’re left on your skin for only a few minutes, but help exfoliate your skin, unclog pores, and give you an overall brighter complexion.
How to treat pitted acne scars
Unfortunately, treating the deeper/pitted acne scars can be tough and take some time. I have personally been doing at home dermarolling with the Banisher 2.0 to tackle these scars. Depending on the severity of your scars, it may take a few weeks to months to notice a difference, but microneedling is something that delivers big results in the long run.
- MICRONEEDLING: Professional microneedling is a procedure that uses small needles to prick the skin which triggers the production of collagen. It sounds really scary, but it’s not! Your face will be numb during the treatment, so if anything you feel a slight tickle sensation. It can take a few weeks to several months before seeing changes from microneedling, but it is a powerful way to increase collagen production and plump your skin from the inside out.
- DERMA ROLLING/STAMPING: Derma rolling is similar to microneedling, but it is a treatment you do at home and isn’t quite as intense (or expensive!) as professional microneedling. I use the Banisher 2.0 from Banish which is an at home microneedling device that uses a stamp method to create micro wounds in the skin. In turn, your body will begin the healing process and start to plump your skin from the inside out. If that’s not goals then I don’t know what is!!
To use the device, you want to make sure your skin is freshly clean. It’s very important to first sterilize the banisher to make sure you aren’t stamping bacteria all over your face. Fill the cap of the banisher with alcohol and let it soak for about 5 minutes. Let it air dry for a few minutes afterward before using it on your face. Stamp the banisher 4-5 times in each area that you want to treat. Press down, lift up, and then rotate it 90 degrees before pressing down again. When your done, follow up with a serum to help heal the area.
- RETINOLS/RETINOIDS: Retinol can be used to treat active acne, discoloration, AND pitted acne scars which makes it one of the best products on the market. There are over the counter retinols and prescription strength retinols which are much stronger but also more irritating than the over the counter stuff.
- LASER TREATMENTS: Laser treatments for acne scars can often be the most expensive, but generally yield the most dramatic results. There are different types of lasers which target different areas of the skin and have different benefits. IPL (intense pulsed light) lasers are great for targeting PIH and PIE whereas fraxel lasers are better suited for textural irregularities.
What I have personally done to heal my scars
It’s been a long road getting my skin back to what it used to be. It’s still not perfect, but it is SO much better than where it was. I am personally dealing with PIE, PIH, and very mild atrophic scars, all of which will heal with time.
- RETINOL: Again, I love retinol!! I switch back and forth between prescription strength retinols and over the counter. One that I keep coming back to is differin gel. It is prescription strength but you can get it over the counter (in the U.S.)! The Granactive Retinoid Emulsion is also great, but a bit more mild.
- VITAMIN C: I have tried my fair share of vitamin C serums, but have settled on a few favorites. The Ascorbyl Glucoside solution 12%, Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% and the Banish Vitamin C Serum. All three work to prevent sun damage, fade old acne marks, and provide antioxidant protection to the skin.
- PUMPKIN MASKS: I looooove masks (what is a Sunday afternoon without a face mask??), and the Banish Pumpkin Enzyme Mask is my favorite of all time. I’ve been using it for years, and notice my skin is smoother, glowier and softer after every use. Over time, it has helped a lot with discoloration and the natural vitamin A content of the pumpkin has helped to keep my pores incredibly clear, too!
- DERMA STAMP/ROLLING: I use the Banisher 2.0 once every 1-2 weeks and have noticed a huge improvement in the texture irregularities with my skin. My deeper scaring was (thankfully) not too bad, but using this tool has improved the small indents I did had. I can see the biggest difference when the sun hits my skin, and in the way it feels when I wash my face. Hallelujah.
How long do acne scars take to go away?
I wish there were a clear cut answer for this, but it varies person to person and scar to scar. Some acne marks will go away within a week, some may take months to fade, others may require professional treatment before fully healing. It depends on your age, the severity of the acne, your skin tone, your skincare routine etc.
There are lots of products on the market that can help speed up the process, and Banish is a company I keep coming back to. Use the code ‘cary’ at checkout to get $5 off your order of $50 or more!
Healing acne and acne scars requires a lot of patience, but with the right tools, it won’t be something you deal with for the rest of your life! Where you focus your attention (microneedling, retinol, vitamin C etc.) will depend on the type of scarring you are dealing with. Give it time and your skin will heal!