My acne has gotten better but now I am left with dark marks and acne scars. How can I get rid of these?
Our goal is to treat and prevent active acne. But once acne goes away, there are often red or brown spots at prior sites and the skin might not actually look better, which can be very disheartening. The good news is that skin discoloration is not permanent. It will fade on its own. Red spots can take about 6 months to fade after acne has resolved, while hyperpigmented spots can take up to a year. Once this discoloration does fade (and it will!), your skin will really look clear.
Daily sun protection is very important to help this discoloration fade more quickly. You should use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every morning and wide-brimmed hats whenever outdoors. Regular use of tretinoin can help hyperpigmentation fade more quickly by increasing cell turnover. Other agents such as azelaic acid and hydroquinone can also be helpful. If you would think you would benefit from one of these other prescription medications, please submit a follow-up visit to your dermatologist.
Scars are permanent depressions (or pits) in the skin. Tretinoin is the best topical medication for treating mild acne scars. Tretinoin builds up collagen after 6 months with continued improvement with further use. It can help improve the appearance of scars but is unlikely to get rid of deep acne scarring. Procedures such as lasers or acid peels are the most effective for this type of scarring, which would require an in person dermatologist consultation.