Acne sufferers face more than one concern which of course includes the nuisance of acne itself, however most sufferers are usually anxious about acne scars since unlike acne, which may be temporary, acne scars are perceived to be for life.
There are numerous topical products aimed at treating scar tissue but before we investigate the types of acne scars, it is important that one should try and prevent acne in the first place.
How to prevent acne
With acne affecting some 85 percent of the population at some time in their lives, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is important to try and prevent and treat acne effectively. Normally, antibiotics are prescribed such as tetracycline to eradicate the specific type of bacteria living on the surface of the skin. These bacteria block the pores leading to inflammation, which in turn causes excess sebum production and then leads to acne.
Whilst many experts point out that diet has nothing to do with acne, in my opinion, there is nothing could be further from the truth. A diet containing refined carbohydrates and sugar causes the release of excess insulin. Insulin has numerous effects on the body however it does cause the production of excess male hormone, testosterone, which causes the production of excess sebum production which the acne-causing bacteria thrive on. This is just the basic reason but there are also other processes involved which lead to the different types of acne.
From a dietary point of view, all grains are carbohydrates which are converted into sugar leading to acne so it is important to reduce the consumption of these. Reducing the consumption of bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes and corn will all help to prevent acne outbreaks to a degree.
A supplement that I know helps many teenagers and adults to keep acne at bay is Clear Skin Complex by Viridian Nutrition. This supplement contains probiotics which we now understand to have an influence on many concerns including skin. In the most simplistic way, probiotics help to rid the gut of toxins which may seep into the bloodstream. Clear Skin Complex also contains zinc which helps reduce inflammation so skin can heal quickly and Burdock root which displays antimicrobial properties helping to reduce the numbers of bacteria living on skin’s surface.
Types of acne scars
Acne scars develop as a result of the loss of skin tissue or an increase in skin tissue formation. Studies indicate that the severe forms of acne, those that develop in the deeper layers of the dermis, are mostly responsible for causing acne scars. No matter what type of acne, some people are simply prone to scar formation. Sometimes skin simply does not heal itself correctly resulting in acne scars. Squeezing or popping acne can also result in scars.
Types of acne scars include:
- Acne spots – Discolouration of the skin, they are usually brown or red. These fade in time or quicker with the help of topical treatments. Also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, PIH, because inflammation causes excess melanin build-up in the area.
- Ice Pick scars – Usually appearing on the cheeks, these arise from sebum and bacteria being buried in pores. Skin becomes inflamed because of the pus and bacteria which puts pressure on the tissues damaging them and leaving skin with a deep and narrow indentation which resemble ice which has been cut repeatedly with an ice-pick.
- Boxcar scars – Usually on cheeks and temples, boxcar scars are a U-shaped scar with defined edges and generally wider than Ice Pick scars.
- Rolling scars – Rounded in appearance, rolling scars are caused by the development of bands of tissue under the skin with a rippling effect.
Whatever the type of scar, it is important to tackle this as early as possible to avert the possibility of permanent scarring.
How to treat acne scars
Getting rid of acne scars is not easy and requires patience. Whilst there are many topical products on the market against preventing acne, there are a few which are of benefit in minimising the appearance of acne scars. A chemical called azelaic acid shows great promise in addressing all types of mild acne scars.
Azelaic acid is a mild acid that can be found in grains such as barley, wheat and rye. It is a keratolytic agent, which means that it softens keratin and prevents the build-up of keratinocytes, which are skin cells, so that they do not build up and block pores. Azelaic acid also has antibacterial properties which prevents the bacteria living on skin’s surface from thriving and in this way helps many people in preventing acne breakouts. Azelaic acid also helps skin renewal and in doing do helps to fade dark spots, minimise the appearance of acne scars and eradicate blemishes often associated with acne.
Azelaic acid also helps to minimise the appearance of red acne marks and also has brightening properties which helps to tackle uneven skin tone. In addition to these properties, Azelaic acid is also a powerful anti-inflammatory which calms skin down which also explains its frequent use in controlling rosacea. This multi-tasker works on so many levels to improve the appearance of acne-prone skin as well as improving the appearance of all types of acne scars.
How to use azelaic acid
Azelaic acid comes in serum, gel and cream forms. I recommend the use of a ten percent azelaic acid serum, applied at night on the whole face or you can simply use it to target the specific areas. Regular use of azelaic acid suspension will help prevent moderate acne from becoming worse before it spreads further and creates scars. Just like retinoids, azelaic acid helps to enhance skin cell turnover rates so that new skin is growing faster as dead skin cells are exfoliated away. This is why azelaic acid helps to counter post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, PIH, and improve the appearance of acne marks and scars.
GoW Azelaic Acid 10% Serum, £9, is silicone-free, which makes it ideal for acne-prone skin as it won’t clog your pores. It also has the additional benefit of glycerin and jojoba protein to help moisturise and nourish skin.
After the application of azelaic acid, use a nourishing oil, such as 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil, £9. Rosehip seed oil underwent clinical trials in South America in the early 1980’s. The trials studied people with extensive scarring, acne scarring, deep wrinkles, surgical scars and UV damaged skin. The results showed a marked improvement in the appearance of scars especially after four months use, although improvements were noted at monthly intervals. Rosehip seed oil was found to regenerate skin, improve the appearance of all types of scars and prevent the advancement of wrinkles. It may also be prudent to use a salicylic acid, a beta hydroxyl acid, to deep clean pores of excess sebum.
A word of caution; azelaic acid may cause slight dryness, redness and itching. Should this occur, use once or twice a week increasing gradually to daily night time usage.