Say Goodbye for Good: How to Get Rid of Acne Scars
Acne scars usually form when the body’s natural healing process produces excess collagen in the skin.
There are several different types of acne scars, including atrophic and hypertrophic variants. Certain types of scars require different treatments from others.
Some professional acne scar treatments include regular chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and dermal fillers.
Other treatment options include using over-the-counter (OTC) creams and products with ingredients that are specifically designed to target scarring.
Having acne scars can significantly impact your confidence, self-esteem, and even your mental health.
It’s perfectly normal to care about the way your skin looks or be concerned about how others perceive you.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can treat acne scars so that they're gone for good.
In fact, there are some strategies you can follow to prevent acne scars from forming in the first place.
In this article, we will discuss the various treatments available for acne scarring and how you can avoid scars altogether.
Understanding Acne Scars
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), acne affects up to 50 million people living in the U.S.
Many of these people now live with scars — especially those who have experienced severe acne.
While there are a number of causes of acne, poor wound healing is responsible for acne scars.
What causes acne scars?
Understanding how acne scars occur will help you choose a treatment option that works best for you.
The beginning of acne
Acne usually occurs when the hair follicles on the skin become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. This can lead to inflammation and infection, which causes pimples, cysts, or nodules on the skin.
The formation of scars
Scars start to develop as a part of the skin’s natural healing process following inflammation and infection.
When the skin becomes damaged by acne lesions, excess collagen forms where the wound is healing. The scar develops in a layer of the skin called the dermis, where the inflammation caused by the acne is formed.
Severe scars are more likely to develop when the inflammation affects deeper layers of the skin.
This impacts the collagen and elastin fibers that form the skin’s structure, resulting in the formation of scar tissue.
Types of acne scars
Not all acne scars are the same. There are several types of acne scars, each with different causes and characteristics.
This is a type of acne scar that results from a loss of tissue due to the inflammation and poor wound healing associated with a breakout. There are three types of atrophic scars:
Rolling scars: These scars have a wave-like appearance, which is caused by bands of tissue that form below the skin’s surface
Ice pick scars: Deep yet narrow scars that look like small punctures in the skin. They often appear with a steep, v-shaped edge
Boxcar scars: This type of scar has well-defined edges with a flat base. Boxcar acne scars tend to have wider depressions than other scar types
Keloid and hypertrophic scars
These acne scars develop when the skin produces too much collagen during the wound-healing process. This can often cause discolored and raised scars on the skin.
Hypertrophic scars: These are raised scars, but they usually stay within the boundary of the original lesion caused by acne
Keloid scars: This is also a raised scar, but it extends beyond the original site of the acne-induced wound
Professional Acne Scar Treatments
There are several professional treatments available that you may want to consider for acne scars. However, many of them are only available to people over the age of 20.
This treatment aims to resurface the skin without using any chemicals. It works by gently and effectively removing the first layer of the skin without damaging it.
Laser treatment can also target blood vessels in the skin, which can help to flatten raised scars, especially if the scars are pink or purple in color.
A pulsed dye laser may be used if you have acne scars and hyperpigmentation — which we will discuss later.
You will typically need several laser sessions to achieve the results you’re after and effectively treat acne scarring.
This resurfacing procedure can only be done in a doctor's or dermatologist’s office to ensure it is done correctly and safely.
Key Point: Don’t Be Alarmed by Your Skin’s Appearance After Professional Treatments
Laser and other professional treatments can cause swelling and redness. It may even make the skin bleed.
But you shouldn’t be too concerned by this as it is part of the healing process. These after-effects typically only last for about five days after the treatment.
A peel involves applying a chemical solution to the skin. It forms a blister on the skin, which will eventually peel off, resulting in regenerated skin that is usually smoother and less scarred.
Chemical peels are usually much cheaper than laser procedures as you only need one treatment. However, it is less precise than laser resurfacing.
Micro-needling (collagen induction therapy)
This procedure involves a pen or roller with tiny needles that create micro holes in the top layer of the skin.
The purpose of this treatment is to stimulate collagen production, which can improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of acne scars.
You would typically need between four to six micro-needling sessions to achieve effective results.
You may think that fillers are only used to treat wrinkles or for cosmetic purposes. However, they are also an effective way to help with acne scars, especially those that are sunken into the skin.
Soft tissue fillers are often recommended by doctors and dermatologists to treat atrophic acne scars in particular.
Injecting fillers may relax the skin surrounding the scars, which can help reduce their appearance.
The downside to this procedure is that the results are temporary, so you’ll need regular treatments if you want to maintain the effect that they have on the skin.
Often carried out before laser or peel procedures, subcision is when a scar that is bound to a muscle or deeper tissue is released. This means it can then move freely and start to heal.
This process involves inserting a surgical needle into deeper scars to move them to the surface of the skin.
Doing this may enhance the results you achieve with other treatments mentioned above.
Understanding Skin Surgery for Deep Acne Scars
If the treatments described above don’t work for you or are not suitable for the kind of acne scars you have, you might want to consider a minor surgery called punch excision.
This is usually appropriate for very deep or pitted acne scars that don’t respond to other treatments.
The procedure involves removing the entire scar and hair follicle using a round tool that punctures the top layer of the skin.
Sutures are then used to close the hole, resulting in a minor flat scar that should fade relatively quickly.
Acne Scar Creams and Topical Treatments
Aside from the procedures and treatments outlined above, there are other ways you can improve acne scars that are potentially less invasive.
This can be done by using over-the-counter creams or topical treatments with ingredients — also called actives — that are designed to prevent, target, and reduce acne scarring.
Here are some acne-fighting ingredients that you may want to consider:
This is a class of compounds that are made from vitamin A. Retinoids work by increasing and improving the rate at which skin cells reproduce.
This reduces the amount of dead skin on your face and encourages new cell growth.
This medication is particularly useful for treating hypertrophic scars and keloids. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, and inflammation is a large part of a scar’s development.
Corticosteroids can also lessen the amount of collagen that is produced on the skin, which — as we explained earlier — can form acne scars. Vitamin C serums
Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant often found in skincare serums and creams. Vitamin C regulates collagen and helps with skin repair.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
Whether they’re in a serum, cream, or cleanser, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can reduce skin inflammation and decrease acne scars. Alpha hydroxy acids to look for in skincare products include:
- Salicylic acid
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
Key Point: Consistency is Key
Regardless of which active ingredients you choose to use on your acne scars, the most important thing is that you are consistent with your skincare regimen.
Only carrying out your skincare routine a couple of days a week isn’t going to make much of a difference in diminishing your scars.
Topical treatments won’t necessarily have to be applied each day, but you should at least cleanse and moisturize your skin twice a day.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Acne Scars
There are certain lifestyle changes and steps you can take to prevent or diminish scars.
- Pick at or pop your pimples, as this increases the chance of scarring
- Let your hair become too greasy, as oily hair can cause acne on your forehead
- Constantly switch treatments because they’re not working. It may take several weeks or even a few months to see a difference from a product or treatment
- Maintain a healthy and balanced diet
- Manage your stress levels
- Practice proper sun protection and avoid tanning beds
- Stay hydrated
- Use gentle, alcohol-free cleansers
How to Prevent Acne Scars
You can prevent scarring by managing acne properly. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Treat your acne early by taking action as soon as lesions start to appear
- Avoid harsh products, especially those that contain astringents, as these can cause inflammation that results in acne and scarring
- Always do a patch test before starting a new skincare product, especially if you have sensitive skin
- Don’t pick at the scabs that form after a pimple or any other type of acne
- It’s a good idea to avoid using harsh scrubs which can increase inflammation
- Speak to a dermatologist about the various options available to you, especially if you have acne-prone skin
Key Point: Get Help for Your Acne Online
With LifeMD you can get comprehensive and effective treatment for your acne scars online.
Simply visit our website to make an appointment with a healthcare professional to discuss your acne scars and find out what the best treatment is for your specific needs.
We have extensive experience in treating all kinds of acne scars and can even prescribe medications and treatments that you aren’t able to get over the counter.
Where Can I Learn More About Treatments for Acne Scars?
Book an online appointment to speak to a licensed medical professional to learn more about treatment options to get rid of your acne scars.
Visit our site to make an appointment with LifeMD.