According to the NHS, approximately 95% of 11 to 30 year-olds will be affected by acne at some point. This is not so surprising considering we have an average of five million pores on the body with around 20,000 just on the face. Dr Zamani explains that “this value varies greatly with ethnicity and plateaus with age”.
Whilst pores can appear enlarged and become blocked, they allow our skin to breathe and rid the system of toxins, so they are vital.
Pores are most dense on the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back, where acne and scarring are most common. When these pores become plugged with oil and dead skin, acne begins to form. The severity of the acne generally corresponds to the amount of oil produced.
Here, we asked Dr Zamani to reveal ways to get rid of acne scars and pigmentation as quickly (and safely) as possible. And moreover, how to prevent acne in the first place!
What is the difference between acne scars and pigmentation?
Acne scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can both occur after a breakout, but the two are very different and so require a different approach to fading them.
“Acne scars occur when too much collagen forms in a particular area when a wound is healing” says Dr Zamani.
Unlike acne scarring, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is simply a form of skin pigmentation, much like sun damage. It occurs as a result of trauma to the skin. However, as it doesn’t damage the follicle, it isn’t actually considered a true form of scarring.
Much like the number of pores, certain skin types and tones are more likely to experience post-acne redness. “Darker skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation because of the increased levels of melanin in the skin. Whenever there is any trauma, the melanin cells jump into action to produce more melanin to defend and protect against that trauma,” Zamani says.
So, how can I prevent acne scarring?
“Firstly, do NOT mess with pimples as you can potentially spread bacteria, cause scarring and may make them appear more obvious.
Stretching skin can also cause damage, the pore is already stretched if it is blocked. Instead, ensure that you exfoliate skin regularly and visit an aesthetician if you want a steam and extraction”.
Hormonal surges in certain periods of life, hormonal imbalances, stress, genetics, diet, medications and grooming products can all have major contributions to the accumulation of sebum, dead skin and bacteria levels on the face.
Dr Zamani recommends “to properly address the skin with a good skincare routine to prevent or delay this accumulation process. Cleanse the face well, start exfoliating once a week and gently increase that to nightly. Sloughing off dead skin will prevent the pores from being blocked and help the flow of sebum to the skin’s surface where it functions to moisturize the skin. Ingredients that can help include salicylic acid, AHA, sulphur and retinoids.”
“Topical skincare is the first line of defence but if with persistent problems, topical prescription treatments may be necessary (retinoids, antibiotics, hormone therapy, Roaccutane (for example) or in office procedures like peels, microdermabrasion, extraction, and CO2 lasers for example).
Using a sterile device, white heads and black heads can be extracted by a trained medical professional as improperly done treatments can, as we know, cause scarring, infection or worse. The reason steam is often used is because it can loosen the debris within the pore, making it easier to extract. Squeezing is actually a way to stretch the pores, so it is best to leave this to professionals.”
The other great news is that there is a range of treatment options now available to help minimize or diminish acne scarring and pigmentation if it does occur.
What treatments do you recommend for acne scarring?
Microneedling is probably the best for scarring, and as a bonus, also helps reduce the signs of ageing. The process involves using tiny needles to create micro-punctures in the skin, which triggers cellular renewal, resulting in greater collagen and elastin production.
As with many treatments, the earlier this is done the better, as it’s much more challenging to treat old scars.
If your scars aren’t severe, a chemical peel could be a good option. “For less obvious scarring, having a clinical treatment with a low-pH acid will make a big difference” says Zamani.
When it comes to brightening the skin and diminishing hyperpigmentation, Zamani has also been a long-time advocate for vitamin C; the powerhouse antioxidant that also stimulates collagen production. MZ Skin’s Brighten & Perfect 10% vitamin C Corrective Serum is clinically proven to reduce pigmentation and brown spots by 39.7% over 4-6 weeks. To add some oomph to your regime, the Glow Boost Ampoules provide a 10-day programme of intensive serums featuring AHAs and Vitamin C to recharge any regime.
Of course, we cannot forget Retinol, or vitamin A for its use in preventing acne but also fading scarring and hyperpigmentation as it speeds up cell turnover. MZ Skin Retinol Skin Booster is 2% encapsulated retinol so suitable for more sensitive skin types and first-time vitamin A users alike.
In conjunction to the above suggested ingredients, light therapy has been shown to work on so many skin concerns, from loss of collagen to active breakouts, and research now also suggests that red LED in particular may help to reduce inflammation and prompt cellular repair, aiding the skin to recover from a breakout more effectively. The MZ Skin Light Therapy Golden Facial Treatment device also features blue light which can help balance and clarify an acne prone skin.
Are there any other lesser known treatments for acne scarring?
“Hyaluronic acid fillers are used not only for facial contouring but for a variety of other reasons. Helping improve acne scarring, plumping earlobes, impeding contour of the nose, improving horizontal neck lines, treatment of ageing hands, volumizing the temples and forehead… the list continues to grow” says Zamani.
Hyaluronic acid fillers can last anywhere between 2-24 months depending on the location of injection and the type of hyaluronic acid used.