Blemishes. Evil little things. You feel self-conscious while you have one and then the marks left afterward remain a sign of the battle. We get a lot of questions around dealing with scarring and pigmentation from blemishes – these are by far and away the top two.
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How exactly is an acne scar formed? Why are some people more prone to scars than others?
There are usually two different things people call "scarring", so let's look at both.
Dark spots or discoloration left behind a breakout/pimple. The darker pigmentation you see after a blemish has healed is a result of the natural melanin in your skin, which is activated as part of your skin's protective, healing process when it becomes irritated, inflamed, or experiences damage. The dark spots are actually called hyperpigmentation (sounds complicated, really just the prefix ‘hyper-,’ or ‘more’ or ‘overly’ + pigmentation). The darker the skin tone, the more this is easily seen, simply because there’s naturally more melanin to be activated in the healing process. It's critical to keep the skin calm, well-hydrated, and protected with an SPF every day if you want to avoid, minimize, or see any progress healing dark spots or uneven skin tone following breakouts (see more below in the second question)
Changes in the texture of your skin after a breakout, including raised skin or loss of depth, like little craters or holes. There are a variety of causes for these types of scarring. The tendency to form raised scar tissue (called ‘keloid’ scars) is simply hereditary. Where we see pitting/holes/craters in the skin, it's generally because the pore or follicle affected by a breakout or blackhead was permanently stretched by what it was holding or experienced severe tissue damage in the process of healing. Professional treatments like microdermabrasion generally offer the best success at evening out skin texture over time. While there are a lot of options to minimize the appearance of these types of scars, not everything can be reversed, and it's best to consult a pro to see what your options may be.
It's also important to note here that prevention is the best defense. Forgive us for sounding like the textbook answer, but regular facials and a daily home skincare routine that's right for you will help keep pores clean and refined and will help reduce the chances of both chronic breakouts and permanent damage behind those breakouts.
What ingredients and/or products can help reduce the appearance of acne scars or spots?
A simple but solid at-home routine is your best bet for banishing the signs of past blemishes.
Regular, gentle exfoliation (especially with ingredients like papaya or pineapple enzymes or lactic acid) helps to fade dark spots. But it's crucial to pair these types of treatments with plenty of daily hydration (keeping the skin calm) and SPF protection (keeping the sun from darkening those spots).
Hydration keeps inflammation to a minimum. Inflammation is the first domino that activates melanin, the pigment in your skin, for scarring. Anti-inflammatory ingredients in your products like licorice root, chamomile, sandalwood, and turmeric all help keep skin calm and even toned, and there are also more advanced ingredients like peptides, rumex extract, and kojic acid that inhibit melanin overproduction. Brightening and lightening serums can help get results, but they differ person to person and our team could go on for days analyzing the impact of these.
Sunscreen comes in for the same reason – to keep the inflammatory cycle from starting. The sun's UVA (think 'A' for aging rays) are not the ones that cause a burn (which you may not be so worried about) but they are the ones that sink deep into your skin and trigger the pigmentation cycle to begin, regardless of your skin tone. You actually cannot make much progress on evening out your skin tone without daily SPF protection. These UVA rays are active on cloudy days too and even penetrate through windows when you haven't stepped outside.
When you visit us, we can discuss more advanced exfoliation, like peels, that can move things along a bit more, as well.
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