TBN: Acne Scarring Edition- How I Got Rid Of My Acne Scars
As you may have read before, I initially got interested in skincare and beauty products because of my ten years of acne which was only occasionally cystic but very widespread and intense. From the fourth grade of primary school onward, I was covered in small, medium and large pimples all over my face, back and chest.
My dermatologists put me on antibiotics many times to contain the problem and treat recurring infections. My hygiene habits changed for ever: no touching of the face under any circumstances, avoid hair grazing the face, change pillow cases and towels very often. After being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and failing to benefit from initial medication, I was put on contraceptive pills, as was protocol at the time. Very soon, I saw an impressive turn for the better. The PCO Syndrome was under control and my acne greatly, but not entirely, receded. I was left with limited acne but a lot of scars. Even though I was very careful not to pick on blemishes until they needed to be extracted, my cheeks were full of red and purple marks as well as a lot of texture.
At this last stage, my dermatologist at the time prescribed a product that sparked my love of skincare, as it changed my face overnight. It was a lotion by Lierac that I applied with a cotton pad, containing lactic, glycolic and, crucially, salicylic acid. My remaining acne was suddenly under control and my oiliness was regulated. It stung at first but I soon got used to it. The shift in my skin astounded me, it was the first time I saw that skincare can actually make a difference. That was my first experience with acids, that provide chemical peeling for your face. I never looked back. As far as my own experience is concerned, when I used more specialised products, it's the salicylic acid that contributed most to my scars, while the other Alpha Hydroxy Acids polished and refined my complexion.
Lierac keeps changing this lotion every few years, I get upset about it, then the new one is released and I was back into its beautiful arms again. Currently, it's the lotion from their Sebologie line. The entire line is amazing if you still get occasional acne, their double serum in the same line is amazing. If you don't have acne anymore, I would highly recommend Neostrata's acids products . They are more expensive but acne scarring is only helped with potent products- and these definitely work. Both brands are widely available in pharmacies. If you are a Greek reader, look no further than pharmacydiscount.gr . They have all the latest products at the lowest prices I've found so far and their service is impeccable.
There is a big difference between recent and old acne scars: the latter are much more difficult to get rid of. Some times, they take on the form of discolouration that looks like a sun spot that DOES. NOT. GO. AWAY. New scars do very well with daily use of acids. I hate to discourage anyone but my scars took many years to go away- I have been using acids consistently for 20 years. I need to stress this, consistency is the key to this process. If you don't do it every time you're supposed to, it won't work. And, unfortunately, you need bigger guns for old scars.
One route are chemical peels at your dermatologist, which are professional grade. Depending on the strength you'll choose, you will experience varying degrees of peeling of your skin. This helps give you a smoother, youthful complexion and ameliorates scarring. You must ease into them, but if your skin is already used to acids, going for the lower strength peels won't be effective. A year ago, I went for a light one and it didn't affect my face in the least, no peeling to speak of. It's used to that strength. If that is your case as well, go for stronger options.
If you're treating old scars, systematic use of retinol is very beneficial. I have written three articles on retinol, you can find them here (general info), here (product recommendations) and here (how to deal with the downside of retinol). Higher doses of retinol, those required to address scarring, also cause peeling but for a different reason than acids. Retinol accelerates cell turnover, your new skin comes through a lot faster and more effectively. The old cells are discarded through the peeling stage. Be very careful to start with low doses, increasing as you go along and always pay attention to your skin's individual needs. If it's unhappy, listen to it and cut back.
Fractional laser is a good solution for very persistent scars. The sessions are brief and not painful really. After-care includes not messing with scabs and applying regenerative cream, all straightforward and easy enough. I would definitely recommend doing your sessions in the winter. You need to protect your face from the sun when it's recovering.
Finally, microneedling is a very effective way to address old and new scars alike, but only when you don't have active acne. It involves a dermaroller, a cylinder covered with hundreds of miroscopic needles of varying lengths that you roll over your face. By causing tiny puncture wounds, the skin is forced to kickstart the healing, regenerative process. One personal disclaimer: I know many practice microneedling at home, but I do not. Not yet, anyway. I only trust my dermatologist to do that. After so many years of acne and recurring infection/antibiotic cycles, I am terrified of infecting my skin by rolling hundreds of tiny needles on my face. I know at some point I will get over my phobia; after all, if there's someone who will observe all hygiene rules in this process it will be me. But, for the time being, images of staph infections pop into my brain. My suggestion to you is to do it at your doctor's first. When you're very familiar with the process and know how to rule out infections from the tiny needles, you can start practicing at home. If you are considering doing it yourself for financial reasons, which is understandable, I would only ever suggest stainless steel rollers. They are a lot more hygienic and do not cause as much irritation because their microneedles are sharper.
These are not solutions you can use all at once. You must experiment and find the right combination for you, your skin and your lifestyle. I hope this article helped just a little bit; I know it's not important in the grand scheme of life to worry about old pimples. But my scars took away from my confidence, even though they shouldn't. I know your struggle, it's legitimate and you should never feel bad for trying to feel great.
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photo via https://www.pharmacydiscount.gr, opensky.com