How I Lightened Up The Stupid Marks My Acne Left Behind

Just when you're rejoicing over getting your acne to go away, you realize it's literally left a mark on your skin. Here are the products I used to fight this great injustice.

Before I say anything else can we talk about how much I love you all to death? You all literally and absolutely made my week after being so nice about my return to over-sharing and enthusiasm for face creams.

In return for how joyous you made me, as requested, I am gonna let y’all know how I got my skin back to normal, post-trauma-breakout.

So, it turns out that my distress at having bad skin didn’t stop when the acne cleared up because (duh) I was left with scarring. This prolonged my state of self-hatred and distress far longer that ought be acceptable for someone who spends so much time in therapy. What does having imperfect skin mean to me? How does it make me feel? It means I feel POWERLESS, OK?

However, I have been taught to see everything as a gift and opportunity to learn and in that weird, 12-steppy, Melody Beattie sense, it was a magical experience that gave me the chance to explore a new avenue of beauty products: skin-lightening treatments.

The idea of skin-lightening treatments previously reminded me of living in Cambodia and not being able to buy soap at the pharmacy without searching the product lists for bleach because it seemed to be everywhere. So, every time I saw a press release for a lightening serum, I started muttering words about ridiculous, colonial ideals of beauty; but actually, it turns out that the products weren’t about making everyone look like Anna Leonowens and I was being faintly oversensitive.

They are for post-acne scars. Duh. Chill out, angry young liberal Olivia. Not everything is about oppression.

So, firstly, I used Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector. The problems were mainly on my cheeks, so I also moisturized my whole face with Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Hydrating Moisture Emulsion (I wanted all the help I could get) and then applied the Clinique serum vaguely topically.

It was velvety and quick to absorb, and gentle enough to not cause dryness, which I was worried about as I kept assuming that “dark spot corrector” meant “bleach you clean your bathroom with.”

My second fear was that by applying new serums to my face, I would ruin my carefully balanced sebum levels and clog my pores, but this one is also an antioxidant so I felt safe. As an all-rounder, it was a winner and I was on a roll.

However, I wasn’t prepared to stop there, of course, because one is too many and a thousand never enough. So I thought I’d try out Fresh Peony Whitening Essence because it sounded so beautiful and has ingredients similar to a salad.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are my favourite acid (is it weird to have a favourite acid of a non-hallucinogenic type?) and are naturally found in fruits; although using fruit on my face hasn’t garnered much result, I was willing to try their lemony, liquorice-y blend.

My favourite thing about this was how moisturizing it was. I didn’t notice as drastic an effect as with the Clinique, but my skin had already started to heal by the time I used it so that could have something to do with it. (This was not a particularly rigorous scientific testing method. I love y’all, but I wasn’t prepared to put different products on each side of my face or anything mental like that, as I was feeling unbalanced enough as it was.)

Keeping your face moisturized is one of the best ways to help it heal, and this was so good at it that I started using this as my moisturizer after cleansing and then applying my third product locally to affected areas.

The jewel in my crown of products is Darphin Melaperfect. Not only did it help reduce blemishes within a few days, but it left my face feeling so delicately and velvety smooth that I kept wanting to touch it (but refusing to, because I have been left with an obsessive fear of touching my face and being responsible for another breakout).

It is the best texture I have ever found in a beauty product; even though that seems like a weird thing to say, it applies so evenly and gently that I felt like my facialist. It worked on the remnants of my scarring and helped with the general clarity of my skin tone, leaving me sexily dewy and glowy throughout the day, but not in a gross, clammy way.

Obviously, if you are looking to reduce scarring or marks on your skin, exfoliating is going to help. My problem with deeply exfoliating on sensitive skin is that I can get a little overzealous, so I generally prefer to stick to chemical cleansers, where I am less in control of their activity on my epidermis.

However, my all-time favourite exfoliator is Kiehl’s Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion, which is formulated with a naturally occurring silica from tiny bits of shell. So luxe.

It’s an incredibly fine exfoliant and, because it is made with shea butter, it’s easy to apply, and you only need a tiny amount, applied in a circular motion around your face and then rinsed off. But be warned: Only use for about a minute once a week because otherwise you risk thinning your top epidermal layer beyond repair.

The other exfoliant I consider to be life-changing is Dr Sebagh Deep Exfoliating Mask. Post-breakout, I was using the sensitive-skin variety, which was just as effective as the regular one, but reassured me with its label.

Again, I have to be careful with this because I like to leave my face masks on for twice the recommended time because MORE is always BETTER, right? But it isn’t, in this case. Ten minutes is all you need, once a week. Wash it off. You’ll glow. Leave it on for too long, it gets a bit burn-y. Not chic. Follow the instructions.

The final recommendation from my skin-changing remedies is REN Resurfacing AHA Concentrate. Like I said, I love a fruit acid, it feels tingly and effective but simultaneously fruity.

You pipette a tiny bit onto your skin overnight and it works its lemony, pineapple-y, grape-y magic to gently exfoliate and simultaneously promote moisture retention (as I said: vitally important--I cannot state that enough).

I’m sorry that none of these are as cheap as a lemon but, like I have said many a time before, if I factor them into my general mental-health expenses, they pale in comparison to the amount I have to spend on therapy mid-breakdown.

What has helped you guys with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (that’s the clinical word for it)? I love a good XO comment recommendation…