Sadly curing your acne is only half the battle, because unless you are really lucky you're likely to have some tell-tale acne scars left behind. When skin is damaged (eg. you get a spot and you don't leave it alone) a defensive reaction is triggered. This reaction signals the melanocytes to take protective measures initiating the release of melanin which can lead to hyperpigmentation (dark patches) after the initial damage has subsided. In fair-skinned people it tends to be red, while in dark-skinned people the pigmentation is brown.
According to dermatologust Dr Sam Bunting, 'Pigmentation alone will eventually fade by itself (assuming you’ve managed to get the acne process under control and aren’t developing new spots)'. If you want to speed things along Hydroquinine, the 'gold standard' prescription treatment for pigmentation, is recommended, while AHAs found in over-the-counter products work well to rejuvenate the damaged skin too. Of course, sunscreen is a must as well 'to prevent further darkening of the affected areas. Choose a broad-spectrum non-comedogenic one designed for acne-prone skin' suggests Dr Bunting.
I've had Ellipse laser rejuvenation at the Knightsbridge Laser Clinic in the past which went a long way to help even out my skintone, with my pigmentation scabbing over and literally falling off post treatment! It's pricey however and while it worked for me, it doesn't have the same efficacy for everyone. Visit the Knightsbridge Laser Clinic website here...
Alternatively, try Clinique Even Better Dark Spot Corrector, £39 (clinique.co.uk) it has been proven to work as well as laser (although it takes longer to see the results). In place of prescription-only Hydroquinine (which can irritate) it uses Dianella ensifolia, combined with ascorbyl glucoside to fade dark spots; blackout yeast breaks up the melanin clusters, while salicylic acid and glucosamine slough away dead skin to speed up the renewal of healthy melanin-free skin.
StriVectin also has a great new targeted product called Get Even Spot Repair, £45. With Nia-114 it works to stop the overproduction of melanin; vitamin C brightens, while willowbark and pomegranate encourage cell renewal. What’s great about this is that the formula comes from sound scientific research (you can read about it here) while the pen applicator allows for targeted application.
If you have full-on acne scars, which are raised or depressed in the skin then you need to take a different approach. 'Different scars need different treatment-there is no one-size fits all approach' says Dr Bunting. 'There are three different types - rolling scars have a rounded wave-like base, box scars have sharp straight edges and a flat base and ice-pick scars are narrow but deep.'
Chemical peels, laser resurfacing and medical needling are most commonly used to treat raised or depressed acne scarring. Severe, individual scars can be treated using subcision or dermal fillers to temporarily improve the appearance. When it comes to severe acne scarring it's advisable to seek help form a trained dermatolist. Visit the British Association of Dermatology for more information...