By their very nature, scars are enduring, stamped on our skin for the rest of time. Sometimes, we’re proud of them like we’re proud of our tattoos. Maybe they tell a cool story or remind us of something we’ve overcome. But acne scars are a whole different ballgame. If you’re anything like the average guy, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t mind saying goodbye to these suckers forever.

Here’s are three of the things you need to know:

  1. Acne scars are caused by inflamed lesions. The tissues are destroyed, prompting your body to create scar tissue, which is not as smooth.
  2. Acne scars can be prevented with the right products and routine, and there are a few proven methods to erasing the ones you already have.
  3. General rule: It’s tough, but do your best to resist the urge to pop pimples and pick scabs, as this can lead to permanent acne scarring.

Like any skin concern, the best treatment for acne scars is prevention, and the best tool for prevention is a sensible, simple skin care regimen. Taking care of our skin seems like something that would come naturally to us, but here’s the thing: it’s convoluted. It’s quite literally chemistry. Tiege Hanley is here to untangle the seemingly complicated web that is men’s skin care, all in the pursuit of smooth, clear skin—sans acne scarring.

The Root of the Issue

So what causes acne scars? Typically, these marks are the result of inflammation from a lesion, a papule, pimple or a cyst. They occur when an inflamed pore fills with excess oil, dead skin cells or bacteria. When the pore swells, it causes a break in the follicle wall. When the rupture occurs near the surface of the skin, it’s usually a pretty minor issue. The most serious lesions occur when there is a deep rupture in the follicular wall. The infected material spills out and destroys healthy skin tissue, creating the early stages of an acne scar.

The body’s natural response is to repair the broken tissues by forming new collagen fibers. As the wound heals, sometimes the body produces too much collagen. Collagen is the stuff scars are made of. The strong, flexible protein creates uneven or discolored scar tissue, which never looks as smooth and flawless as pre-injury skin.

How to Treat Acne Scars

Prevent Excess Oil Buildup

As we now know, our pores become inflamed when there’s excess oil and bacteria on our skin. One of the best ways to prevent this buildup is to wash your face often. Make sure to pick up a good men's face wash for oily skin and use it at least once a day. The right daily cleanser will help clean up your skin and allow your pores to breathe, free of the gunk that triggers acne in the first place. An ounce of proverbial prevention really does go a long way, at least when it comes to skin care.

 Man splashing water on his face over the bathroom sink

Treat Acne as Soon as it Develops

Scarring occurs with heavily-inflamed lesions. By treating the acne before it worsens, you’re effectively arming the skin with the tools it needs to prevent scarring in the future. Step one is to wash your face regularly and occasionally use an exfoliating scrub (we suggest using it twice a week). Exfoliating encourages the growth of fresh, new skin, so your mug feels silky-smooth.

Another great way to combat acne is by using an effective acne cream. You want to look for a cream that contains salicylic acid, which is one of the best known ingredients for combating acne. While it thoroughly clears out pores, salicylic acid can also be drying, so be sure to pick a treatment that’s also infused with hydrating ingredients, like KuKui Nut Oil.

Don’t Pop Pimples

No matter how tempting it might be to pop a pimple, don’t do it! Squeezing a pimple can push all of that infected material deeper into your pores and aggravate the issue. That is the quickest shortcut to an unsightly scar on your face. Resist the urge and instead, allow the blemish to heal on its own.

Acne Scars: What Causes Them and How to Treat Them

Don’t Pick at Scabs

Just like pimples, picking at scabs is tempting in the moment, but it will only aggravate your issues in the long-run. A scab is your body’s natural protection while your wounds heal. Picking a scab prematurely will delay the healing process and increase the chance of scarring.

Consult with Your Physician

While quality men’s skin care products can make a huge difference in your battle against acne scarring, sometimes you might need additional help. If you get large cysts or deep breakouts, make sure to check with your dermatologist to ensure that you don’t have any treatable skin conditions that could lead to permanent scarring. More intensive treatments, like laser resurfacing or facial fillers, may be a good option for erasing those scars that really won’t budge.