Milder and gentler scar treatment options

Suzanne Bruce


December 15th, 2014

I have a bit of acne scarring on my cheeks, but I’m afraid to undergo laser therapy or other kinds of “surgery.” Are there gentler options that don’t require needles or lasers?

Even after acne disappears, it can leave behind a visible reminder of its existence in the form of scars. In some cases, the scars can be darker and more pronounced than the acne itself. There are many different types of scars and the treatment varies depending on the type of scars; please check out the acne resource library for more information about different types of scars [insert link].

Although many people with acne scars may want to have them removed, they often don’t want anything that’s invasive—like laser therapy or any kind of surgery that requires the use of needles. For these individuals, there are a number of different topical treatment options available that don’t require surgery. While the results of these options may be less effective than laser and surgery treatments, they may help reduce the appearance of acne scars and keep new ones under control. Acne scar creams like Retin-A or alpha hydroxy acids are two of the notable options:

  •  Retin-A is effective for correcting textual conditions, as its ingredients restore and rejuvenate the skin cells, and promote elastin and collagen regeneration. Since Retin-A also improves abnormal cell production and replaces unwanted and unusable cells with new ones, skin care experts recommend using Retin-A to treat skin discoloration as well as the textural aspects of acne scars.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of natural acids found in foods and include citric acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and others. The formula helps treat acne scarring by removing the top layers of dead skin cells and increasing the thickness of deeper layers of skin, which promotes firmness.

If your acne scar is red or swollen, you can also use an over-the-counter cortisone cream to calm the skin. The cortisone is absorbed by skin cells and can reduce inflammation. Given that a lot of acne scars leave pinkish or dark spots, you might consider focusing on lightening any hyperpigmentation that’s left over with skin lightening creams. When using a skin lightening cream, it’s recommended to avoid sun exposure and to apply plenty of sunscreen with SPF30 or higher when you go outside.

Other ingredients available over-the-counter that can help lighten hyperpigmentation and fade shallow acne marks include kojic acid (a natural skin lightener derived from mushroom extract), arbutin (a bearberry extract), hydroquinone, and even vitamin C.

Exfoliating skin daily is another non-invasive way to treat acne scars as it can slough off the damaged skin layers. A few options include chemical exfoliants like salicylic and glycolic acid, and, facial scrubs with exfoliating beads.

Before choosing a topical acne scar treatment, consult with your dermatologist to learn more about what options are best for you.

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