Growing up with acne is painful — but having signs of that acne left behind in adult life can be even more painful. Studies have shown that adults with moderate to severe acne scars are subject to more obstacles in both their careers and social lives than clear-skinned adults. Fortunately, there are ways to treat scarring that are safe, effective, and won’t cost a fortune.

Be patient. Acne scars look their worst within the first few weeks because the body is transporting fresh blood to the scars to begin healing them. In many cases, scars fade within a few months to a year.

Hands off. As unattractive as pimples may be, picking at or squeezing them can leave even more unattractive results. Opening the wound can allow bacteria deeper into the skin, which damages the collagen and causes scarring. Avoid the temptation to take things into your own hands.

Traditional remedies may make matters worse. Vitamin E and sunlight are both touted as good cures for skin problems, but they don’t make for effective acne treatment. Extended direct sunlight on scars can actually make them more visible by increasing the pigmentation. As for Vitamin E, it has been shown to have little to no effect in most patients, and may even cause contact dermatitis.

Use cortisone creams. Scarring is caused by inflammation, which damages the collagen in your skin. Cortisone creams are a safe, effective over-the-counter way to calm inflammation.

Go natural. Lightening creams to reduce skin pigmentation exist, but not all of them are safe — some popular brands can cause irritation and may cause cancer. Instead, look for creams with natural ingredients like vitamin C, bearberry extract, and kojic acid.

Consider professional treatment. If nothing else works and you can afford it, look into professional acne treatment. Filler injections can help fill in scarring, and produce great results as long as you go back to get them redone on a regular basis. Some dermatologists also offer laser treatments that increase collagen production and help to even out the surface of your skin.

It’s always best to check with a physician before pursuing any kind of treatment on one’s own. But with research, common sense, and patience, it’s possible to get rid of embarrassing scarring and discolouration safely and effectively.