How to clear red marks left over after acne
December 2, 2004 4:57 PM   Subscribe

I used to have pretty bad acne, and I still get it occasionally. My problem isn't really the acne itself, but the discoloration it leaves afterwards. I don't seem to have any really noticable scars, since my skin is smooth, but it looks mottled and ruddy. Is there any way I can make what's left over from a year or so ago fade faster? Is there anything I can do to make new breakouts leave less of a mark? What are some good products for evening out skin tone?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
People in my family have always used Metrogel, although I am not sure it is indicated for what you are talking about. But tey have used it. And it is great.
posted by oflinkey at 4:57 PM on December 2, 2004

Vitamin E is good for softening scarring.
posted by Doohickie at 5:10 PM on December 2, 2004

I've had a similar problem a few years back...I'm incredibly fair-skinned and even though I didn't really have regular acne scarring, I had that same sort of mottled look. My dermatolgist prescribed a retinol-type creme, which (I believe) helps make the skin turn over faster, so you'll have "newer skin" sooner than you usually would. The only problem with it is that it can be pretty drying, so moisturize, moisturize!

Lastly, never underestimate the importance of a good diet and lotsa hydration for skin health. It's not a miracle cure, but it can help a lot in the short and long term.
posted by dicaxpuella at 5:40 PM on December 2, 2004

topically application of a salicylic acid-based solution works to rapidly peel skin and (as far as I know) reduces redness and scarring over a long period of time.
posted by puke & cry at 5:41 PM on December 2, 2004

Get on low dosage Accutane. Use it for 6-months and never worry about acne again. I never had bad acne, only enough to annoy me. Nothing seemed to help it since I'm an oily-skinned wop. Except Accutane, now I never get it.
posted by geoff. at 6:00 PM on December 2, 2004

I have pretty bad acne, and sometimes it leaves darker splotches when the cyst is gone. Haven't been able to find a way to quickly get rid of them but preventation - using benzoyle peroxide &/v salicylic acid before they get big - seems to help.

I now wash with chlorhexidine (it tends not to breed "resistant" bacteria as quickly as bedeviled antibiotics) and apply a moisturizer with glycolic acid (which helps exfoliation and encourages a more "spongy" collagen matrix so bacteria can get ejected out of pores before turning into acne) in the mornings, all of which help reduce the incidence of acne.

One other thing that I've noticed is that if I wash my hair before going to sleep or wash/switch around my pillow casings regularly, I get less acne - I'm thinking that the crap that I use to style my hair rubs off onto the pillow casing and then rubs into - and clogs - my pores, resulting in more acne. Of course, rotating several faceclothes in between laundry days will help lots, too.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 6:09 PM on December 2, 2004

Uh, the thing about Accutane is that it's got crazy weird side effects. I was on it for quite a while, so I experienced some of them. The package is covered in warnings like "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T GET PREGNANT" and stuff. It gave me horrible cotton-mouth and made my back creak and ache like some old man. It can also cause depression (there was a notable dip in my grades at school), and it can cause high cholesterol levels (they required a blood test every 3 weeks). This is why dermatologists are reluctant to prescribe it.

Oh, but if you're willing to put up with all this, it actually does work wonders. You can get rid of acne for the rest of your life, that is, if you don't kill yourself within that 6 month window.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 6:13 PM on December 2, 2004

geoff - I've heard great things about acutane and vitamin A based treatments (retinol) but I drink and I'm very worried about vitamin A toxicity.

I used to take cod liver oil for the vitamins A and D, which are supposed to help skin regeneration (and hence reduced acne) but I felt terrible after I drank heavily, which is often, but not when I'm dry for several days. Stopped the liver oil and the symptoms (such as poor apetite/nausea, hot flushes/sweating, head/muscle pains, and severe fatigue) stopped.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 6:15 PM on December 2, 2004

Accutane is GREAT for getting rid of acne (for quite a while, at least-- it does wear off for many people), however be warned that Accutane does severely weaken your skin. If you have a tendancy to pick at your skin, the marks left behind from a pimple will be much more severe, in my experience, if you're currently on Accutane. Also, if you do decide to go on Accutane, be prepared for a possible month of the worst acne you've ever had. Keep in mind, however, that this drug has different effects for different people, and also, that it is a VERY serious drug that can have severe health effects. It does a great job, however.

For scarring, i've found that many of the products on the market these days for anti-aging (those which contain acids and retinol, etc) tend to help minimize scarring/redness, provided that you STICK to it.

Also, I've heard much about the "vinegar regime" (mix vinegar with water, apply daily) and its scar reducing properties, but I've never used this long term.

There are also lactic acid facial peels, and the like, which are said to do good things for redness/scarring. I've never tried them either, however.

Make sure you're getting plenty of Vit. C, from citrus fruits. S'good for your skin and helps the healing process.

On preview: what buriednexttoyou said, as well. Although my doctors weren't too concerned about prescribing, and I didn't face any depression beyond the depression related to having the initial REALLY BAD acne for a month.
posted by stray at 6:18 PM on December 2, 2004

Oh, about the pillow cases: The oil in your hair gets onto the case and can cause acne. I suggest switching your pillow case every two days, and flipping it over in between. Also, if your hair is hanging over your forehead, that can cause forehead acne from the oil as well.

You could try using Head and Shoulder's as shampoo, too...the zinc has anti-acne properties.
posted by stray at 6:21 PM on December 2, 2004

Hmm... I'm going to try some of these too.
posted by holloway at 6:38 PM on December 2, 2004

also, Nizoral shampoo can be used to dry out more stubborn acne, but will temporarily increase redness mildly.
posted by puke & cry at 6:50 PM on December 2, 2004

I took Accutane and it only worked for about 3 years for me. I had every side effect in the book and was miserable the entire time I was on it. My insurance company also didn't want to pay for it because they said it was for vanity. My dermatoligist fought with the insurance company for quite awhile until they finally agreed to pay.
posted by whatideserve at 8:03 PM on December 2, 2004

Acne is a disease, and anyone who says acne treatment is just "for vanity" is ridiculous. Sorry that they did that to you, whatideserve. Very angering. Would you deny someone treatment for eczema, or rosacea, or other disfiguring diseases? Bah, people suck sometimes.
posted by stray at 8:11 PM on December 2, 2004

I've done Accutane..... twice! Both times it worked for a number of years, but eventually wore off. I guess I have bionic oil glands. Anyway, I wouldn't recommend anyone wade into it lightly. It is pretty major stuff.

As for the actual question in the post -- there's a number of products out now that are marketed for Rosacea, so do some research in that direction. They'll help your problem too.
posted by spilon at 9:03 PM on December 2, 2004

If you go with Accutane, read up on it first. Granted, it works great. I took it in my early twenties, and it did the job that no other treatment had ever done. My complexion has been 300% better for over 7 years now.

However, my eyes always feel dry, my lips chap easily, my night vision is terrible, and I've had a pain at the bottom of my ribcage for years. It got so bad that I ended up in the emergency room. I wouldn't even think about a connection with the Accutane if I hadn't heard things like this before.

And since you never asked about Accutane, back to your question. Try to find an alpha or beta hydroxy that requires a toner (or your skin will burn). You might have to try a spa or a beauty supply place that caters to professionals. The usual over the counter stuff is not as strong as it could be, since people can't be counted on to us a toner all the time, and lawsuits could ensue.
posted by bh at 9:05 PM on December 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

Accutane has some serious side effects, which I would try to avoid if you can find other solutions to your acne. Treat the acne before it starts, not the scars afterwards. Benzoyl peroxide is a wonderful thing, but can dry the skin. Stick with the wash if you can; it protects without too much drying. You may want to get some prescription antibiotics to ward off attacks if you are young, say under 23 or so. If you are older, I think you want to try to find other solutions as a lifelong course of antibiotics can not be a good thing.
posted by caddis at 11:08 PM on December 2, 2004

ProActiv Solution (yes, the stuff of late-night infomercials) really works. The basic package is a 3-product regimen which more than a few of my friends and I think is pretty amazing stuff in terms of clearing up current break-outs and preventing future ones. They also sell stuff specifically to even skin tones.
posted by Alylex at 3:28 AM on December 3, 2004

When I was younger, you could buy a product containing colloidal sulpher in some form that you put on your face, and it worked, so of course they quit making it. The idea was it left a thin layer of sulpher (which has antibiotic properties) on your skin, and as you touched your face, the stuff killed the germs you were tracking around before they had a chance to get into the pores and make trouble. Maybe if you asked the pharmacist or the doctor, somebody is still making something like that. It wasn't visible on the skin, although it did have a faint odor when first applied. Seems like such a simple thing, and not systemic.

If you get a tiny patch of spider veins on an old scar, I found something that fixes that. (This is not intended for large areas of redness, only the spiders.) I asked this question every time I wandered through the dermatologist's office, the answer was always something high-tech and expensive, not covered by insurance, and "Of course, we charge by the lesion", and they bring in the lasers or whatever by appointment once a month. They were talking like 1K$ to do the job, so you figure if you ever win the lottery, you'll get your face fixed. The last time I asked that one, it was an old dermatologist and he told me we have this machine in the back, and it's covered under the cost of an office visit. It turns out to be something like a Tesla coil, and for 20$ co-pay, that nice man harvested about 12 of them in maybe 15 minutes. The pain was in the range of a heavy stinging sensation, but only lasts a few seconds. Everyone who knew me swore they never noticed, but I did, and it made me feel better.

IANAD, but I have a large bottle of Tylenol on my desk at the office.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:04 AM on December 3, 2004

all of the products i use are just OTC, so they may not be strong enough for you, but this routine has really helped clear up my skin and even it out. i always use a salicylic acid facewash like Neutrogena followed by two creams -- one alpha-hydroxy (the one that comes in a red box called "Alpha-Hydrox" is, i believe, the strongest OTC one available) and a retinol cream (i like ROC, but there are tons at the drugstore to choose from). basically, this means i'm exfoliating my face like crazy, and it works! the best thing is that you don't need a prescription or a trip to the dermatologist or the mall, etc. i absolutely swear by this method because when i get lazy about it my skin goes right back to blotchy breakouts.
posted by katie at 5:18 AM on December 3, 2004

I work in a department that is linked with a facial cosmetic surgery clinic and they recommend a for-sale-by-doctor-only product called MD Forte (not a prescription). There are several different formulas (apparently you work your way up to the highest level, but I have been on the first level for awhile and it has helped enormously). They recommend one of the moisturizers to people who have had chemical peels. Glycolic acid is the main active incredient for the products I use - Facial Cleanser and Facial Lotions. I have recently stopped using foundation daily since I starting using it, about 6 months ago.
posted by blackkar at 10:53 AM on December 3, 2004

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