As if having acne is not enough to deter us from our beautiful skin – what follows may be what our nightmares are made of: acne scars. In Part 3 of our acne series, we will be discussing the differences between acne scars and acne marks, how they come about and ways to treat it.
Let’s begin by understanding the difference between acne marks and acne scars - it depends on how much damage has been done to the skin cells.
Acne Mark - Inflammation stains the skin during the natural healing process - thus leaving dark or pink marks on the skin. This is caused by an increase in pigment production. They are smooth to the touch as there is no permanent collagen damage to the skin.
Acne Scars – Akin to a wound, the body responds by creating too little skin or too much skin to protect it from further aggravation. This is caused by damage to the skin, leading to abnormal collagen. This results in bumpy or depressed appearances on the skin. While acne scars are harder to treat due to the lasting damage caused by acne, it is not impossible to heal them.
There are 3 main types of acne scars - all of which require different treatments.
Atrophic Scars – occurs when the skin does not make enough fibroblasts during the healing process, thus resulting in small indentations in the skin. Fibroblasts are cells that play a crucial role in wound healing through the synthesis of collagen.
Ice Pick Scars: deep with jagged edges; sometimes resembling a large scooped out pore
Boxcar Scars: broad, rectangular depressions with steep, defined edges
Rolling Scars: broad depressions with rounded, sloping edges
Hypertrophic Scars – on the opposite spectrum, however, is when the skin makes too many fibroblasts as the acne heals. This causes a bumpy scar.
Keloid Scars – similar to hypertrophic scars as they are raised and bumpy; but the skin is typically much thicker than the original acne. These scars are typically darker than the surrounding skin and can be red or brown. They may also feel itchy or painful.
Acne scars are caused by an acne that has penetrated the skin deeply and damaged the tissues beneath it. Regular facials and good extractions are important to unclog your pores and prevent deep-set acne that will cause acne scars. These scars are aggravated by squeezing or picking at the skin after proper extraction - thus remember to keep your itchy fingers at bay!
Many acne scar treatments and products contain acids – but using the wrong products can lead to sensitive, red skin that feels painful when exposed to hot water or the sun. This is because acidic products “peel” the skin to reveal new skin – which are smoother and brighter, but also more fragile and likely to be hurt. Increased risk of pigmentation and dark spots are also associated with the use of acidic products without proper care.
Common Ingredients Found to Treat Acne Scars and Acne Marks
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
AHAs is one of the most popular acids used by beauticians and doctors alike to lighten discoloration and acne scars. It scrapes away the outer layer of skin to reveal fresh, new skin underneath – thus removing dead skin cells and preventing clogged pores. However, many people have suffered burns or sensitive skin after prolonged usage of the wrong product containing AHAs. It is thus important to consult a beauty professional for a prescribed beauty routine – once the marks and scars have lightened, other products are more suitable to prolong the effects of brighter skin.
A gentle peel to pull away dead skin cells, Lactic Acid is commonly used to improve the skin texture and lighten acne scars. As it removes dead skin cells, it is also used to lighten darker scar tissues – but can cause hyperpigmentation when used incorrectly, or without proper after care.
Vitamins are used to heal acne marks and scars as they are anti-inflammatory and brighten up the skin for a more radiant and smoother complexion! Vitamin C is popular for being a skin brightening antioxidant, and Vitamin E regenerates skin cells and improves the texture.
For me, the Soin Dermatological Anti-Pigmentation Treatment helped lighten my acne marks quickly. A Peel Treatment that uses natural fruit acids and enzymes to gently peel the skin, it is an advanced dermatological skin treatment that has been tested by independent dermatologists for its efficacy for 4 skin conditions:
Impurities – for oily and acne skin
Rougeurs – for irritated, red skin with symptoms of couperose
Pigmentation – for discolored, uneven tone and skin brightening
Secheresse – for very dry, flaky and irritated skin
The Peel Treatment begins with the D-210 Medium-Strength Peel that contains enzymes and fruit acids to improve cell renewal and smooths the skin. The Fruit Enzyme complex acts as a catalyst and has a mild keratolytic effect that peels off rough cells. The combination of the concentrated fruit acid complex and the acidic pH value counteracts severe roughness. At the same time, the skin’s natural synthesis of collagen is stimulated and cell renewal rate is improved. A Red Alga rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, minerals and nutrients protect the skin.
The D-820 Anti-Brightening Mask followed to help lighten my pigmentation marks while preventing new ones from forming. An intensive treatment mask, it contains depigmentation and brightening ingredients for a smoother, more radiant complexion.
It contains Pea Extract, which has been scientifically proven to have a lasting brightening effect. Horseradish Tree Extract and Nasturtium Extract is combined to create an Anti-Pollution Complex to release the skin of its pollutants and acts like a protective shield. It removes micro-particles such as fine dust and improves the supply of oxygen and stimulates the skin’s natural processes. Vitamin E offers additional cell protection.
As part of the skin renewal process, the D-521 Alpha-Arbutin Serum is used – the active ingredient Alpha-Arbutin counteracts uneven pigmentation by blocking the epidermal melanin biosynthesis and evens out uneven skin colour. Liquorice Root Extract is used to refine the skin’s complexion and supply moisture for a fuller, smoother look. An Anti-Pollution Complex of CM-Glucan and Yeast Extract activates cell regeneration and protects the skin from oxidative stress.
D-410 Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Pads exfoliate and purify my skin to improve the skin’s texture and complexion. It contains Glycolic Acid extracted from Sugar Cane, which penetrates the skin while Salicylic Acid and Lactic promote peeling and smooth the skin’s surface. As an Anti-Pollution Complex, a Stem Cell Extract from Tomato Leaves binds environmental toxins and activates the production of collagen. Vitamin B3 regulates sebum production and maintains the skin’s moisture levels.
The Home Care
Your skin is brighter and smoother after any Peel Treatment as old skin cells have been eliminated to reveal new skin. These new skin are extremely fragile and require proper care - it is important to avoid environmental pollution and sun exposure.
Sunblock is a must to protect the skin and prevent pigmentation and skin discoloration. I used D-920 UV Protection Fluid with SPF 30 daily. An alga extract, Astaxanthin, is used for its antioxidant properties to increase the skin’s resistance to UVA and UVB rays. Edelweiss Extract, rich in flavonoids and proteins reduces UV-induced oxidative stress. Gingko and a Brown Alga, which is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin E increases the skin’s firmness, supplies moisturize and strengthens the lipid barrier.
Having a good skin care routine is important to preventing acne scars and acne marks. Skin care products used in the morning should protect and preserve your skin against external aggressors, such as air pollution, dirt, sweat and stress. Nighttime skin care should nourish your skin as it regenerates itself while you sleep - proper nutrition will enhance the healing process for better skin in the long run.
Stay tune to find out what a good morning and night routine is for your skin!