How To Prevent Acne Scars After Popping A Pimple

Here's how to get rid of acne scars once and for all.

You popped your pimple, even though you’ve been told not to. Now what?

It feels like a vicious cycle that can’t be broken, no matter how well you take care of your skin. According to Dr. Sandra Lee — aka Dr. Pimple Popper — the way you treat a pimple affects how (and if) a scar forms. Before you swear off popping for good, you should also know there’s a huge difference between a true acne scar and an acne mark, which is what most of us call acne scars. A true acne scar is an indentation in the skin usually caused by picking at a pimple. An acne mark is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

“[Acne marks] are surface marks left on our skin post-breakout that can appear as more pink or more brown depending on skin tone,” Lee told HuffPost. “These are not technically scars and are actually areas of melanin deposits that will eventually fade over time as your skin cells regenerate.”

On the other hand, scars happen when the body tries to heal an inflammatory zit that has broken the skin. Acne scars can happen even if you summon the willpower to leave that pesky pimple alone, but they’re more likely to appear (and take longer to disappear) if you don’t treat the pimple properly, like popping or picking at it. The more inflamed the pimple, the more likely it is to scar, and the more severe the scar will be.

“Look for ingredients that help exfoliate the skin’s surface like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, and encourage cell turnover and regeneration with retinol."”

- Dr. Sanda Lee, known as Dr. Pimple Popper

While Lee warns against popping your own pimples, she knows we’re all guilty of it. After all, she knows better than anyone that there’s an obsession with pimple popping. If you must pop one, make sure it has a white/yellow head, which has the least risk of scarring since it’s close to the skin’s surface. Once it’s gone, use the right products to speed up the healing process and hopefully avoid an acne mark altogether. Lee even has her own line of products including cleansers, retinols and SPF to promote healthy skin.

“Look for ingredients that help exfoliate the skin’s surface like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, and encourage cell turnover and regeneration with retinol,” Lee says. “And of course be sure you are using SPF. Sun exposure is only going to darken those marks even more.”

While maintaining a good skincare routine is the best way to prevent acne marks in the first place, there are plenty of products out there that’ll help you reduce the acne scars, marks and discoloration you currently have. That said, it’s worth noting that people with sensitive skin and darker skin tones might want to steer clear of certain acids that can potentially lead to unwanted discoloration, so double check the ingredients and talk to your dermatologist before trying anything too strong.

Still, if you’re ready to find some of the best products for acne scars and dark spots, we’ve rounded up a ton of options below, including salicylic acid to deep-clean pores and glycolic acids to exfoliate dead skin cells, as well as retinols for new cell growth and SPF for all-around protection.

Take a look below:

FYI, HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.

Salicylic Acid Cleanser: Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser
Salicylic Acid Cleanser: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Deep Cleansing Foaming Cream
Salicylic Acid Cleanser: Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Cleanser
Glycolic/Salicylic Acid Treatment: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
Glycolic/Salicylic Acid Treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads
Glycolic/Salicylic Acid Treatment: Glossier Solution
Glycolic/Salicylic Acid Treatment: Kate Somerville EradiKate Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment
Glycolic/Salicylic Acid Treatment: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
Retinol: Drunk Elephant A-Passioni™ Retinol Cream
Retinol: Murad Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Serum
Retinol: SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream
Salicylic Acid Treatment: Dr. Pimple Popper Acne Spot Treatment
Sandra Lee MD
Salicylic Acid Treatment: Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
Salicylic Acid Treatment: The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
Salicylic Acid Treatment: Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil
Salicylic Acid Treatment: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Acne Clearing Pads With White Clay
Lactic Acid & Retinol Treatment: Sunday Riley Power Couple Kit
SPF: Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40
SPF: Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Photo-Brightening Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
SPF: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46