Scarring is a problem that makes people turn to Botox, fillers, lasers, chemical peels, and various other forms of cosmetic surgery. After all, it can affect a person emotionally as well as physically, leading to a lack of confidence about their looks.
But there’s now much that can be done to reduce the appearance of scars, often in the sanctuary of your own bedroom.
I have over 30 years’ experience as a dermatologist and a global reputation as an expert in diminishing scarring and in my view, there’s far too much abuse of treatments such as Botox and fillers. Instead, we should focus on improving the skin’s condition through a simple three-step approach of exfoliating, cleansing, then nourishing, to convince the tissue to repair itself.
Victoria Beckham’s skin is looking flawless (l) but she had an acne breakout in 2007 (r)
It’s the regime I recommended to Victoria Beckham to tackle her scarring and today her complexion is completely clear – yet she hasn’t had a jot of Botox.
Exfoliation stimulates natural protein production in the upper layer of the dermis, increases oxygen flow and encourages enzyme protein production in the stratum cornea – the deepest layer of skin – which triggers self-repair.
Cleansing removes any remaining debris, while applying an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory moisturiser nourishes and calms the skin.
But there must be at least 10,000 skincare brands worldwide, each making heroic claims about dramatic results yet creating only confusion. So, let me explain what you really need to do and which products to use to effectively reduce the most common scars…
At some point in their lives, about 99 per cent of the world’s population has acne, whether it’s red, scaly spots, pustules, or painful lesions caused by excess oil production. And because acne is so common, so is its scarring.
Once the acne has gone, you can be left with pitted ‘craters’ or discoloration in the form of red or brown marks. To tackle this, you must commit to the exfoliate, cleanse, moisturise regime every evening for three to six months.
Exfoliate each night – or every other if your skin is sensitive – to stimulate cell renewal. In the morning, simply cleanse and moisturise. I’ve been seeing Victoria for years and this is exactly how she transformed her skin.
A good exfoliator will contain both a mechanical component, such as sodium bicarbonate, magnesium oxide or quartz crystals, and an enzyme protein component such as pomegranate or pumpkin extract. These mechanical components are natural, non-toxic, non-sensitising disruptors of the top layer of skin, which stimulates oxygen transfer.
The enzymatic component – usually a plant extract – helps dissolve the glue between dead skin cells. To really improve scar tissue, look for nourishing products containing certain ingredients. Firstly, retinol – a form of Vitamin A – which increases cell production in the skin’s top layer. Your product should also include Vitamin C – ascorbic acid – which helps to rejuvenate skin, and Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.
If you can’t afford my products – available in Harrods – go to your high street chemist and ask what the most popular exfoliators, cleansers and moisturisers are in store.
Stick to one brand because its products will complement one another, reducing the chance of irritation. I’d recommend Neutrogena, RoC or Aveeno.
For acne scarring on the back, where the skin is thick, use an exfoliator designed for the body, a shower wash containing salicylic acid – commonly used to treat acne and blemishes (Neutrogena makes one) – and body moisturiser with one or all of the key ingredients.
If scarring remains prominent after six months, you may need a resurfacing laser treatment or chemical peel.
These are effective but expensive, and painful as they work by creating inflammation in a controlled fashion to stimulate the skin to self-repair. Nobody other than a plastic surgeon or dermatologist should ever carry out this treatment. Contact the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons or British Association of Dermatologists for recommended practitioners.