December 18, 2020
One of the most common questions we get in our clinic is how our patients can get rid of acne scarring. This often comes up after a client goes through our acne clinical protocol and has maintained consistently clear (blemish-free) skin. It can be frustrating to finally be acne free, but dealing with the pesky spots that linger on long after the final blemishes have healed.
Let's first recognize that there are a few different categories of scarring. For the purpose of this post, we'll be discussing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), but it's important to note that acne scarring can also include hypertrophic acne scarring caused by damage to the skin matrix and leaving indentations. There's also keloid scarring, which are the raised scars caused by an overproduction of collagen in a response to skin injury. No one completely understands what causes some individuals to be more prone to keloid scarring, although studies suggest that individuals with darker skin are more prone to keloid formation.
In post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), however, these dark brown or red spots form after a skin injury, infection, or bacteria triggers the inflammatory process within the epidermis. This process in turn, "switches on" the melanocytes in the skin, which then produce melanin (the pigment) and leaks it into the skin which results in the spots we see on the surface of our skin.
Now that we know how the pigment happens in the first place, let's talk about how to get rid of it. There are topical ingredients that can be especially helpful when lightening and brightening the skin when used consistently, including arbutin, soy, vitamin C, and even skincare systems designed specifically to reduce the pigment associated with sun damage or PIH, including our favorite MelanoLyte Tx and Serum combination, which is one of the few professional systems clinically proven to treat the pathways involved in producing melanin. Lasers are also extremely effective in treating these marks quickly, promoting new collagen production and breaking up the pigmented cells.
Here's the kicker with ANY of these treatment options, though... you MUST wear sunscreen.
Well, to put it simply, if you don't, you're turning on the heat while opening all the doors and windows in the dead of winter.
We talked about how melanocytes are turned on by inflammation in the skin, but what we also need to point out is that the process of melanogenesis (the complex process in which melanocytes create melanin in melanosomes) is sustained by UV light. So, in essence, the melanocytes are turned on by inflammation, but they are 'fed' by exposure to UV light. You can use the most expensive serums and do the fanciest in-clinic treatments, but if you're still neglecting to put the SPF on in the mornings (EVERY morning - EVERY season), those melanocytes are still purring along and producing the very pigment you're trying to lighten.
So, arm up with your favorite SPF (ours is this tinted daily shield), and let's get to lightening and brightening!
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