How to Treat Acne in Order to Prevent Scars

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This is a guest post, courtesy of Dr. Craig Crippen from DermMedica.


Having an acne breakout is bad enough, but having it turn into acne scarring is even worse. There are ways to treat acne scars, but they take both time and money that you don’t want to spend if you can avoid it. Thankfully, you can avoid it. There are ways to help prevent acne from turning into scarring by being proactive and treating your acne properly.

Decrease the Inflammation

When you see acne forming, the very first thing you should do is immediately decrease the inflammation as much as you can. When your acne gets inflamed, that is what leads to scarring. The inflammation causes your pores to rupture, and as your skin tries to heal itself, the scarring presents itself. You want to prevent acne from getting to that point. There are a few ways you can help reduce acne inflammation:

  • Use aloe vera oil, cortisone cream, or magnesium water to calm your skin and reduce inflammation
  • Rub ice cubes gently over your acne for no longer than a few minutes at a time
  • Squeeze lemon juice on your acne, not bottled lemon juice, to clear the pores of bacteria
  • Eat lots of berries and wild-caught fish for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Hydrate your skin with moisturizers and by drinking lots of water

Be wary of any products that are highly abrasive, as they can irritate your skin and increase the inflammation rather than helping decrease it. You should avoid over-exfoliating for the same reason. Do not touch, poke or try to pop your pimples at all as that can lead to infection and cystic acne, which is more likely to lead to scarring.

Get a Cortisone Shot

If your acne is severe and has developed into cystic acne, you will need to take more aggressive measures. Cystic acne is when a pimple contains bacteria that is trapped inside the pore, causing it to become infected and inflamed. As it gets bigger and more inflamed, it causes the walls of the pores to rupture and spread the infection deeper into your skin. These are more sensitive and painful to the touch, and look larger and vibrantly red.

Cortisone shots use steroids to greatly reduce the inflammation of the cysts after they’re injected around the cystic acne — not directly into it. As a treatment it doesn’t work on normal, smaller acne because that skin is not inflamed enough for it to have much effect. However, for cystic acne, you will see dramatic and nearly immediate results. You should see acne noticeably shrink within 4 to 8 hours, and continue to feel and see improvement over several days afterwards. Reducing inflammation with cortisone shots is the best way to prevent scarring once pimples turn into cystic acne.

Use Sunscreen When You Go Outside

Once you start noticing acne, you should always keep the affected area covered, shielded, or protected by the sun with strong sunscreen. First, when you have acne and are outside in the sun, the UV radiation from sunlight can irritate and inflame your pimples and cause scarring. Second, acne that gets tanned from the sun and eventually turns into scars can develop what is called hyperpigmentation scarring — when the scarred area heals with a different tone of your skin colour as the rest of your skin.

Dermatologists will recommend using sunscreen of SPF50 or higher every two hours, and after every time you finish swimming or exercising as the water and sweat can wash it off. When picking a sunscreen to use, avoid anything that has too many chemicals and fragrances as they might irritate your skin more. Instead, look for moisturizing sunscreen that advertises itself as good for acne-prone skin.

authorAbout the Author

Born and raised in Ottawa Ontario, Dr Crippen has attended three Canadian Universities and obtained four educational titles including his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). After receiving his M.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 2001, Dr. Crippen then completed his specialty training at the University of Manitoba over the next two years.  He has worked extensively in public and private medicine since 2003, but in response to rising demand, Dr Crippen has devoted his practice exclusively to both medical & cosmetic skin care procedures/treatments at his clinic.

A Fellow of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, and a diplomate of the American Board of Laser Surgery in Cosmetic Procedures, Dr. Crippen has trained with physicians who are at the forefront of laser & aesthetic medicine. He has made many educational visits to medical laser clinics throughout North America and Europe.

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