Q&A: Acne Scars

Q: My acne has improved, but now I’m left with scars. How do I get rid of them? 

A: The only key approach to acne scars is prevention. Treat acne promptly and for as long as it takes to clear. That’s 20/20 hindsight, of course, but it’s an important lesson. You will benefit from working closely with a knowledgeable dermatologist to treat your scars, and your condition might require multiple approaches. The best treatment for you depends on the type and severity of your scars.

Acne scars can be complex to treat. They come in two types: hyperpigmentation, which results in dark spots; or pitting/indentation, which results in rough, uneven skin. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment, except for this preventative tip: do whatever it takes to break face-picking habits! Picking at acne scabs and lesions can cause more scarring than the acne itself, so pay close attention to your habits. That said, in some cases, even non-pickers will scar with severe acne or acne aggravated by factors such as shaving.

It’s not always necessary to wait until acne has cleared to treat scars. Dermatologic treatments such as peels, microdermabrasion, and lasers treat not only the scar but also hyperpigmentation and active acne all at once. Total restoration of your skin is not likely, but there are a number of treatments to consider that will improve your skin.

Topical treatments, particularly vitamin A derivatives or retinoids like Retin-A® or retinol, may help improve the appearance of shallow, hyperpigmented scarring. These treatments must be prescribed by a health care provider and may increase skin sensitivity and initial irritation. Those who use vitamin A treatments must be diligent in applying high SPF sunscreen protection every day. Otherwise, even more hyperpigmentation can occur!

For scarring that is a little deeper, options include skin-resurfacing treatments such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and acne laser treatment to remove the surface of scarred skin, revealing fresh dermal layers. Such approaches can be costly (ranging from $650 for peels to $1,000 and up for laser treatments) and may require multiple treatments to get the results you want.

Deep acne scarring may require surgical techniques that remove scar tissue, dermabrasion, or temporary or permanent dermal fillers or fat injections to smooth pits and depressions.

It is extremely important to use sunscreen every day if you are undergoing treatment for acne scars. Your skin is vulnerable
during any kind of scar treatment, so protecting it from the sun’s rays is critical.

Additional acne help:
Acne.org - acne scars
About.com
Skincare Physicians - acne scarring
Acne and acne-like conditions

Published on 03/31/2009 | Last updated on 12/20/2016