Lightening Acne Scars
There are many different types of acne scarring.
What are Acne Scars?
Acne scars are textural changes and indents that happen when the skin is healing from severe acne, usually cystic acne.
Technically only indented scarring is categorized as “acne scarring”, the other discoloration or smaller changes that result after acne heals are less severe and have more of a chance of improving over time even without treatment which is why they are not categorized as “acne scars”.
This means when you have scars that are discolored and red, for example, technically they are simply categorized as “discoloration” and not “acne scarring”.
The good news is there are treatments and ways to help both discolored acne scarring and regular indented acne scarring improve and heal.
What causes acne scarring?
Acne scarring is caused when pus-filled acne cysts heal and skin tissue is destroyed and not replaced smoothly during the healing process. Often the healing process does not result in smooth skin over a deep acne cyst because the skin is trying to heal too quickly to avoid getting a bacterial infection from the open wound so it produces a rougher form of collagen that is indented or protruding and is not as smooth as regular skin.
Indented scarring is known as “atrophic scarring”, while raised scarring is known as “hypertrophic or keloid scarring”.
Discolored acne scarring is simply known as discoloration, which will improve over time, and you can improve more quickly with different at-home serums and treatments.
How to Lighten Acne Scars
Different ways to lighten discolored acne scars:
- Vitamin C serum: Vitamin C serum boosts collagen production in skin and helps with sun protection, brightening and improving discoloration in skin and is great for lightening discolored spots including discolored acne mark spots
- Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid helps skin turnover and exfoliation and in doing so can help improve the appearance of discolored acne marks
- Exfoliation and exfoliation creams and serums: Exfoliating using an exfoliation spray, cream, serum or wash helps skin cell turnover which helps improve discolored marks on the skin. Make sure not to over-exfoliate and wait a few days in-between each time.
- Natural oils including coconut oil, argan oil: Natural oils help skin moisturize and repair and can help improve. discolored spots
After acne, some people are left with discolored marks in the skin, most commonly red or other colors that are not the color of their normal skin.
As explained above, this type of discoloration is not as severe as an indented acne scar and has a better chance of healing even if left alone as time passes.
You can also speed up the healing process by using any of the exfoliation methods above, or serums that help your skin repair and boost collagen production including Vitamin C serum.
I personally prefer to help skin exfoliate the damaged cells as well as apply healing serums to my skin instead of trying to only cover up discolored spots with makeup since I like to go makeup free most of the time. For me, exfoliating creams including LacSal, and applying a Vitamin C serum every morning and night dramatically helped improve my acne mark skin discoloration from red marks to a glowing and smooth complexion.
Why does Vitamin C Lighten Acne Scars?
Vitamin C helps promote the synthesis of collagen, making it an ideal way to speed up the healing of acne marks on the skin.
Many studies support that applying Vitamin C serums to the skin helps promote collagen, healing as well as decrease skin redness and discoloration.
The Pumori study found that Vitamin C helps combat photoageing, hyperpigmentation, tissue inflammation and promotion of tissue healing, all of which help lighten the appearance of acne red marks, and other skin appearance issues.
The Pumori’s study focus is on L-ascorbic acid which is the most natural form of Vitamin C and was what the study looked at specifically and found to be effective. It is also the type of Vitamin C that expires most quickly when exposed to air, so it is best to use it within a few months when purchased, and make sure you keep it in a dark cool place.
The study also found that Vitamin C is the most effective when also used alongside the ingredients such as Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid:
“Although Vit. C alone can provide photoprotection, it works best in conjunction with Vitamin E, which potentiates the action of Vitamin C four-fold. Hydrophilic Vitamin C helps regenerate Vitamin E, a liphophilic antioxidant. Thus, Vitamin C and Vitamin E together protect the hydrophilic and lipophilic compartments of the cell, respectively. Vitamin C and Vitamin E synergistically limit chronic UV damage by significantly reducing both cell apoptosis and thymine dimer formation.
A combination of 0.5% Ferulic acid (a potent antioxidant of plant origin) with 15% Vitamin C and 1% Vitamin E can increase the efficacy of Vitamin C eight-fold.”
The Pumori study explains how Vitamin C directly impacts collagen transcription, collagen synthensis, and stabilizing procollagen mRNA which also helps regulate collagen synthesis.
Using Vitamin C on acne scar red marks will help lighten them by promoting the collagen repair process in the skin, and is a great way to speed up the skin’s healing process.
In addition to helping discolored skin heal, Vitamin C is a great addition to your daily skincare routine as it can help protect the skin from daily sun when used in combination with sunscreen as well, and studies have found it can help heal signs of skin discoloration caused by sun damage:
“Studies have shown that using sunscreen with Vitamin C protects the skin from further photo damage caused by ultra-violet rays,” Chang said. “This information is important because most people don’t know that you can protect your skin even further than just sunscreen.”
How to Lighten Acne Scars with Vitamin C
- To lighten acne scars using Vitamin C, you’ll want to find one that has 20% Vitamin C to get the maximum effectiveness from the Vitamin C concentration.
The Pumori study found that “Having a higher concentration of Vitamin From a clinical point of view, it is important to note that the efficacy of the Vitamin C serum is proportional to the concentration, but only up to 20%.”
- Once you find your Vitamin C serum that also contains Vitamin E & Ferulic acid to bring out the maximum effectiveness of the Vitamin C, you’ll want to apply it every 8 hours regularly.
The Pumori study explains that “The half-life in the skin after achieving maximum concentration is 4 days. A persistent reservoir of Vitamin C is important for adequate photo-protection, and can be achieved by regular 8-hourly applications.”
This means with the 4 day half-life of Vitamin C, you’ll get the most benefit from regular 8 hour applications. Doing this will help the skin protect from the sun when you also apply it with sunscreen, and help protect from oxidants and pollution in the air, as well as aid collagen process in the skin to help repair and heal discolored acne scar marks.
Lighten Acne Scar Results
After acne, I had both indented scarring and red discoloration. The discoloration was even more visible after my indented scarring had improved so at that point I switched from using a 1.5mm dermaroller and copper peptides to using a .5-1mm derma pen and Vitamin C serum to focus on lightening my acne scar discoloration.
I’ve found I prefer using copper peptides as my nighttime skincare routine, and then Vitamin C and exfoliation cream as my morning skincare routine.
When you use a derma-pen once every week or 2 weeks, in combination with the Vitamin C every day, you allow the Vitamin C to absorb deeper into your skin and have more effectiveness for quicker healing.
I have found copper peptides to be the most effective in helping my indented scarring improve in combination with micro-needling, and Vitamin C to be the most effective to help my discolored and red acne scarring improve.
Doing this helped me personally improve the red acne marks to lighten my skin for a nice glow.
I still use Vitamin C daily in the morning in my skincare routine to protect my skin from the sun and elements, and give it a nice healthy glow while also giving it the ingredients to heal more effectively each day. Personally I’ve noticed a great difference in my skin color and appearance and don’t plan on stopping my Vitamin C use anytime soon.
Here is my derma-pen Vitamin C before and after as well: