Heal Your Acne Scars and Repair Your Self-Image

rolling acne scars
Let’s be honest.  Acne sucks.  It’s ugly, embarrassing, and always manages to pop up at exactly the wrong time.  Even worse, it often leads to scarring that can linger for months or even years.  This scarring can be crippling in terms of your self-esteem and self-image.

So what can you do?

There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there about how to get rid of pimple scars or reduce their visibility, but treatments that work well for some can lead to more breakouts in others.  This can be extremely discouraging.

Not to worry.  Help is on the way!

We’ve compiled a list of the most popular natural remedies and the types of scars they’re most effective at treating.  They’re packed with vitamins to help your skin heal and regenerate.  We’ll also cover the most effective medical procedures for minimizing and removing acne scars.

We’ll even discuss some changes you can make to your diet to help prevent further outbreaks.

Finding the Best Acne Scar Treatment for YOU

Your skin is unique.  So there are a lot of factors that play into finding the most effective method of treating your acne scars.  Genetics, skin type, diet, allergens, and even the climate in which you live can have an impact of how your body reacts to various treatments.

Also, depending on your level of patience and how much you want to spend, the best treatment for your particular circumstances might require a bit of trial and error.

The Natural Route

Obviously not everyone has the financial resources or the inclination to go through the medical procedures prescribed by dermatologists to address acne scarring.

Here at A Manifested Life we strongly believe that our bodies are designed to heal themselves.  Sometimes the only thing required to get this process started is getting out of our own way.  And perhaps a little helping hand from Mother Nature.  🙂

With that in mind we start with a list of natural treatments that offer proven as well as anecdotal evidence of helping to reduce and eliminate the appearance of scars.

But we’re not pulling any punches.  If you’re looking for a quick fix before a hot date you might be disappointed.  Natural options tend to take longer to get noticeable results so patience is an important ingredient in this process.  And for some people the results achieved by natural remedies aren’t good enough.

So we’ll also dig into the most popular and effective…

Medical Procedures for Scar Removal

Medical procedures such as laser treatments and derma rolls have the advantage of speed.  A talented dermatologist can literally erase years of scarring in just a few procedures.  And even the most invasive procedures require only a couple weeks to heal.

This speed is offset by the much higher financial cost and the risk of side effects from the procedure itself.  We’ll get into some of the benefits and how they are offset by costs and potential side a bit later.

Common Types of Acne Scars

Before you can decide on an effective treatment for your scars you must first understand what type of scar you’re dealing with.  This will not only help you choose the correct treatment method, but can greatly enhance it’s effectiveness and reduce the amount of time required to heal.

PLEASE don’t skip over this section as it can be crucial to correctly diagnosing YOUR particular issue and ensuring you take the proper steps to correct it.

acne scar typesIce Pick – these scars are small and relatively deep pits in the surface of the skin.  They look as though they were produced by puncturing the skin with a sharp object.

Rolling – these are caused by bands of scar tissue that form under the surface of the skin.  They cause the surface of the skin to appear bumpy and uneven.

Boxcar – angular scars with vertical edges that are sharp.  They are very similar to scarring that results from having the chicken pox.  These are most commonly found on the temples and cheeks and can be either shallow or deep.

Hypertrophic – raised and bumpy, these scars tend to appear on the back and chest, but can also appear on the sensitive skin of the neck and face. Most commonly caused by severe acne, they are generally limited in size to the boundary of the original wound and may decrease in size over time.

Hyper-pigmentation – refers to the red or dark marks that are left behind after a pimple heals. These marks, also called macules, are not scars, but are often confused with scars because they can last for months or even years before they fade.

Home Remedies for of Acne Scars

Natural treatments are often a good place to start.  They are less invasive and less expensive.  But on the flip side they do tend to require more patience.  In dealing with acne scars you’re typically trying to accomplish a couple goals: reduce the size of the scar and reduce it’s discoloration.

For atrophic scars (ice pick and boxcar) you want to encourage collagen production to help smooth out the surface of the skin.  For hypertrophic (raised) scars your goal is the same but is better accomplished by reducing inflammation.

The following are some of the most well-known and popular natural treatments for reducing or eliminating scarring.  Following each remedy we list the most effective application (oral vs topical) and what types of scars the treatment is most effective at combatting.

The effectiveness of any natural remedy is directly related to it’s ability to be absorbed by the body and other chemicals present within the supplement.  We recommend spending a bit more to get high quality versions of the supplements listed below.

vitamin c from oranges
Flickr

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is well known for it’s important role in a healthy immune system, but it also plays a couple important roles in the health of your skin.

Wounds (anything from a cut to a pimple) cause an inflammatory response and increase the number of free radicals around the injury.[1]  These free radicals damage surrounding skin cells and lead to the discoloration associated with scarring.  Vitamin C helps to reduce the number of free radicals and protects cells from further damage.  This can lead to a “fading” of scars associated with the wound.

While removing discoloration is part of the healing process, reducing the size or depth of the scar is equally important.  For this, healthy collagen production is vital as it helps to “fill in” the uneven surfaces of your skin.  Vitamin C is a crucial component in the production of collagen.  In fact it is required at several steps of collagen creation.

Essentially the more demand there is for collagen to heal your skin, the more vitamin C you need to keep up with production.

Application

The jury is still out on the most effective delivery method of Vitamin C.  Both oral and topical applications work well.  And since it’s difficult to overdose on Vitamin C there is little to lose from doing both.

There are products on the market designed for topical use of Vitamin C.  It’s important to look closely at the other ingredients as the oils used in the delivery of the vitamin can just as likely cause severe irritation and further outbreaks of acne.

Mixing a vitamin C powder with water in a spray bottle can be an effective alternative of applying it directly to damaged skin.  It is highly suggested that you significantly dilute this mixture before trying it.  If you feel a tingle you’ve got the right amount.  If you feel a burn you’ve added too much.

Since some Vitamin C oxidizes when exposed to moisture it is important to choose a stable form such as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate or magnesium ascorbic phosphate.[2]

Use For

Vitamin C is helpful in collagen production which can help reduce the size and visibility of ice-pick and boxcar scars.  It’s anti-oxidant properties can also help reduce inflammation of hypertrophic scarring.

vitamin e capsules
Flickr

Vitamin E

There is quite a bit of confusion when it comes to this vitamin and it’s effectiveness as it relates to healing scars.  While several oft-quoted studies have shown that there is little evidence the topical application of Vitamin E positively impacted scar healing,[3] there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that it DOES in fact help.

This discrepancy could be due, in large part, to the type of Vitamin E used and what other substances are included in the supplement.  Unfortunately most of the published studies don’t mention whether they used naturally occurring or synthetic variations of the vitamin in their tests.

There are 8 different types of Vitamin E.  There are those derived from natural sources such as plant oils or nut oils (almonds for example).  The most common is called d-alpha-tocopherol.  This also happens to be the type that is most bioavailable.  This means our bodies can efficiently use it.

Then there are synthetic versions based on petroleum products.  One in particular is dl-alpha-tocopherol.

Naturally occurring sources appear to be much more effective because they are more biologically active.  This essentially means that our bodies are more efficient at utilizing Vitamin E that comes from natural sources.[4]  One study showed it can take upwards of three times more synthetic to achieve the same results as natural Vitamin E. [5]

Another issue with some supplements is the fats used as a transport for the vitamin.  Some products use cheap oils such as soy, which in itself can cause issues in people with allergies.

Our advice is to find a product that contains d-alpha-tocopherol and few other ingredients.  One such product that gets consistently good reviews is this Vitamin E oil on Amazon.com.

There are hundreds of reviews for this product that vouch for it’s effectiveness.  Here is one.

I love this stuff. Noticed a difference just after a couple uses. Perfect amount of thickness and the smell is amazing. It has helped heal my acne scars while helping to prevent new breakouts. Never thought I would have to worry about acne in my 30’s, and I am so glad that I have found this serum to help heal these annoyances. Great for those wrinkles that are bound to happen. Give it a try and see for yourself

Since you can’t know how your skin will react to such a product try applying it to small area on your face to see if you have any adverse reactions.

Application

While vitamin E can be absorbed by the body either orally or topically the most effective delivery method  by far is applying it directly to the area of the skin where the scarring is located.  As mentioned above, it is important to test your reaction to whichever topical supplement you choose by starting with a small area.

Since most supplements use an oil based delivery method it can sometimes lead to further acne outbreaks.

Use For

Vitamin E is helpful in collagen production which can help reduce the size and visibility of ice-pick and boxcar scars.  It’s anti-oxidant properties can also help reduce inflammation of hypertrophic scarring.

rosehip seed oil
Flicker

Rosehip Seed Oil

Rosehip seed oil (RHO) is derived from the seed of the wild rose.  It contains a powerful mix of fatty acids and vitamins that offer significant benefits to the skin.  Some of it’s most popular uses are for:

  • anti-scarring agent
  • anti-wrinkle oil
  • anti-inflammatory agent
  • burns
  • cellular regeneration
  • hydration

RHO consists of a mix of linoleic acid, lenolenic acid, and a few other fatty acids.  It also contains vitamin E, vitamin, A, and vitamin C.  Since linoleic and lenolenic acids are both easily absorbed by the body this makes for an efficient delivery method for these vitamins.[6]

Studies Using RHO

It’s impact on the healing of scars has been demonstrated in numerous studies.  In one such study patients who had undergone surgeries requiring facial incisions applied RHO twice daily once stitches had been removed.  The control group applied nothing to their wounds.

At 6 and 12 weeks the patients were subjectively measured for discoloration, atrophy (scar depth), and hypertrophy (scar swelling).  At 6 weeks the group using RHO saw significant improvement versus the control group, especially in atrophy and discoloration.  The differences were even more noticeable at 12 weeks. [7]

Since most of the fatty acids within RHO are polyunsaturated, they will have a short shelf life.  For this reason it is important to store it in a cool dark place otherwise the oils can go rancid.

Prices vary greatly for rosehip seed oil based on a couple factors.  It’s important to get a product that will be stable.  For this reason you should look at products that are organic, and possibly CO2 extracted. This ensures both stability and quality.

Application

RHO is for topical use only.  It should be applied directly to the scar tissue.  As with any topical supplement it’s important to start with a small test area.  Once you know how your skin will react you can then begin using it more aggressively.

Since it does contain oil, those with sensitive skin could experience breakouts, though this seems to be somewhat rare.

USE For

Rosehip seed oil is most effective in treating ice-pick, boxcar, and hyper-pigmentation scars.

aloe vera plant
Flickr

Aloe Vera

Aloe has been used for thousands of years to treat skin injuries such as burns, scars, and cuts.  It contains hundreds of medicinally helpful ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and 7 of the 8 essential fatty acids not produced by the human body.

It’s benefits include reduction of inflammation, acceleration of the healing of wounds, cell growth and  regeneration, pain killing properties (salicylic acid or aspirin in chemical form), and anti-microbial agents.

Aloe can be very helpful in helping wounds heal due to it’s hydrating effect, in addition to it’s anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties.

It has shown less promise as a means of reducing the appearance of scars.  Due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties it can be effective at reducing the size of hypertrophic (raised) scars, but is not as effective on ice-pick and boxcar type acne scars.

This isn’t to say that aloe vera should not be used, just that it might best utilized shortly after a breakout to help minimize swelling and reduce the potential size of scars.

Application

Aloe vera should be used only in topical applications.  It can be applied shortly after the wound or rupture has begun to heal.

It also offers many benefits in terms of prevention.  Here is a great resource regarding the use of aloe for reducing the duration of outbreaks as well as shortening the healing time.

Use For

Aloe vera is best used to combat hyper-pigmentation and hypertrophic type scarring.

tea tree

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is one of the most popular essential oils in the world.  Derived from a small tree that grows only in Australia it has long been used for it’s healing properties.  It contains a number of chemicals that are helpful in fighting bacteria and fungus.

Similar to aloe vera there is a great deal of conflicting information about this oil and it’s role in healing acne scars.  It can be an effective treatment for hyper-pigmentation that occurs directly after an outbreak and because of it’s anti-inflammatory properties can also be effective in reducing the size of hypertrophic (raised) scarring.  It is, however, less effective in treating the visibility of scars.

So while it is often found in skin care products, this is largely due to it’s ability to help PREVENT outbreaks rather than treating the scarring that can occur afterwards.

APPLICATION

Tea tree oil should be applied topically to the area you wish to treat.  Care should be taken when choosing a product to ensure that it doesn’t contain any other oils or chemicals that may cause an irritation or further outbreaks.

As with all other topical supplement applications you should start with a small test area to ensure you’re skin has no adverse reactions.

USE FOR

Tea tree oil is most effective at treating hyper-pigmentation and hypertrophic scars.

jojoba plant can be effective in treating types of scarring

Jojoba Oil

Pronounced “ho-ho-ba”, this oil is derived from the seeds of a plant that is native to the southwest United States and northern Mexico.  More wax than oil, it was used by Native Americans for thousands of years for it’s healing properties.

Even though it is comprised mostly of unsaturated fats, it’s waxlike properties allow it to be shelf stable for much longer than most plant oils.

Jojoba oil contains a lengthy list of healthy ingredients.  These include vitamin E and B, copper, zinc, chromium, and silicon.  It is comprised of three fatty acids: gadoleic (71%), erucic (13%), and oleic (11%).  It also contains a significant amount of iodine, which is why it has such powerful healing properties.

It’s fatty acid profile is very similar to that of sebum, the oily substance that is naturally secreted by the sebaceous glands of our skin to keep it moisturized.  This makes it an effective moisturizer with added benefit that it can help fight bacteria and prevent clogging of skin pores and hair follicles.

Because jojoba oil contains both vitamins E and B it is also has powerful anti-oxidant properties and has been linked to faster healing of wounds in two separate studies.  [8] [9]  Vitamin E also promotes collagen growth which can reduce the depth of scarring and wrinkles.

APPLICATION

Jojoba oil should be applied topically to the area you wish to treat.  Since it’s chemical makeup is very similar to sebum it is unlikely to cause irritation or outbreaks, but it still makes sense to initially use it on a small area of your skin to start.  Once you are sure of no adverse reactions you can begin applying it more liberally.

Use For

Because of it’s vitamin profile jojoba oil is best used on ice-pick, boxcar, and hyper-pigmentation scars.

honey
Flickr

Honey

Honey has been used for thousands of years for it’s ability to speed the healing of wounds.   It is a natural anti-bacterial and can be an effective treatment to prevent outbreaks.  It also contains a variety of anti-oxidants which protect skin cells and promote new cell generation.

Like aloe vera it can be an effective way to help injuries heal more quickly as it both moisturizes and kills bacteria and microbes.  Since it contains some anti-inflammatories it can also reduce the size of raised scars, but is actually a better tool for prevention of acne than treating the results of a breakout.

Application

While honey is obviously delicious to eat, in terms of treating scars it should be applied topically.  It can be applied directly to scar tissue twice a day.  Water can be used to thin it slightly and make it easier to massage.  Remove after ten minutes or so.

Use For

Honey is best used on hypertrophic scarring.

 

lemons contain vitamin c
Flickr

Lemons

Lemons can be surprisingly effective at treating outbreaks and scars resulting from acne.  Here are just a few of the benefits.

  • contain vitamin C, which triggers the production of collagen.
  • vitamin C cleans impurities and facilitates the generation of new skin cells.
  • kills the bacteria that cause acne breakouts.
  • it acts as a natural bleaching agent, can reduce the appearance of scars and hyper-pigmentation.
  • removes excess oil from skin.
  • the citric acid in lemons helps lighten skin via exfoliation.
  • it is a natural astringent, helping to tighten skin, giving it a smoother appearance.

When used in conjunction with other remedies such as tea tree oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, or honey it can be an effective way to reduce both the size and discoloration of scarring.

Application

Topical application of lemon juice is the most effective means of getting results.  Since it is highly acidic care should be taken to either dilute it or combine it with other supplements.  Depending on the sensitivity of your skin you should test on a small area before using it widespread.

Here is a link to a face mask preparation that contains lemon juice.

Use For

Can be effective at reducing hyper-pigmentation and discoloration of hypertrophic scars.  Vitamin C helps with production of collagen aiding in reduction of size of ice-pick and boxcar type scars.

coconut oil for use in relieving scar coloration
Flickr

Coconut Oil

In recent years coconut oil has seen a resurgence in popularity.  And while most of the attention has been from a dietary perspective, as in eating it, this delicious substance also serves as a powerful remedy for a number of skin issues.  One of these is helping to heal scars.

Coconut oil contains high amounts of lauric acid.  This MCT (medium chain triglyceride) has been shown to be highly effective as an anti-bacterial agent.  It’s overall composition is also very similar to the sebum secreted by our skin.  This is one of the reasons it is so readily absorbed when applied topically.  It also contains small amounts of vitamin E and K.

There is one caveat however.  Coconut oil is considered moderately comedogenic.[10]  This means that it’s somewhat likely to cause further outbreaks.  So while it is quite possibly fine for those not susceptible to acne, those with sensitive skin should avoid using it, especially on sensitive areas like their face.

That being said, consuming coconut DOES have benefits in fighting acne.  Here is a great post on how including coconut oil in your diet can help fight future outbreaks.

Application

Both oral and topical applications can be beneficial for fighting acne.  Due to it’s comedogenic nature, topical application should be tested on a small area of the skin.  Those with easily clogged pores and oily skin should avoid using it topically to avoid further outbreaks.

Combining coconut oil with baking soda can be an effective way to reduce inflammation in scars as well as reduce the color of scars.  (recipe)

Use For

When combined with baking soda, can be used on hypertrophic and rolling scars to reduce swelling and discoloration.

apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Like lemon, apple cider vinegar is an astringent.  It contains vitamin C, B1, B2, and B6.  It also has anti-bacterial properties due to high concentrations of acetic acid.  ACV also contains malic acid which is helpful in balancing skin pH levels.

It’s use in reducing scarring is due to it’s ability to help remove dead skin cells, allowing new cells to generate to replace them.

Application

For the greatest benefit in terms of reducing the appearance of scars, apple cider vinegar should be applied topically. Since it is highly acidic it’s important to test before using it on large areas of the skin.  Using it in conjunction with honey can decrease the likelihood of skin becoming dry.

Use For

Help in reducing discoloration of hyper-pigmentation and hypertrophic scarring.

Medical Solutions for Scar Treatment

While many acne sufferers get good results from natural remedies, treatment times can take many months.  If you’ve tried natural solutions and got poor results or if you’re interested in quicker methods of treatment there are also several procedures that can be performed by dermatologists to reduce the visibility of acne scars.  Some of these procedures are more expensive than others.

You should speak with a board certified dermatologist to find out what procedure is best for your particular circumstances.

Laser Acne Scar Removal

There are 5 different types of laser treatment available to help eliminate scarring from acne.  Each has it’s own set of benefits.  Your dermatologist should be able to advise you as to the proper choice for your particular circumstances.

Before we jump into the different types of treatments lets familiarize ourselves with some of the terminology.

Lasers used for acne scar treatment come in two forms: ablative and non-ablative.

Ablative Lasers

These lasers use CO2 or Erbium, are invasive, but provide the greatest results.  Essentially they work by vaporizing the outer layers of the skin.  As the skin heals from the procedure it produces more collagen for a smoother texture.

Results from ablative therapy can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years depending upon the individual and the procedure.  In addition to being used on scarring they can also be used to lighten discoloration and remove wrinkles.

Recovery from ablative therapies is typically between one to two weeks.  Procedures can cause redness or swelling, acne, scarring, infection and skin color changes.

Non-Ablative Lasers

While clinically less effective than ablative procedures, non-ablative laser surgery requires less recovery time.  They work by heating up the outer layer of skin without actually vaporizing it.  This stimulates the production of collagen to fill in scars or wrinkles.

Because the procedure isn’t as invasive, there is no recovery time afterwards.  But to see significant results it will take multiple sessions.  Side effects include mild redness, infection, skin color changes, and minor skin color changes.

Fraxel Laser Treatment

Fractional or Fraxel lasers are touted by many dermatologists as the best treatment for acne scars.  It involves heating up columns of skin promoting it to heal itself by creating collagen.

This treatment requires very minimal downtime/recovery but does require 2-6 sessions (depending on the patient) scheduled 6 weeks apart to be fully effective.

The biggest reason for the popularity of Fraxel procedures is lack of downtime and the significant reduction in possible side effects.  Following treatment it is common to get mild swelling and red skin.  This is followed by up to a week of peeling or flaking of the skin.

Costs can vary depending upon where you live but many treatments start at around $800 per session.  Obviously over the course of multiple sessions this can add up.

Fractional CO2 Laser Treatment

Also popular with dermatologists is the fractional CO2 laser treatment.  This procedure uses an ablative laser so it does perforate the skin.  This will lead to crusting of the skin, facial redness, and swelling.

Downtime from fractional CO2 procedures are typically around 6-10 days.  Though the laser is more powerful, in some cases it can still require multiple procedures to get the desired results.  Generally patients require from 1 to 3.

As with Fraxel treatments cost vary depending on a variety of factors, but you should expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per session.

Traditional CO2 Laser Treatment

Due to the number of possible side effects from traditional CO2 lasers this procedure is typically only used when other methods have proven ineffective.   That said, they do offer the most dramatic results in the shortest amount of time.

This procedure is also the most painful as it involves vaporizing layers of the skin.  Afterwards it is common for the skin to experience significant redness, swelling, and drainage.  The swelling and the redness generally last a 3-7 days then the treated area will take on a pinkish tone.  This can last as long as 3 months.

Traditional CO2 laser treatments can offer significant results, but should only be performed by highly experienced surgeons with the best equipment.

Due to the expertise needed to perform this procedure the costs can vary greatly.

Tradition Dermatologist Treatment Methods

Depending on the type and severity of scarring there are also more advanced options offered by dermatologists.  They range from chemical peels and microdermabrasion to advanced laser treatments.  Here are some of the most effective in combating acne scars.

TCA CROSS Treatment

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is used to in the chemical reconstruction of skin scars (CROSS) in this relatively new procedure.  This outpatient procedure involves depositing TCA onto the surface of ice-pick, boxcar, or rolling scars.[11]

The acid promotes inflammation and collagen formation in an attempt to even out the surface of the skin.  While this treatment alone will most likely not completely eliminate scarring, when used in conjunction with other treatments such as Fraxel laser treatments, micro-needling, and topical supplements it can significantly improve the appearance of scars.

Use For

TCA CROSS treatment is most effective at treating atrophic scars such as ice-pick, boxcar, and rolling scars.

Skin Needling (micro-needling)

Skin needling involves causing minor injury to the skin in order to activate it’s healing mechanisms.  Essentially a roller with lots of tiny needles is rolled across the skin to create hundreds of tiny micro injuries.  These injuries triggers collagen and elastin production in the uppermost layer of the skin.

Micro needling is effective on both hypertrophic and atrophic acne scars.  Compared to laser surgeries there is considerably less cost involved and the risk of side effects is significantly reduced.  In addition it can be used on sensitive skin where lasers are not an option such as the skin around the eyes.

Since the procedure does not damage the surface of the skin it can be repeated multiple times.  The lack of a line of demarcation between treated and untreated parts of the skin eliminates the need to blend treated and untreated areas.[12]

Use For

Skin needling procedures are an effective means of treating ice-pick, boxcar, rolling, and hypertrophic (raised) acne scars.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels consist of applying a chemical solution to the surface of the skin.  Over a period of days these chemicals cause the skin to peel and blister.  As the skin falls off new skin replaces it.  This treatment is effective at reducing the appearance of more superficial acne scarring.

There are three types of chemical peels:

  • Light chemical peels:  glycolic acid peels or AHA chemical peels, a non-invasive procedure that removes the upper layers of dead and damaged skin and encourages skin cell regeneration.
  • Medium chemical peels:  using TCA (Trichloroacetic acid) this chemical peel penetrates into deeper layers of the skin.  These are better for deeper acne scars and can be used to “spot treat” specific areas.
  • Deep chemical peels:  also known as phenol peels, these yield more dramatic results as the chemicals go deeper beneath the surface layer of the skin.  These are the most effective in treating acne scars but are also the most painful and require the longest recovery time.  Phenol peels are not used for “spot treatment”, they must be used on the whole face.

Use For

Light and medium chemical peels can be used to treat moderate hypertrophic or atrophic scarring from acne.  For more pronounced scarring deep chemical peels can be more effective.  In more serious cases these procedures are used prior to or in conjunction with a laser treatments.

Prevention of Future Scarring

For those that suffer from acne and acne scars it can often be a lifelong battle.  Many of the treatments we’ve listed above can be very beneficial to treat scarring, but they won’t eliminate future outbreaks, and can sometimes even cause outbreaks for those with sensitive or oily skin.

So what else can you do?

In the last 10 years more and more experts have started directing their energy at finding the root causes of acne.  And while some dermatologists are on board with this, many are still stuck in the mode of prescribing medications and offering surgeries that treat the symptoms rather than helping their patients make dietary or lifestyle changes that could offer a real solution to their acne problem.

Diet & Nutrition

One of the most significant influences on everything that happens within your body is your diet.  Simply put.

When you put garbage in, you get garbage out.

If you consistently make poor dietary choices you can expect the results of these choices to show up in your complexion (as well as any number of other areas).   The skin is a living breathing part of our body and it is very sensitive to both internal and external stimuli.  If you’re not giving it what it needs to take care of itself, you should expect it to suffer.

In this section we’re going to cover some things you can do to help eliminate acne from the inside out.  It starts with your diet.  Unfortunately some of the foods that we’re taught are “good” for us can be some of the worst culprits.

dairy can cause acne

Dairy

Everything you see on TV and read online says that milk is good for you.  It builds strong bones, provides protein for muscles, and even contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.  But studies have shown that milk can significantly contribute to acne outbreaks.

And it does so in 3 important ways.

#1.  Milk contains the sugar lactose.  Lactose is easily digested and can cause a spike in insulin when consumed in even moderate amounts.  Spikes in insulin cause an increase in the amount of sebum produced by the skin.  This essentially means that consuming milk can lead to oilier skin.

To be totally fair, this is not limited to milk.  Consistent consumption of any high glycemic load (GL) food can cause a spike in insulin and thus an increase in sebum.  Unfortunately, the standard American diet is loaded with such foods.

#2.  The high GL of milk also contributes to the increased production of the enzyme mTORC1.[11]  This enzyme converts leucine (a milk protein) into fat in the sebaceous glands (where sebum is produced).  This makes for a perfect breeding ground for acne.

#3.  The hormones from the cows themselves, in addition to any hormones, steroids, and/or antibiotics, fed to the cows by dairy farmers can further influence insulin production.

So while you may be fond of dairy in all of it’s various forms, it may not be doing any favors for your skin.  A simple way to test is to eliminate all dairy from your diet for 30 days.  When we say all dairy we mean ALL. This includes milk, cheese, cream, half and half, yogurt, and ice cream.

This should be enough time for you to see if there is a significant decrease in the number of or severity of breakouts you experience.

If you want,  you can then start adding different dairy items back ONE AT A TIME to see if they cause additional acne.  Start with less likely offenders like high quality cheese or yogurt.  Wait a week or so between trying different types of dairy so you can isolate the culprit.

bread contains gluten which trigger outbreaks
Flickr

Gluten

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years you’ve probably heard of gluten.  There are any number of issues that can creep up because of celiac disease or gluten intolerance.  We won’t dig into all of the problems that have been associated with this particular protein, but it’s role in gut health is important in terms of destroying acne.

Gluten directly impacts the intestinal lining through zonulin production. Zonulin is a protein that directly causes leaky gut.  Leaky gut essentially means that food can pass directly into your bloodstream causing any number of inflammatory reactions.  One of these happens to be acne.

leaky gut and gluten
Gluten Free Society

Of course not everyone has issues with gluten, but if you experience consistently bad outbreaks it would be worth eliminating this protein from your diet altogether to allow your gut to heal and your skin to clear up.

sugars can aggravate acne outbreaks
Flickr

Sugars

Just like lactose (sugar) in milk, other types of sugar cause elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream.  These too can lead to an increased number of outbreaks.  If eliminating milk and gluten from your diet have little impact, it might be time to start investigating a diet that encourages you to eat lower glycemic index foods.  One such diet is the Paleo Diet.  You can find a great deal of information on it here.

Not only can reducing the number of high GI foods help eliminate acne, it can also help in losing weight and fighting serious diseases like diabetes.

In Closing

For many people fighting acne and the scars it leaves behind is a lifelong battle.  Sometimes one solution isn’t enough and you must experiment with multiple remedies.  Unfortunately there is no overnight solution.  The key is to track your progress and document your results.  This way when you come upon something that works, you’ll know how to repeat it in the future.

Thoughts?

Do you have a success story you’d like to share in your fight against acne and the scarring that it caused?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

References

  1. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/skin-health/nutrient-index/vitamin-C
  2. http://scarsandspots.com/what-is-a-stable-form-of-vitamin-c/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10417589
  4. https://smartypantsvitamins.com/natural-vitamin-e-vs-synthetic-vitamin-e/
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9062530?dopt=Abstract
  6. http://thenakedchemist.com/rose-hip-seed-oil/
  7. http://file.scirp.org/pdf/JCDSA_2015062914154638.pdf
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22585103
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21211559
  10. https://www.beneficialbotanicals.com/facts-figures/comedogenic-rating.html
  11. http://www.dermnetnz.org/procedures/tca-cross.html
  12. http://www.dermnetnz.org/procedures/needling.html