According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the leading skin condition in the U.S. and affects an estimated 50 million Americans. Typically beginning in puberty, acne can occur at any life stage and can continue well into a person's 30s and 40s.
Unfortunately, even when your acne goes away, you may still have to deal with the frustration of acne scars. Want to avoid avoid the emotional distress that they can cause? Be sure to follow these top 10 tips that will help you feel better in your own skin.
If the secret to real estate is "location, location, location," then the secret to healthy skin is "prevention, prevention, prevention."
The best way to reduce the appearance of acne scars is to reduce your chances of getting them in the first place. In other words: stop popping and picking at your pimples! Picking at acne will drastically increase the chances of scarring and may even lead to skin infections. This is especially true if you touch your face with unwashed hands.
This can be a hard habit to break. Whenever you're tempted to pick, probe, or pop, just try to remember that all you're likely to do is make your pimples look worse, take longer to heal, and leave unpleasing scars.
If you're seriously troubled by acne scars and are willing to invest some money into fixing your problem, consider consulting with a dermatologist. He or she can offer you prescription-grade products that can smooth out your complexity, prevent acne, and lighten scars. Best of all, going for the MD consultation ensures that the products you select are right for your specific skin type and can reduce the risk of irritation and adverse reactions.
Cucumbers are great in and ON your body. Loaded with skin-healthy and wound-healing nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and magnesium, thinly sliced cucumber applied directly to your scars can help them fade over time. They also can reduce the appearance of redness, especially if they're straight from the fridge! For best results, apply for 30 minutes daily.
Coconut oil is probably a shoe-in for "world's favorite health product." It's rich in essential fatty acids and is known for being a powerful natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory device. For use in reducing the appearance of acne scars, apply a small amount of coconut oil directly onto the scar for at least 30 minutes or simply let it absorb completely. Go for the organic, cold-pressed virgin variety whenever possible. The good news is that a little goes a long way, which should make it feel a bit easier to pay more money for a high-quality solution.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a favorite among natural health fans. While powerful and potentially irritating when applied directly, it can be safe and extremely effective for improving skin appearance and quality. It's also thought to improve the pH of your skin and act as a natural toner. For acne scars, mix 1 part ACV with 1-4 parts water (more water for more sensitive skin, less water for oilier skin) plus a spoonful of raw organic honey. Then, apply this at-home mask for your face and leave it on for at least 10 minutes. Watch for signs of redness. If your skin tolerates it well, you can repeat 1 to 2 times per day.
Extra tip: Do you feel a fresh pimple coming on? Soak a Q-tip in ACV, dip it briefly in filtered water to dilute it a bit, then dab the area to reduce redness and whitehead formation.
Protecting your skin with sunscreen is essential for reducing the appearance of acne scars—let alone all the other ways it can protect you. The reason? Powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can break down collagen in the skin and trigger the production of melanin, a pigment which can cause scars to become even darker. Find a high-quality sunscreen that offers an SPF of at least 30. Remember to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days, because harmful UV radiation can get through cloud cover. It's time we all start practicing our sun-protection routine as often as we practice our tooth-brushing routine. . . daily!
Tea tree oil is a favorite anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-fungal, AND antioxidant essential oil that you can use to even out your skin tone, diminish scars, and reduce redness and irritation. Research has even shown that it is as effective as conventional pimple-treating ointments like benzoyl peroxide—with fewer side effects to boot. To use, mix 3 drops of tea tree oil with 2 ounces of witch hazel, then gently dab on your acne scars 1 to 3 times per day using a cotton ball or swab.
While peels and exfoliants may help remove dead skin cells and brighten your complexion, they're often extremely harsh and can lead to even more breakouts. For a cheap and great-smelling trick to minimize acne scars, try creating your own using sugar and fresh lemon juice. Raw cane sugar is great because it's gentle on the skin and contains glycolic acid which promotes skin cell regeneration. Lemon juice rounds out this solution perfectly because it contains alpha-hydroxy acid, which helps fade scars.
To make your own scrub, mix two parts raw cane sugar with one part extra virgin olive oil plus a tablespoon or two of freshly squeezed organic lemon juice. Gently massage into problem areas for at least 1 to 2 minutes, then leave on your face for up to fifteen minutes. Repeat every two to three days, and be sure to wear that sunscreen because lemon juice can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun!
Tip: While refined sugar makes a great gentle exfoliant, it's NOT great in your diet—especially if you want healthy skin. Sugar is pro-inflammatory and can contribute to acne and other skin issues (let alone a million other health problems).
Vitamin E is an excellent anti-aging, skin-healthy nutrient. It's highly moisturizing and can fight free radicals that are created as a by-product of DNA damage and aging. For a simple hack, purchase a high-quality vitamin E gel supplement, then pierce the end of capsule with sterilized needle. Squeeze the gel onto your finger and apply it directly to the scarred areas. You can also try mixing the gel in with your daily moisturizer for an added skin-smoothing boost.
You couldn't talk about improving the appearance of your skin without mentioning vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is well-known as a nutrient that promotes collagen synthesis, smoothes out wrinkles, soothes blemishes, and reduces the appearance of acne scars, dark circles, and sun spots.
In addition to applying lemon juice (see tip number 8), do some consumer research and find a high-quality serum containing vitamin C. Many people find that applying a small amount of this serum evenly over their face (then letting it dry before putting on their moisturizer or cosmetics) can drastically improve the overall shine and health of their skin.