Taming an acne flareup is often a two-part deal. First, there’s quelling the breakout itself. And then, if you’re so inclined to do so, there’s fading the leftover scarring. If that’s a priority for you, the best face masks for acne scars, which should contain some sort of chemical exfoliant, can help. To learn more about acne scarring and what to look for in a good face mask, I spoke to Dr. Francesca Fusco, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in NYC, and Dr. Erin Gilbert, an NYC-based dermatologist and Vichy medical consultant.
According to Dr. Gilbert, scars can form as acne lesions heal; and the deeper the pimple, the more severe the scar. “In scarring acne, the walls of the follicle break at deeper levels in the skin,” she tells Bustle. “Deeper breaks release infected material lower in the skin layer, and the skin attempts to heal these breaks by forming new collagen, which results in a more severe scar.” Dr. Fusco adds that picking at spots makes them more likely to scar — so if you’re hoping to prevent scars from forming in the first place, keep your hands off your face. Dr. Gilbert notes that another way to prevent scarring is to treat acne the instant it appears, which curbs the formation of nodular or cystic acne (i.e., the kind that's more prone to scarring).
In terms of face masks, Dr. Fusco and Dr. Gilbert agree that retinol, vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are effective for resurfacing your skin and spurring collagen production. All together, they work to diminish the look of scarring, encourage new skin cells to develop, and prevent pimples from sprouting up in the future.
Full disclosure: At-home face masks may not be able to entirely banish intense or very deep scarring — for that, a visit to your dermatologist is really the best course of action. But with the six face masks for acne scars listed ahead, you should see brighter, calmer, and more even-looking skin after just one use.
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