Breakouts are bad enough as it is, but anyone who suffers from post-pimple hyperpigmentation knows that dealing with the aftermath is even worse. For some lucky people, spots will clear up straight away, but for others, they linger in the form of red or brown marks than can last for weeks (even months), and can lead to long-term white and pitted scars if not treated correctly.
As someone from the unlucky category, I’ve tried just about every possible treatment that there is out there – from professional peels and laser treatments to microdermabrasion kits and superpower serums. Whilst clinical treatments are great and all, they’re not always easily accessible, and in truth, I’ve found many non-prescription at-home treatments to be just as good, if not better.
Having spent the best part of three years trying to win the war against post-blemish marks, I can whole-heartedly attest that the products below are the very best of the best. Guaranteed do a damn good job of fading marks effectively in order to fast-track you back to clear, even-toned skin. And the best part? Compared to a visit to a dermatologists office, they don’t cost a small fortune.
This popular classic proudly boasts on its ability to diminish scars, brighten skin, and even skintone, as effectively as a professional skin reurfasing procedure. Pretty lofty claims to aspire to. Its main ingredient is glycolic acid, an AHA (chemical exfoliant) which removes dead skin cells and maximises the impact of other ingredients. By exfoliating away the surface layer of the skin, fresh new skin shines (literally) through and licorice root gets to work, calming inflammation and preventing future breakouts, thanks to its anti-microbial properties.
I stopped going for dermalogical peels after I used this for the first time. Modelled after professional clinical exfoliation treatments, this innovative overnight treatment is designed to resurface and restore skin using retinol. It’s most often touted as an anti-aging ingredient, but retinol is actually a full-on miracle worker when it comes to fading acne scars. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted/sensitive-skinned – even as a seasoned user of chemical exfoliants, this stings when I use it. But hey, pain is beauty, right? And waking up with noticeably faded marks and brighter skin after just one use is what I’d call ‘worth it’.
This serum resurfaces skin using probiotic bacteria, peptides, and amino acids, which exfoliate the skin without causing the irritation that can be associated with retinol and AHAs/BHAs. What’s more, the ingredient trains skin to exfoliate itself regularly and effectively by boosting its natural renewal cycle, meaning that long after you’ve emptied the bottle, you’ll continue to reap the benefits. This makes a great alternative to stronger exfoliating acids if you’re particularly sensitive-skinned.
Rosehip oil has long been hailed as a miracle healing ingredient – it’s even used on burn victims in hospitals to treat and prevent scarring. It’s a powerhouse of fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, which work together to heal and fortify skin. You’ll get full benefits if you’re using cold-pressed rosehip oil like this one – the process means that all the vitamins remain intact. I really love how rosehip oil makes my skin feel when I apply it – soft, nourished, and moisturised – I take the time to massage it in (the massage process itself helps with the healing by stimulating blood flow).
Azelaic acid is one of those ingredients that crops up when it’s 2am and you’re 543682 pages deep into a Reddit thread about treating acne scars (yep, I’ve been there). The thing is, it’s actually really hard to get hold of, so when The Ordinary announced they’d be bringing out this product I was majorly excited. Azelaic acid is frequently prescribed to rosacea sufferers, due to its ability to decrease the inflammation that causes rosacea’s trademark redness. It selectively targets pigment-producing cells without effecting normal ones, and also has the added benefit of preventing the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Win, win.
Mario Badescu has a long history of creating products for blemish prone skin that kick ass at preventing, treating, and repairing. This is designed specifically for the aftermath of acne – it contains natural skin lightening ingredients like kojic acid, licorice, and mulberry extract. Granted, this is no overnight miracle worker, but it will make a difference if you use it frequently and consistently. I often apply it as a targeted overnight treatment – dotting it on only where necessary.
Top tips from an acne sufferer…
Don’t pick spots! Picking causes inflammation which can lead to longer-term scarring.
Wear SPF! Sun exposure can make redness worse, so use a dedicated sunscreen on your face.
Take supplements! Zinc is renowned for its ability to heal skin from the inside so pop a pill with your morning drink.
Assess your diet! To prevent spots from marking in the first place, avoid food and drink high in inflammatory ingredients like caffeine and sugar.
Moisturise! Skin is only healthy and able to heal and function at its best when it’s well-hydrated.