How to Effectively Get Rid of Acne and Acne Scarring
Not my usual kind of post but this is a topic close to my heart!
Whether Accutane gets rid of acne scars is something I’ve been meaning to write about for years now. I feel so passionately that no-one should have to feel like a monster because of their skin, especially when there are treatments out there that actually work.
Acne isn’t just for teens – it is one of the most common skin conditions for people of all ages. Although there is no quick fix for severe cases of acne, there are incredibly powerful treatments available that can get rid of your acne over time and even fade deep acne scars.
What causes acne?
Acne can be the result of various things like clogged pores, hormonal factors, and even the natural bacteria on your skin. To properly treat acne, it’s important to see a dermatologist to determine the cause and put together an effective treatment plan that will work best for you.
Once your skin is sorted it will be such a weight lifted off your shoulders. You’ll be free to live your best life, without needing to worry about your skin condition.
So, let’s explore the best acne and acne scar treatments currently out there, from Accutane to Retinol, using my personal skin journey as a case study on their effectiveness.
Phase 1 of Acne Treatment – Taking Accutane
My crazy acne journey started when I was just 12.
After a year of my skin getting progressively worse, with different oral and topical treatments failing to work, I finally started my first course of Accutane aged 13.
Isotretinoin, which is sold under the brand name Accutane among others, is a medication used to treat severe cases of acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments.
Accutane is a form of vitamin A. When taken, it reduces the amount of oil released by oil glands in your skin, which prevents spots and clogged pores, and helps your skin to renew itself. This is generally considered to be the most powerful and most effective acne treatment in existence.
However, do note that Accutane carries a high risk of birth defects when pregnant mothers are exposed to it, so its use is highly regulated and it must be prescribed by a dermatologist. Female patients are monitored throughout the course of Accutane treatment, usually with monthly pregnancy tests.
Also, not all patients are good candidates for this dermatologically-approved pill. For instance, acne sufferers with abnormal LFT levels can’t take Accutane.
This is how my skin looked after 6 months of Accutane treatment:
As you can see my skin still looks pretty horrific! BUT please bear in mind that I suffered with what was once described by my dermatologist as ‘the most extreme acne case documented in Europe.’
Believe it or not, before I started taking Accutane there was not a single patch of clear skin on my face (apart from my eyelids and parts of my nose).
Unsurprisingly, as an insecure teenager I would not allow anyone to take pictures of me during this time, which I now massively regret because the true ‘before’ and ‘after’ is hard to comprehend.
Anyway, after taking the highest dose of Accutane that could be prescribed according to my body weight, my acne and the huge boils that plastered my face totally disappeared. This took a while – over 12 months due to the extremity of my skin condition, but usually people see results much quicker. Incredible results can often be seen in as little as 6 weeks.
After 12 months of perseverance, children no longer stared at me in the street and I had no more ‘pizza face’ comments! 👍
With make up, my skin looked pretty good.
Overall, taking Accutane worked wonders in treating my severe acne.
Important consideration: Does Accutane have bad side effects?
Lots of people are scared of Accutane, which is totally understandable. If you Google it, some scary headlines come up. For instance, the number 1 myth is that Accutane causes depression. In reality, it is more likely that untreated acne causes depression!
In fact, multiple studies actually show that Accutane is associated with lower, not higher rates of depression at a population level. A recent study comparing people with treated vs untreated acne found a significantly increased risk of lower mental health in people with untreated acne.
Acne itself causes mental stress that can last for years. Wheras Accutane can completely cure acne, hence improving the acne sufferers self-esteem and mental health.
As with any medication there is always the risk of an adverse reaction in a few people, and this is why it is imperative to sort a treatment plan out with a dermatologist.
Accutane does usually make your hair, skin and lips dry, especially during the first few months, but this is a small price to pay for having lovely skin and confidence again! But of course the exact ‘side effects’ of Accutane will vary from person to person.
I don’t tend to use the words ‘side effect’ when discussing my dry lips etc. from taking Accutane, as this is not a ‘side effect’ in the classic sense. Side effects are unintended, potentially dangerous effects of a medication. You should expect this particular medication to cause dryness – this is how it works! You don’t need to be concerned about this.
How long do Accutane results last?
Many consider Accutane to be the ‘gold standard’ cure for acne. While some acne sufferers will never experience acne again post treatment, this isn’t the case for everyone.
The good news is that Accutane can permanently reduce acne by an average of 80%. It also makes your skin less oily long-term. However, 20% of patients take Accutane a second time if they still have significant acne.
I have taken several courses of Accutane over the last 18 years. However, these have been very short ‘maintenance treatments’ when I start to breakout, with me only needing to take one tablet per week for a few months. This has been sufficient to keep my severe acne from returning.
As can be the case with some people, my acne usually spreads like wildfire after one spot erupts, so I tend to act quickly as soon as I notice a single spot emerge. Once I show a dermatologist the pictures of what will happen to my skin if I am not given a maintenance does of Accutane, most dermatologists are happy to issue a small course as a preventative measure.
Although Accutane is an effective acne treatment, does Accutane get rid of acne scars as well?
Generally, Accutane treatment is the most effective way to prevent further acne scarring. By preventing more breakouts, Accutane is a highly effective treatment that can limit the risk of additional scars forming.
While oral Accutane can improve the overall appearance of the skin by reducing active acne, its ability to directly improve existing acne scars is generally limited. It does not have a direct mechanism to heal or repair scar tissue.
If your primary goal is to address existing acne scars, other treatment options are more effective, which I will get into below.
Due to the extreme nature of my skin condition, once the acne had disappeared following my course of Accutane, I was inevitably left with some scarring.
So, how do you get rid of acne scars?
Aged 13, once I stopped taking Accutane, I started using Retinol products a few weeks later, which was prescribed by my dermatologist.
Due to the extreme nature of my skin condition, once the acne had disappeared following my course of Accutane, I was inevitably left with some scarring.
Phase 2 of Acne Treatment – Using Retinol
What is Retinol?
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is a topical treatment commonly used to address concerns like acne scarring, fine lines, and skin texture.
However, using retinol as a teenager requires careful consideration.
Firstly, consult a dermatologist (or a healthcare professional) before incorporating retinol into your skincare routine, especially if you’re a teenager. This is because teenage skin tends to be more sensitive and can react differently to active ingredients like retinol.
If you have acne, your dermatologist might recommend other acne-fighting treatments that are more suitable for teenage skin, like topical benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
Unfortunately, for me those topical treatments simply did not work, so I was put on Retinol as part of my treatment plan.
Do bear in mind that just like Accutane, Retinol can sometimes cause dryness, redness, and sensitivity, which might be more obvious on teenage skin.
Retinol should always be applied at night to avoid sun damage. It’s important to start with a lower concentration and use it sparingly, gradually increasing frequency as your skin adjusts. Also, the importance of wearing factor 50+ suncream after Retinol / Accutane treatment can’t be overstated – your skin will be way more prone to sunburn after these treatments.
Can you use Retinol as a Teenager?
Yes! But always follow your dermatologist’s recommendations and guidelines for application. Consulting a professional is the best way to ensure that you’re making the right choice for your skin’s unique needs.
As long as you follow the proper guidance Retinol is fine to use as a teenager and effective in reducing acne scarring.
Does Retinol really work?
After 18 months of consistent use, I found that Retinol was effective at reducing what is known as ‘Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)’.
After acne lesions heal, they can sometimes leave behind areas of hyperpigmentation, which are darker patches on the skin (for me these were red and purple marks).
Retinol can help get rid of PIH by exfoliating the skin’s top layers and promoting a more even skin tone over time.
What’s amazing about retinol is that it can also effectivley PREVENT acne in some cases. Here’s how:
- Unclogs Pores: Retinol works by promoting the turnover of skin cells, which helps prevent the buildup of dead skin cells and debris that can clog pores and lead to acne.
- Reduces Oil Production: Retinol can help regulate oil production in the skin, which is a major factor in the development of acne. By controlling excess oil, retinol can reduce the likelihood of clogged pores and breakouts.
- Exfoliation: Retinol promotes gentle exfoliation of the skin’s top layer, helping to remove impurities and prevent pore blockages.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Retinol has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the redness and inflammation associated with acne breakouts.
- Prevents Microcomedones: Retinol can inhibit the formation of microcomedones, which are the precursor to acne lesions. By preventing their development, retinol can reduce the likelihood of future breakouts.
What Else Can Treat Acne and Acne Scars?
#1 An Effective Skincare Regime
Consistency is key
Let’s start with the obvious – you will need a good skincare regime to help treat, manage and prevent acne.
An effective skincare routine involves the following steps:
- Cleansing: Use a gentle cleanser to wash your face twice a day to remove dirt, oil, and makeup.
- Exfoliation: 1-3 times a week, use a chemical exfoliant or mild scrub to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores.
- Treatment (Optional): Apply a targeted treatment like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to address your acne.
- Serum: Apply a serum with active ingredients like hyaluronic acid to address specific concerns like hyperpigmentation or hydration.
- Moisturiser: Use a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated without clogging pores.
- Sunscreen: Always apply factor 50 SPF every morning, and every two hours when you are in the sun. My go to SPF these days is Cantabria for my face. This protects against the sun’s 4 radiations (UVB-UVA-VL-IR), neutralises free radicals and repairs sun damage both inside and out. Wearing factor 50 is imperative when you have taken accutane and use retinol products.
- Night Cream (Optional): Use a night cream or moisturiser to promote skin repair and hydration while you sleep.
- Eye Cream (Optional): Apply an eye cream to address concerns like puffiness, dark circles, or fine lines.
Remember that consistency is key, and it’s important to choose products tailored to your skin type and concerns. If you’re new to skincare or have specific concerns, consulting a dermatologist can help you create a personalised regime.
Avoid Vitamin C Skin Products
I initially used to incorporate Vitamin C skin products into my daily skin care regime as this is a popular skincare ingredient known for its ability to brighten and even out skin tone.
However, my dermatologist informed me that Vitamin C skincare products can cause inflammation or irritation. Products containing high concentrations of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can be too potent for certain skin types and cause irritation, redness, and inflammation.
So I switched products, and have used Obagi Medical Grade Skin products for my entire skincare regime for years, with great results.
Obagi products are dermatologist tested and physician endorsed. I’ve found their pure and potent ingredients have really helped me maintain healthy and glowing skin over the years.
Use ZO® Skin Health Products
After speaking to my dermatologist, I recently switched from using Obagi products to ZO® Skin Health.
ZO was also created by Dr Zein Obagi and uses the best ingredients and skincare technology to deliver results.
I particularly like the RETINOL SKIN BRIGHTENER (1%), which is clinically proven to rapidly improve uneven skin for a brighter and smoother complexion.
ZO focuses more on an everyday range of skin care products, and is much cheaper and more affordable than Obagi products.
Get HydraFacials: The Best Facial For Acne
I get a HydraFacial at least every couple of months and find this to be the best facial for acne.
A HydraFacial is a non-invasive and non-surgical treatment that helps improve the appearance and health of your skin.
Hydrafacials have minimal downtime and help to cleanse, exfoliate, extract impurities, hydrate, and protect the skin.
Avoid Picking and Squeezing
- Picking or squeezing acne can lead to infection, scarring, and worsened inflammation.
- Unfortunately a large percentage of my acne scars were formed because I couldn’t leave my spots alone! I know it’s tempting to try and give yourself a ‘quick fix’ by picking/squeezing your spots, but this is never a wise thing to do.
#2 Diet and Lifestyle
Eat a Balanced Diet: Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water helps keep your skin hydrated and supports overall health.
Limit Dairy and Sugar: Some people find that reducing dairy and refined sugar intake can help improve their acne.
Sleep / Silk Pillows: For years I have used silk pillows, as silk has natural temperature-regulating properties, helping to keep you cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather. This can prevent excessive sweating, which can help prevent clogged pores and acne, which in turn can stop you developing more scarring.
Silk pillows are also gentle on the skin. Silk is a smooth and soft material that creates less friction against the skin compared to other fabrics like cotton. This reduced friction can help prevent the abrasion and irritation that can occur with rougher fabrics. Less friction means less rubbing against the skin, which is great for people prone to acne or sensitive skin.
Silk is also known for its luxurious and smooth texture. Sleeping on a soft and silky surface feels so comfortable and soothing, which can help you sleep. The importance of getting a good nights sleep cannot be overstated when it comes to your skin health.
Good sleep is essential for balancing your hormones, reducing inflammation, and helping with the cellular regeneration needed to maintain a healthy and fresh complexion.
Phase 3 of Acne Treatment – More Invasive Treatments
Besides using Retinol as a teenager and then continuing to use it over the years as part of my everyday skin care regime, I have also had some more invasive acne scar treatments.
This is mainly because retinol and a good skin care regime can only go so far in reducing the appearance of acne scars. Although it undoubtedly has helped to get rid of my PIH, once these red and purple marks disappeared, deeper acne scarring was revealed.
The deeper scarring is known as ‘Atrophic Scars’.
Atrophic scars are a type of skin scar that forms when there is a loss of tissue or collagen beneath the skin’s surface. They result from damage to the skin’s supporting structures, such as collagen and elastin fibres, during the healing process after a skin condition like acne.
How to treat Atrophic Scars
Over the course of the past decade, I have had multiple different types of more invasive acne scar treatments.
Please note that for some treatments (e.g. lasers and chemical peels) it is recommended to wait six months after Accutane treatment due to the risk of increased scarring.
Accutane can significantly alter the skin’s sensitivity, thickness, and healing capabilities. During the treatment and for a period after discontinuation, the skin becomes more sensitive, making it prone to irritation, redness, and even potential damage during procedures.
By combining all of the below treatments, my acne scars are now almost invisible:
SkinPen Microneedling is the first FDA-cleared microneedling device in the world, clinically proven to safely and effectively fight the appearance of acne scars.
With this treatment there is little downtime – your skin will return to normal in about 24 hours.
#2 Fractional Carbon Dioxide (CO2) laser
Fractional Carbon Dioxide (CO2) treatment is a powerful skin resurfacing treatment that can reduce acne scarring by stimulating collagen production that helps tighten and smooth out the scars.
Plan for 7-10 days downtime before you can go out in public/sunlight after this powerful treatment. Your skin might scab and peel 2-7 days after treatment, and will be pink for a few weeks.
This is a true non-surgical alternative to more invasive surgical and resurfacing procedures.
#3 Professional Chemical Peels
Chemical peels involve applying a chemical solution to the skin to exfoliate the outer layers and improve skin texture.
One option is to do mild peels at home yourself.
Here are the different types of chemical peels you can do based on your skin type –
- Skin with fading dark spots – Lactic acid chemical peel is best suited to treat this skin type.
- Sensitive skin – Phytic acid is a great option for people with sensitive skin and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Acne-prone and oily skin – Salicylic acid can remove dirt from the pores of oily skin.
- Skin with enlarged pores – Mandelic acid chemical peel can help with this.
Although doing mild at home peels can certainly help improve skin texture, in my personal experience, this will not significantly reduce acne scarring.
Instead, you could consult your dermatologist and get a professional chemical peel.
- Light Peel: This is the most straightforward and quickest type of chemical peel, but achieving the desired outcome will likely require multiple sessions. During the procedure, your dermatologist exclusively targets the outermost layer of the skin. Downtime is from a few hours to several days. This option is perfect for addressing mild acne scars.
- Medium Peel: The dermatologist addresses both the outermost layer and the upper portion of the middle skin layer. While the healing period is extended, this approach is the optimal choice for addressing a wide range of acne scars.
- Deep Peel: With this approach, the dermatologist peels from the outermost layer of skin delving into the lowermost part of the middle skin layer. Substantial preparation, lasting at least eight weeks, is required for deep peels. The recovery phase is also prolonged. This option is suitable for treating the most extreme acne scars.
Your dermatologist will need to make an informed selection of the most appropriate chemical peel based on factors including the depth of acne scars you have, your skin type, and your skin colour.
#4 Dermal Fillers
Injecting dermal fillers under the skin can temporarily elevate depressed scars, providing a smoother appearance.
I have personally had Juvederm® which is a popular type of dermal filler commonly used to treat deeper acne scars, including atrophic scars, such as rolling scars and boxcar scars.
This has no downtime and can enhance acne scar appearance even after just one treatment. Generally Juvederm results last between six month to one year, depending on the type and amount of filler injected.
Juvederm consists of hyaluronic acid, which is a natural substance found in the dermal layer of our skin. Injections into acne scars replace lost collagen, restoring skin.
This is me today! In photos and with make up on, my acne scars are almost invisible.
I hope this blog has helped to answer the question as to whether Accutane gets rid of Acne Scars, and more!
It’s important to remember that acne varies from person to person. What worked for me might not be suitable for you. This is why it’s essential to consult a qualified dermatologist before making decisions about your skincare routine or starting a new acne treatment.
Good luck with your acne treatment plan. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey – if you have any questions about any of the above feel free to leave a comment below.
Here’s to healthier skin and the brighter days ahead! ❤️
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Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through any links. You may even get a small discount. This income goes towards the sites running costs and enables me to provide readers with free content.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this advice regarding acne treatment is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice or consultation. Acne conditions vary from person to person, and what works for one individual may not be suitable for another. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional or dermatologist before making decisions about your skincare routine or starting any new treatment. Any reliance on the advice provided is solely at your own risk, and the authors, publishers, or providers of this content are not liable for any damages or adverse effects resulting from following the suggestions outlined.