As if acne alone wasn’t difficult enough to deal with, some breakouts leave acne scars in their wake. Getting rid of acne scars is no easy task, as the different types of acne scars can sometimes demand different treatments. Even so, those looking to lighten or reduce the appearance of scars have some options at their disposal..
Before proceeding, it’s important to understand the difference between post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation scars. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is dark marks on the skin after inflammation, such as from acne. This hyperpigmentation is distinct from acne scarring, which occurs due to either loss of collagen after acne (depressed scar) or due to excess collagen production (raised, or hypertrophic scarring). While post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is expected to fade with time (even without treatment), scars on the other hand, are considered permanent.
“Natural” or botanically-based options for acne scars or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may not be as effective as over-the-counter (e.g. silicone scar pads), prescription, or in-office options, but they may be easier for you to get your hands on. If you’re looking for ways to lessen the appearance of your scars at home, you have several different treatments to choose from:
- Seed Oils
Black seed oil and rosehip seed oil, when used as spot treatments, can reduce inflammation, aid in the skin’s healing process, and help even out pigmentation over time. While no product can do away with scars outright, black and rosehip seed oils can lessen scars’ appearance when used over long periods of time. A study has suggested that black seed oil may reduce postoperative intra-abdominal adhesions, perhaps by decreasing collagen production. While the exact mechanism is unknown, perhaps a similar effect can occur in preventing or reducing acne scarring.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has natural anti-inflammatory properties, but its effects on acne scars go even further. One study showed that regular applications of aloe vera can reduce the size and visibility of scar tissue. While this study wasn’t for acne scars specifically, aloe vera might help your skin heal after breakouts.
Turmeric, which contains curcumin, seems to have wound healing properties. When applied topically, turmeric may help even out skin tone. Studies have shown that regular application of the spice can keep hyperpigmentation to a minimum, significantly decreasing the noticeability of hyperpigmentation. Turmeric-based topicals may be considered when trying to reduce the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, but are unlikely to help treat depressed or raised acne scars.
More Effective Acne Scar Treatments
Botanically-based remedies for acne scars may provide some benefit, but depending on the severity of your scarring, they may not be able to go the extra mile that medical products and procedures can.
Effectively treating the underlying acne is the most effective way to reduce future acne scars. However, once scars appear, they may soften with time or require dermatologic procedures to resurface or soften their appearance.
Some individuals may not have scarring per se, but rather post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). This PIH tends to fade with time but certain measures can be taken to help lighten it faster. Most importantly, individuals should practice sun protective measures to prevent the dark patches from getting darker. This includes wearing sunscreen SPF 30+ and avoiding sun during peaks intensity hours.
Certain steps can be taken to lighten PIH. Over-the-counter measures can include topicals that exfoliate the skin surface, such as salicylic acid, chemical peels (that contain ingredients like glycolic acid), or topical retinoids (like adapalene 0.1%). These treatments can lighten pigment by encouraging exfoliation on your skin’s top layers that contain the excess pigment. However, when PIH is in the deeper layers of the skin, such topicals might not be effective.
While the above treatments may lighten PIH or soften the appearance of scars, they’re unlikely to eliminate scars entirely. Most treatments work on the skin’s top layer, while scars are generally formed a layer or two beneath. Consultation with a board-certified dermatologist may offer you stronger treatments, like chemical peels or laser treatments in office.
Sorting through all of the different acne treatments out there — natural, prescription, and over-the-counter — can get exhausting. Get in touch with a member of our medical team today to learn about what your best options may be.