Consult with a dermatologist about treatment options and management techniques. They will determine what type of acne scar(s) you have and recommend the best treatments based on your wants and the location of the scarring.
Get in touch as soon as possible. Delays in treatment increase the severity of acne scarring.
Will my current acne breakouts interfere with the treatment for my acne scars?
Yes! Your skin needs to be blemish-free before you start treatment for your acne scars. Medications and treatments used on acne can interfere with medications and treatments used on scars.
What at-home treatments are most effective for removing acne scars?
Over-the-counter creams are best. Check with your dermatologist regarding which is best for your skin type and your type of scar. There are a variety of effective creams out there. They include the following chemicals, or a combination of:
- Alpha hydroxy acids.
- Lactic acid.
- Salicylic acid.
You can also choose to cover-up scars with facial hair or makeup. There are many over-the-counter makeup products available.
What in-office treatments are most effective for improving acne scars?
There are many cosmetic procedures to choose from. You and your dermatologist will discuss the best options for your acne scars. It is not unusual for a patient to have repeat procedures, or need two or more types of procedures to restore their skin.
- Chemical peels: This treatment uses special chemicals to remove the top layer of old skin. Typically whenever the top layer is removed, the new skin that grows in is smoother and has fewer scars.
- Dermabrasion: This treatment uses a special tool that produces friction to remove the top layers of skin, much like a sander removes the top layers from a plank of wood.
- Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion, similar to dermabrasion, uses a special machine to remove the upper layer of skin.
- Laser resurfacing: A laser delivers heat to the scarred collagen under the skin. This relies on the body’s wound-healing response to create new, healthy collagen. This encourages the growth of new skin to replace it. There are two different types of laser resurfacing: ablative and non-ablative. Your dermatologist will determine which type is best for your skin type and nature of your acne scars.
- Steroid injections: In this treatment, steroids are injected into a raised scar. Steroids soften the fibrous tissue, causing the scar to flatten.
- Dermal Fillers: With this treatment, a substance is injected under a depressed scar that lifts the skin upward.
- Microneedling: This treatment uses small needles to purposefully injure your skin to stimulate collagen production that can smooth scars. Microneedling can be done alone or with heat (i.e. microneedling radiofrequency). Microneedling radiofrequency has shown to help with textural improvement from acne scarring and can prevent further acne from forming.
- Excision: With this technique, the dermatologist cuts into the skin, removes the acne scar and then uses stitches to close the wound.
- Subcision: This treatment uses a needle to break apart fibrous bands that pull down scar tissue into the lower levels in your skin. The skin is released so that it can return to the surface and can lay smooth naturally.
- Punch grafting: With this treatment, the scar is removed like it is in an excision, and then a skin graft taken from another area of the body, typically behind your ear, fills the area where the scar was removed.
- Cryosurgery: This treatment uses liquid nitrogen to freeze raised scar tissue. The scar tissue dies and then falls off.
Ask your dermatologist about other options that might work best for you.
Is surgery performed to remove acne scars?
Sometimes minor surgery is considered to treat certain types of acne scars. These surgeries lift scar tissue closer to the surface of the skin to make indentations less noticeable. They may completely remove the scar or break up scar tissue, allowing new collagen to form and smooth out the scar. Surgery is performed in your dermatologist’s office and you remain awake but the treatment area is numbed so you don’t feel pain. Often surgery is followed by other types of acne scar removal treatments.
What’s the treatment for acne scars that aren’t on the face?
The treatments used on your face won’t necessarily be used on your back or chest. Your dermatologist will decide what’s best for you depending on the type of scar and its location.
Are there any complications or side effects of treatments for acne scars?
Yes, minor discomfort during and after treatment is common. Other complications include changes in skin color, either darker or lighter.
Are treatments for acne scars different for teenagers and adults?
The same treatments that are used on adults can be used on teenagers.
How can I reduce my risk of acne scars?
- Wear sunblock: Sunlight is important because your skin uses light energy to help make vitamin D. However, too much sun can darken scarring. And the darker your skin color, the more obvious your scars will be.
- Don’t pick, scratch, or squeeze: Causing extra damage to your skin promotes inflammation which will make scars worse.
- Treat your acne immediately: The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood of scars.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking tobacco increases your risk of scarring. Not just acne scars, but scars on your body in general.
- See a dermatologist: Get professional help as soon as possible! Get your acne treated before it scars.
How long will it take for the acne scars to go away?
The answer to this question depends on the type of scar and the type of treatment. Ask your dermatologist about the expected recovery time. Remember that not all scars will go away permanently.