In our series Skincare SparkNotes, we’re breaking down your most burning skincare questions in easy, digestible pieces of information. Similar to when you “read” The Taming of the Shrew in high school (we’re not judging), our Skincare SparkNotes will help to quickly lay out all the key information you need to know on the subject. Except instead of “cutting corners,” per se, this series brings you fast, definitive answers to your skincare problems so you can get back to your regularly scheduled programming.
In this chapter of Skincare SparkNotes, we’re tackling something that isn’t exactly glamorous or fun, but nevertheless a problem for men and women alike: acne scars. Kerry Benjamin, founder of the StackedSkincare, tells us that there are two different types of acne scars: atrophic and hypertrophic. Then, there’s a skin deformity that many people think is an acne scar but is actually a discoloration of the skin. Needless to say, we’d certainly like to live without all three, but it’s important to take the right steps to make them each a thing of the past. So let’s get started, shall we?
“Indented acne scars occur when the skin doesn’t produce enough collagen while your blemishes are healing. To treat these scars, you need to focus on revving up collagen production,” says Benjamin. She explains that these types of scars come in varying shapes and sizes: boxcar scars (round or oval with steep vertical sides), ice-pick scars (deep, very narrow scars that extend into the dermis), and rolling scars (broad depressions with sloping edges—not as deep as ice-pick or boxcar scars).
To remove these, Benjamin suggests in-office treatments like micro-needling that use PRP, or platelet-rich plasma, where your blood is drawn, put in a centrifuge, then stamped back in. She also suggests laser treatments, unless you have dark skin—doing so would be very painful, as lasers seek dark pigmentation to zap and remove. For at-home treatments, Benjamin recommends her derma-roller ($125) used in conjunction with serums that have epidermal growth factors (more on that in our derma-roller guide.) At-home peels are also helpful for evening out skin’s texture.
“While less common than indented scars, some cystic acne sufferers experience hypertrophic or raised scars, which occur when the skin overproduces collagen during the healing process. Hypertrophic scars are often red or pinkish and can sometimes look like swollen acne lesions. This type of scarring can be incredibly troublesome because it looks like you still have acne even after your blemishes have disappeared,” Benjamin explains.
So how do you treat these problematic marks? Says Benjamin, “Dermatologists use topical steroids or steroid injections to treat this kind of scarring. But, unfortunately, hypertrophic or keloid scars are particularly prone to recur even after an apparently successful treatment.”
As mentioned above, some acne aftermath isn’t technically a scar but rather dark spots within the skin’s tissue. “Some people confuse hyperpigmentation with scarring, but they are actually different things,” says Benjamin. “Acne scarring results in either raised or depressed skin, making the skin texture uneven. Acne can also leave behind PIH, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which are the brownish-red spots left behind from the lesion due to inflammation from the acne. This is technically not a scar.”
To lighten these areas, Benjamin suggests at-home peels, micro-needling, and her Plant Stem Cell Peptide Serum ($150), which is infused with peptides to keep skin soft and spot-free. Also, Benjamin stresses the importance of wearing SPF because the sun can darken hyperpigmentation even more.