There are certain things only pimple-prone women can understand—like the sense of relief that comes when a gnarly breakout starts to subside. (Think of it like the last day of school, the stretch at the end of a hard workout, and that fresh-from-the-hair-salon feeling, all rolled into one.)
But too often this sensation is short-lived, thanks to acne scars. Sure, they may not be as physically painful as pimples, but they still have the ability to mar your self-esteem.
The bigger and deeper the pimple, the more severe the mark that’s left behind.
“Acne scars are usually classified into three main categories: depressions or pitted scars, raised keloid scars, and discoloration scars,” explains Los Angeles-based esthetician Heather Nicole Funk, who’s gained a reputation in Hollywood as a veritable zit whisperer. According to her, the type of scarring you get is largely based on your skin type. But as a general rule, she says, the bigger and deeper the pimple, the more severe the mark that’s left behind.
Fortunately, says Funk, there are lots of things you can do to prevent scars from forming in the first place—and to fade them faster once they’re already there, no matter how old they may be. Here, she shares some of the tips she doles out to acne-prone clients like singer Tori Kelly. After all, breaking out is one experience that really doesn’t warrant any souvenirs.
These are the celebrity esthetician’s top 3 tips on preventing and treating acne scars.
1. Be vigilant with your inside-out skin care routine
It sounds like a no-brainer, but Funk’s number one tip for preventing acne scars is to stop zits from erupting in the first place. And she’s a firm believer that diet is everything when it comes to keeping breakouts at bay.
“A lot of acne starts in the gut with poor diet habits that cause inflammation, like eating dairy, gluten, sugar, and drinking alcohol,” she says. (And, as mentioned before, the more inflamed the zit, the bigger the scar.) “I recommend maintaining a clean, alkaline diet, cleansing twice a year, keeping a food journal, and knowing what your triggers are.”
It’s also important not to slack on your topical skin-care regimen. “A good, natural vitamin A [serum] is both anti-aging and anti-acne,” says Funk. “I also love blemish oil for minor congestion under the skin, and stem cell therapy, which will speed up healing when you’re breaking out. Combine these with red or blue LED lights, which are anti-inflammatory and will clear up bacteria.”
2. Seriously, stop picking at your skin
I know you’ve heard this one a million times, but it bears repeating—the only one who should be de-gunking your pores is a licensed professional. “If you’re prone to scarring, don’t even touch your pimples,” says Funk. That’s because messing with your complexion is putting you at risk for spreading the infection or causing additional damage to your skin, both of which can make scars even worse.
But what if you’ve got an emergency situation happening on your face? “Make a facial appointment and have an assessment,” the esthetician urges. “Most people can come in and have a topical peel with some LED light therapy, and that’ll do wonders in just one session.” And if extractions really are in order, at least you’ll be getting them from someone who’s trained to do them without leaving a parting gift behind.
3. Take a high-tech approach to eliminating your scars
While there are lots of lightening creams and potions that promise to fade scars, Funk believes that the most effective (and least toxic) methods of healing involve gadgets—both at-home tools and ones that are only found in a clinic.
For older scars, she’s a big fan of microneedling, since it stimulates collagen production, paving the way for healthy new cells to be born. “In addition to getting the treatment in tandem with regular facials, I recommend also having a microneedle roller at home,” she says. “When you’re using it consistently, you’re getting more product penetration. You’ll see really great results with your acne scarring, with no downtime and no sun sensitivity.”
She claims fresher scars tend to respond well to a combo of microdermabrasion and peels. “Microdermabrasion [removes] the first layer of skin, and it will allow you to get more penetration from the peel,” she says. “That and some LED light therapy usually works wonders.”
And finally, if all else fails, lasers can be beneficial—but they’re expensive, and Funk warns there’s some trial and error involved. “There are a thousand out there, and people respond to them so differently,” she says. “I’ve been liking Clear + Brilliant and Laser Genesis, but it’s about finding which one works for you, since we’re all so individualized.” Thankfully, there are a lot of good concealers to hold you over in the meantime.