The best way to prevent your skin from potentially scarring post acne is to stop your breakouts dead in their tracks with topical products, and if need be, oral medication before it becomes a full-blown problem. Picking is a huge part of why the skin scars, especially with deeply inflamed breakouts. Limiting the amount of internal inflammation can make a big difference in the skin, too. Here's how:
Stage 1: When You Feel a Blemish Coming On
Apply medication to the area. Almost all acne patients require medication of some degree, be it antibiotics, tretinoin or something that helps regulate hormones, to get the skin under control.
Don’t overload your skin with products that are too harsh or too drying. Stick to one zit-zapping ingredient with a proven track record (unless your dermatologist instructs you otherwise) like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur.
Steer clear of overcleansing and overexfoliating the skin. This can strip away too much of the skin’s natural oils, making the skin dehydrated and instigate additional breakouts.
Stage 2: When You’re Faced With a Full-On Breakout
Don’t squeeze it, pop it or pick at it. The pressure incurred from picking or squeezing can push the infection deeper into the skin and spread it to the surrounding tissue, in turn causing more inflammation and the potential for further damage.
Wear an oil-free noncomedogenic sunscreen. “This is especially true of darker skin because an inflamed spot that is exposed to the sun will hyperpigment and scar,” says Orlando, FL, dermatologist Kathleen Judge, MD.
Get the blemish injected. “Patients often benefit from cortisone injected into larger cysts to improve acne,” says Santa Monica, CA, dermatologist Karyn Grossman, MD. Extractions may help too.
Stage 3: When the Pimple Starts to Dwindle in Size and Intensity
If a scab forms, let it fall off on its own. Forcing or picking a scab off the skin will most likely leave behind a discolored spot.
Apply a brightening lotion or cream. Topical products that work to lighten and brighten may reduce how dark a spot may be, especially if you are prone to post-acne discoloration.