What You Can Do About Acne Scars

There are plenty of options, but you should know a few things first.

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I have a few acne scars. Is there anything I can do about them?

The good news is that there are a lot of options available for diminishing the appearance of acne scars. But first, let's differentiate between the dark spot you might get after a blemish heals and an actual acne scar. After a zit disappears, it's totally common to see a mark left behind. The discoloration—known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH—is normal and not actually a scar; it should fade away on its own, though that may take years.

If you can't wait that long, you can try a drugstore "brightening" cream containing ingredients such as kojic acid. If that doesn't work, a dermatologist can prescribe formulas with more powerful ingredients, like tretinoin or hydroquinone. Both OTC and Rx products with retinol can be used to fade current marks and prevent future discoloration.

True acne scars can range from pits to bumps. Some people are simply more predisposed to them—black and Asian women, for example, tend to be more likely to get PIH and scars than Caucasian women. If you're seeing an uneven texture, you can try a drugstore product that has alpha hydroxy acids to refine your complexion over time. If you have skin indentations and they bother you, see a cosmetic dermatologist, who can smooth things out using lasers, injectable fillers, chemical peels and/or other minor procedures.

Finally, remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do not pick at your pimples—they're much more likely to scar if you do.
Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, Health's medical editor, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.


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