According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), 50 million Americans suffer from acne per year, making it the most common skin disease. (85% of sufferers are between ages 12-24, who at least suffer minor acne.) The ADA further concludes that acne causes psychological and physical consequences. These include scarring, depression, low self-esteem, and poor self-image. This is why it’s important to know what causes pimple marks.

Pimple Marks And How To Treat Them

And the treatment options available to you. That way, you can minimize breakouts. And focus on healing your skin. Read on to learn how you can do this.

What’s a pimple?

Your skin is full of pores. Whether you know it or not, there are hair follicles in these pores.

In an ideal world, the oil (or sebum) your body produces goes through these pores and follicles without a problem.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Sometimes, a blocked hair follicle prevents the oil from leaving the poor. This results in the pore becoming clogged. (Otherwise known as a comedo.)  And bacteria grows in the pore.

The type of bacteria: Propionibacterium acnes. (Or P. acnes.)

Which is where acne got its name.

Difference between pimple marks and pimple scars

Many people believe both of these acne side effects are scars. But only one is. Read on to find out which one and why…

Pimple marks

Pimple marks (or acne marks) are referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

They’re red or brown spots on your skin from prior acne.

(People with fairer skin tend to get red spots. While people with darker skin usually get brown.)

The coloring is the inflammation, which takes place during the healing process. In other words, it’s a sign that your body is healing.

According to this article, these marks should go away within 3-6 months.

However, you can speed up the healing using salicylic acid, vitamin C serums, and retinoids.

Contrary to popular myth, these pimple marks aren’t actually scars.


A scar is permanent. These marks end up fading and going away.

Pimple scars

On the other hand, pimple scars (better known as acne scars) are permanent scars caused by acne.

This happens when the acne is deep within the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin.

The acne destroys the skin tissue. Your body ends up creating either too much or too little skin tissue after the acne is gone.

Which then results in acne scarring.

There are several types of acne scars.

Hypertrophic scars

These are thick and raised acne scars.


This is a raised scar, resulting from overproduced skin.

And they’re typically bigger than hypertrophic scars.

Atrophic scars

These acne scars are the opposite of hypertrophic scars. Instead of producing too much skin tissue, the body produces too little. Which results in a skin depression.

(These scars are the most difficult to take care of.)

Types of atrophic scars

Ice pick scars

The scar is deep and has jagged edges, resembling ice picks. Hence its name.

Boxcar scars

Unlike ice pick scars, these scars are broad, rectangular, and may be shallow.

Rolling scars

These scars are also broader. They have a sloping and rounded look.

Causes of acne

There are a number of reasons why someone may get pimple marks. Here’s a couple.

(Number three is surprising…)

1. Genetics

See if your parents had acne when they were younger. If they did, chances are, you will too.

2. Diet

More and more studies are coming out showing a link between acne and diet. More specifically, high glycemic and high sugar (and even high dairy) foods and substances cause this skin disease.

In fact, many non-westerners don’t suffer from acne. But, once they go to the west, they do get breakouts.

The western diet is the reason for this.

3. Your significant other has facial hair

According to a Cosmopolitan magazine article, facial hair or 5 o’clock shadow can cause friction on the other’s skin, triggering more oil production. Which may result in a sebum buildup, hence acne.

4. Not washing your face and taking a shower after a workout

When you work out, sweat oozes from your pores. But if you don’t shower or wash your face afterward, the sweat (plus the grime and oil) can build up.

5. Not washing your face twice a day

Similar to not working out, not washing your face in the morning and evening allows the dirt, sweat, and oil to increase.

6. Using a physical exfoliant during a breakout

Did you know physical exfoliants can worsen a breakout?

Yep. Especially if the physical exfoliant is beads or crystals.

These types of exfoliants will actually spread the acne to non-infected pores.

So, while using a physical exfoliant may seem beneficial, it’s not.

After your breakout is gone, go for a washcloth instead of beaded or crystal physical exfoliants.

7. Hormones

It’s common for women to get a couple pimples before their time of the month. This is because their hormones are fluctuating.

Also, it’s normal for teens to get breakouts because of puberty. Again, this is due to changing hormones.

8. Hats

If you don’t wash your hat, you could be reintroducing your face to grime and sweat. Which may cause a breakout on your forehead.

9. Sleep mask

Wearing a sleep mask at night can be therapeutic. But, like with hats, not frequently washing it will cause pimples.

10. Overusing chemical exfoliants

Salicylic acid helps heal acne. But overusing it will cause the skin to dry out. Which will trigger oil production. And, boom! Breakout.

The same effect can be said when overusing benzoyl peroxide.

11. Popping your pimples

Just like with using harsh physical exfoliants, popping your pimples can spread the bacteria to other areas of your face or body.

In fact, it’s recommended to not touch your face. If you do, wash your hands before.


Your hands have oil on them or have picked up grime from touching something else. You would be introducing that to your face.

12. Not getting a good night sleep

It’s recommended for adults to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. For teens, it’s even more.

Not getting a good night’s sleep can mess with your hormones.

As we mentioned earlier, hormonal fluctuations can lead to breakouts.

13. Using silicone-based makeup

Yes, silicone gives a smooth finish to your makeup. But it also clogs pores. Sad to say, many makeup companies use this ingredient. Which could end up wreaking havoc on your skin.

14. Fragrance in makeup

Besides silicone, fragrance can irritate skin and cause breakouts. Make sure to use fragrance-free makeup.

15. Smoking

Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that goes to your skin. Because of this, your skin may not only look dull and sullen, but have pimples too.

So, ditch the cigarettes.

How do you treat pimples?

Now that you know what causes pimples and pimple marks, learn how to treat them.

That way, you can banish breakouts for good.

1. Retin-A

Retin-A goes deeper than your standard physical exfoliant. It increases cell turnover. Which lightens up pimple marks.

And helps clear clogged pores, meaning fewer breakouts.

2. Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a component of Asperen, actually.

It lowers inflammation and chemically exfoliates skin.

This is great to use if you do have a breakout. Because it won’t spread the bacteria.

Make sure though that the salicylic ingredient you use doesn’t have fragrance in it.

3. Chemical peels

You can go to your licensed dermatologist or esthetician to get a high-grade chemical peel. This will help in evening out your skin tone and erasing pimple marks.

It will also stimulate collagen and elastin.

(Note, salicylic acid is a type of chemical peel. Licensed dermatologists and estheticians can use higher percentages of it. Lower percentages can be found at your local convenience store.)

4. Laser resurfacing

Pulse-dye laser (or V-Beam) is normally used to treat red scars. To help eliminate the appearance of acne scarring, you need more aggressive lasers such as the Fraxel laser or Erbium laser.

They focus on the deeper layers of your skin, which will stimulate enough collagen and elastin to minimize the appearance of acne scarring.

Note, that the outcome does depend on the individual, series of treatments, and the amount of downtime you wants to give up.

Also, know that you’ll want to wear a high grade and high SPF sunscreen afterward, as you basically have a new skin!

5. Steroid injections

These injections help flatten raised scars such as keloids.

6. Dermal fillers

Dermal fillers are great for atrophic scarring. They fill in the indented area, making the skin smoother.

Normally they’re a temporary fix, however, Bellafill has become the first FDA-approved permanent dermal filler.

7. Diet

Refrain from eating a lot of high glycemic and sugar foods. Which, as we mentioned earlier, leads to pimples, pimple marks, and breakouts.

Also, it’s best to limit the amount of dairy products. As studies have tied that to acne as well.

Acne, pimple marks, and acne scarring can be hard to deal with. Luckily, you can take proactive steps to reducing them.

If your acne does become out of control or is on the brink, consult a licensed dermatologist.

And, make sure you wear sunscreen. Especially if you’re using chemical exfoliants and peels.

For more information about pimple marks, acne scarring and breakouts, please contact us.