What are Red Acne Scars?
There are many types of acne scarring. Most acne scars are indented, which is known as atrophic scarring, and form due to inflammation and collagen issues while the acne wound is healing.
Cystic acne is more likely than other acne types to cause indented rolling and boxcar scarring, especially when it is picked at aggressively or before it is ready according to clinical aesthetician Pamela Marshall.
Red acne scarring is actually simply a form a skin pigmentation, which means it is not technically acne scarring in the traditional sense. There are different ways to lighten acne scars, specifically red acne scarring, and make the healing process much quicker than if you leave your skin alone to its own devices.
Red acne marks are simply a skin color change called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that is leftover from some acne types. Since it doesn’t damage the follicle, it isn’t considered a true form of scarring.
That doesn’t make it any less real, or any less able to be treated. Red acne marks happen to many who have had acne, and there are ways to treat it and get rid of red acne scarring.
Red Acne Scar Treatment
To reduce and get rid of red acne marks and scars there are several at-home treatments you can use to help both the appearance and the underlying causes of the red marks.
There are a lot of people, even those who never suffered from acne or acne scarring, who suffer from skin discoloration and changes including those with sun damage or red marks from other forms of environmental exposure or pollution.
There are a handful of ways to treat this type of skin discoloration, including red acne scars:
- Makeup: You can put concealer or foundation onto the skin to lessen or fully hide the skin’s red scarring or discoloration.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C strengthens the lining of skin capillaries, making it anti-inflammatory and great for decreasing red discoloration marks caused by acne on the skin.
When properly formulated at a pH of less than 4 (2.6-3.2 is the ideal range), Vitamin C is an ingredient that helps create younger-looking, firmer-feeling skin while fading signs of uneven skin tone and spots. L-ascorbic acid also helps skin’s surface defend itself from free radicals and external stressors, which decreases the negative effects of exposure to the elements including the sun and other pollutants.
Healthy skin contains high levels of Vitamin C, and this acts as a barrier between the skin and harmful outside elements, making it a great protectant from getting skin discoloration and aging.
- Salicylic acid: helps clear pores, decrease redness, decrease swelling, and exfoliates the skin. These properties make it a good skincare ingredient to use to help decrease leftover red acne marks and scars and help reveal new skin underneath
- Exfoliation cream such as LacSal cream: Exfoliation cream helps the skin turnover new cells and shed old ones including ones with leftover red acne scars, making it a good choice when trying to decrease red skin hyper-pigmentation
Vitamin C for Red Acne Scars
My personal favorite treatment for red acne marks that helped my skin, is the topical application of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C not only protects the skin from sun and pollutants, it can help treat discoloration and firm the skin.
Many studies have found that the topical application of Vitamin C helps increase collagen production, skin healing, and reduce redness and other discoloration of the skin.
The Pumori study is one that found that, “Vitamin C is a naturally occurring drug with multiple desirable effects. With an excellent safety profile, it finds increasing use in photoageing, hyperpigmentation, tissue inflammation and promotion of tissue healing.”
The Pumori Saokar Telang study found Vitamin C helps combat photoageing and helps treat hyperpigmentation.
Pumori’s study says that Vitamin C is an antioxidant found in nature, and that L-ascorbic acid is the chemically active form of Vitamin C. This is why it works so well to help protect skin and promote healing.
One downside to Vitamin C is that in its natural form, L-ascorbic acid, it is unstable and will turn from clear to slightly yellow in a few months from oxygen exposure, meaning you have to use it quickly.
The study also mentions that Vitamin C is most effective when used with 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.
This means you can look for combinations that include these ngredients in your Vitamin C serum for maximum effectiveness in healing red acne scars: 0.5% Ferulic acid (a potent antioxidant of plant origin) with 15% Vitamin C and 1% Vitamin E. Doing this can increase the efficacy of Vitamin C eight-fold.
The Pumori study explains that Vitamin C activates the transcription of collagen synthesis and stabilizes procollagen mRNA, which regulates collagen synthesis.
This means Vitamin C application helps the skin’s collagen building process to help new skin build up and replace discolored acne scarred skin.
Indented acne scars can be helped by Vitamin C as well, but even more so when used in combination with micro-needling. I’ve personally found micro-needling once a week and using copper peptides each night, and then using Vitamin C serum in the morning, to be the most effective acne scar treatment for my indented acne scars.