Acne breakouts can be incredibly frustrating to those who have them. But far more devastating and frustrating are the acne gifts that keep on giving, acne scars.
After all, nobody wants to be called Scar Face, MS Pockmark, or Scab Face. Worse yet, nobody wants to be reminded of their high school acne 20 or 30 years after the fact.
Acne scars form when the skin is damaged. In most cases, what happens the follicle, or pore, becomes engorged with excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. The pore swells, causing a break in the follicle wall.
Most breaks come near the surface and heal quickly on their own. But when a rupture occurs deep into the follicle, it often results in acne scarring.
Can acne scars be fixed? The answer is yes and no.
No dermatologist can wave a magic laser, or do any type of chemical peel that will restore skin to the pristine state it once was. Yet, they can mitigate acne scars with a number of treatments that reduce them to a minimum.
Before going into detail, below are some of the typical acne scars.
- Rolling scars – These are wavy uneven scars on the face
- Red spots – Similar to pimples or measles outbreaks, they often go away eventually
- Dark spots – The melanin in the skin makes these temporary scars black like enlarged blackheads.
- Boxcar and ice pick scars
Either broad box-shaped scars with sharp edges, or pointing looking sharp scars that look like they have been made with an ice pick and worse.
Common treatments for acne scars
Treatments vary between in-home and office dermatology clinics.
If the scars are not too deep, a dermatologist might recommend a simple at-home cream.
Common at-home creams include:
Alpha hydroxy acids
Common in acne medicine, AHA also significantly make the appearance of acne scars less noticeable
Lactic acid in the form of peels
Have been shown by studies to significantly lighten acne scar tissue
Retinoids, derived from Vitamin A, are compound creams and serums that work to improve acne scars. Besides speeding up cell regeneration, they too, significantly reduce the appearance of scar tissue.
Finally Salicylic acid, another common acne preventer, also has been shown to reduce the effect of acne scars.
In-office dermatologist procedures
Naturally, for more serious scars, a dermatologist will recommend in-office treatments, which are serious, and may involve a bit of healing and some slight pain as well.
One treatment for acne scars is laser treatment for acne scars.
Laser treatment works in two ways. First, the laser the doctor uses produces heat that causes the scar to peel away. While there will also be some scarring underneath, below this layer of skin, the tissue is definitely more smooth, pliable, and more like your pre-scarred skin.
Secondly, the laser encourages new growth of skin via the blood vessels, so that the entire area heals.
The procedure is not without some mild discomfort, so a mild sedative is used, and although safe, minor effects, which go away after a day or two include pain, swelling, redness, and temporary oozing.
Rarely covered by insurance, which classifies it as a cosmetic procedure, if you have a small scar, it can be as cheap as $200 or so, but typically runs between $1,000 and $3,000. So it’s something serious to consider.
Other in-office procedures
Basically dermabrasion is a home microdermabrasion kit on steroids. The dermatologist will use a wire brush or wheel or wheel to intensely exfoliate your skin
- Chemical peels
These aren’t the type of masks you see in the movies that are good for a laugh, and may do your skin some good. These are strong, serious chemicals that are often used for people with serious scars
Just like people use putty to sand and fill a hole in the wall, dermatologists use natural fillers, mostly made out of collagen, to fill in depressions caused by acne scars.
Some fillers are permanent, but most fillers have to be reapplied every 6 to 18 months. But fillers are cheaper and less expensive than laser procedures.
Micro-needling is somewhat new in dermatologist circles. Using either a wheel or a pen, a needle or set of needles is run over the scar, and while it does pierce the surface, it doesn’t penetrate deeply like a shot.
Micro-needling accelerates the growth of collagen into the scar, producing healing, although it may take several months to show serious results
Finally, a dermatologist may significantly reduce raised acne scars by using one, or a combination of drugs to soften and flatten scars.
Typically, repeated injections are required, about one out of every five weeks.
Acne scars are an unfortunate fact of life for many people, and some are genetically more predisposed than others to have scars from acne.
Once scars appear, they typically require a good dermatologist to select the best treatment to reduce them, promote healing, and make for a satisfying face.
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