Whether acne leaves a scar or not, primarily comes down to the amount of inflammation, how long it lasted, and how much trauma it has caused to your skin.
The worse the inflammation and the longer it persists, the more likely you are to scar.
In order to minimize acne scarring, both the dark spots or hyperpigmentation and indentation scars, you want to minimize the amount of inflammation in your skin AND the length of time it sticks around. So, below are 4 ways to prevent acne scars:
4 Ways to Prevent Acne Scars
1. Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Usually when people have a pimple, they are reaching for topical solutions – but acne is an inflammatory disease. Multiple studies have shown that people with acne, psoriasis, and other chronic inflammatory skin conditions don’t just have inflammation in their skin, they have higher levels of inflammation throughout the entire body.
One of the most powerful tools you have to combat inflammation is your diet. So, eat more anti-inflammatory foods and minimize pro-inflammatory foods in order to speed the healing of acne and minimize the risk of scarring.
- Foods rich in omega-3, such as wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel, or cod. I highly recommend you try my 5-spice salmon recipe. Not only is it delicious, it contains additional anti-inflammatory spices. For plant-based sources of omega-3, try chia seeds, ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, or walnuts.
- Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice. Some studies suggest it is just as effective, if not more effective than some common anti-inflammatory drugs at reducing inflammation. Most studies suggest to aim for ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder daily with food. Try this melt-in-your-mouth Curry Tahini Cauliflower or Crispy Chickpeas.
- Ginger contains powerful antioxidants and is another effective anti-inflammatory food. Try a fresh ginger tea or this garlic ginger beef bowl with cauli rice.
- Vegetables and fruit in general are anti-inflammatory. Dark leafy greens (like arugula, broccoli, and chard), and bright orange ones (like carrots and butternut squash) are particularly beneficial. These provide beta carotene and Vitamin C, which are helpful for wound repair (in case you popped something).
- Zinc-rich foods, like oysters, red meat, sprouted beans and pumpkin seeds, support our immune system and aid in wound repair. Zinc-rich foods provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Inflammation starts in the gut, which is why food is so powerful and effective at increasing or decreasing it.
2. Eat Less Processed Foods
It’s best to minimize highly processed and refined foods like refined sugar or refined carbohydrates at least until your skin heals. These foods may promote inflammation, adding fuel to the (acne) fire. So swap white rice for brown rice, pasta night for salmon and veggies, and milk chocolate for dark chocolate sweetened with monk fruit or date sugar. I’d also recommend upgrading your oils – so replacing vegetable oils like corn or soy oil with olive oil for example.
For any processed food you like – there is a healthier upgrade for it! Below are a few of my faves. If there is a food you want an upgrade for, drop it in the comments below and I can give you some ideas.
Chocolate + Protein: This hazelnut dark chocolate contains 10g of protein per serving, primarily from grass-fed collagen. Sweetened with coconut sugar.
Keto Cups: Dark chocolate sweetened with monk fruit and stuffed with coconut butter, almond butter, or hazelnut butter.
3. Consume Adequate Protein
Protein is really important during the wound healing process, as it provides the building blocks for your skin to repair itself. Research shows that abnormal production and degradation of collagen plays a significant role in the formation of acne scars, particularly the indented ones. (1)
So, add some collagen powder to your smoothies, drink bone broth, and make sure you’re having adequate protein at each meal, which will vary from person to person. Most functional medicine experts suggest to consume between 1.2 to 1.6 grams or protein daily, per kg of your ideal body weight, and possibly more if you’re very athletic.
So, for example, a 140 pound (63.5 kg) woman should aim for 76-102 grams of protein per day.
4. Do Not Pop Your Pimple
Finally, what ever you do, do not pop your pimples.
Squeezing a pimple will generally make the inflammation worse and cause a pimple to stick around longer than it would otherwise, increasing the chance of scarring. In addition, popping a pimple may result in a small, local infection which creates more inflammation and you may inadvertently spread acne elsewhere on your skin.
So step away from the mirror. Do not allow yourself more than an arms length distance. Magnifying mirrors are inhumane torture devices and need to go in the trash.
Use a cotton swab to put on a topical anti-inflammatory, such as tea tree oil. If it is one of those deep red bumps that haven’t come to a head, you can put some ice on it to bring some of the redness down so it’s not as noticeable.
If it’s a white head, you may want to put a hydrocolloid patch on – this will help prevent picking and it will also absorb some of the pus. It helps to deflate a pimple overnight and minimize scarring.