If you’ve been at war with acne - or maybe even maskne - it can be defeating to find yourself left with battle scars (no pun intended). You may want to say goodbye to the makeup and embrace your natural beauty, but your acne scarring is holding you back. The bad news: acne scars aren’t a come-and-go type of condition. Good news, however, is that there are a plethora of treatment options available. Finding the right treatment for you can be challenging. Given the unique variety of skin types, tones, textures, and genetics, not every treatment will be a right match. That’s where we come in.
In this article, we will go over a myriad of treatment options as well as their drawbacks with the intention of helping you find a tool suited to your skin - and so you can start feeling more confident in your own skin! But first, it may help to identify what exactly an acne scar is.
What Are Acne Scars and Can They Be Prevented?
Oftentimes acne scars can be confused with hyperpigmentation, as both can come as unwelcome surprises after your acne clears up. Hyperpigmentation are temporary dark spots that can come after any skin condition that has caused inflammation. Acne scars, in contrast, are permanent textural changes - like bumps and roughness - left behind due to skin damage from acne.
Obviously, the best way to combat acne scars would be to prevent the acne from forming in the first place, but we know that acne is sometimes unpreventable. What you can do is omit from picking at your pimples as it not only can cause scarring - and most likely will - but can give rise to inflammation, infection, and hyperpigmentation.
We know that picking a pimple can be an irresistible urge much like going at an itch. A fun little trick is to place a pimple patch on to prevent yourself from being able to. You won’t be able to satisfy your urge to pick AND you’ll be pleased when you take it off and see the remnants of your face blemish. Another important tip for preventing acne scarring - a tip as old as time- is to wear your sunscreen. No matter what shade your skin is, or your ability to resist a sunburn, direct sun exposure will increase your chances of scarring and emphasize any pre-existing scarring.
What Are Your Options?
The truth is that if you want long-term effective removal of the scars, you may want to opt for a medical treatment at your local dermatologist or dentist office. However, there are at-home remedies to improve the appearance. All in all, only you can decide for yourself what will work for you, given your severity, your type of scars, and on your budget.
Acids (Salicylic / Glycolic)
Salicylic acid and glycolic acid will turnover and remove the top layers of the skin, improving dark spots.
While these acid serums will help improve your skin's pigmentation, they won’t do much in terms of texture.
If you have actual scarring rather than pigmentation, your skin needs resurfaced. A microneedling tool does just that! As you roll it gently around your face, it creates “micro” injuries that promote healing. It works on any skin tone and many scar sufferers swear by this method.
When you go by the at-home method, you run the risk of user-error and purchasing a poorly built device. What most people don’t know as they go into this from the comfort of their home, is that they should be steering away from harsh topical creams, direct sunlight, and only using the most minimal and gentle skincare routine. As well, if you pick a tool with needles longer than half a millimeter or bent needles, you run the risk of scarring and invite infections.
Medical Care Options
Chemical peels are exactly what they sound like. Chemicals are layered onto your face and eventually after your treatment, your skin begins to peel. What happens beneath the surface is that collagen builds up to fill in the scars from the inside out.
Ironically, chemical peels can come at the risk of pigmentation and scarring. It is critical to consult your doctor first about your specific skin type to see if it's the right fit.
These are injections of protein that work to cosmetically plump up the skin in order to fill and smooth out the scar, especially for individuals with more prominent facial indentations. One great thing about these is that you will see results instantly.
The one thing to consider about dermal fillers is that you will have to return for more. This could be annually or semi-annually, but a consultation with your doctor will help determine the specificities.
During an acne scar-targeted surgery, your doctor can either (1) cut out the scars and repair the wound with stitches or a skin graft, or (2) poke needles under the scar to loosen up the fibers. The biggest advantage to this procedure is that it is a one-and-done deal. It’s effects do not have an expiration date.
While the method is highly effective in its mission, it is at the end of the day a procedure - a minor one- but a procedure nonetheless. If your scarring is minimal, this may seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
Another skin-resurfacing technique, dermabrasion uses a rapidly rotating device to buffer down the skin all the way to the dermis. Dermabrasion goes deeper in the skin layers than microdermabrasion, and expectedly produces more dramatic results.
After dermabrasion, your skin will be reddish and swollen. As well, this is not a viable option for darker skin tones, as it could permanently discolor the skin. As well, if your skin is sensitive and flares up easily, this is not the method for you.
Laser Skin Resurfacing
During laser treatment, a bright beam of light at a specific energy level triggers the skin to repair. It may be possible to get rid of all of your acne scars, depending on your skin. Sometimes multiple laser treatments are required. Unlike with surgery, there is no repair/stitches.
It is absolutely essential that the person performing the treatment is qualified, so that it not only works but you don’t come out with more skin issues than you went in with. Also important to note, your face may be red after treatment and it may get worse before it gets better.
Deciding between treatment options when there are so many is overwhelming, but hopefully this article provided you with helpful information and allowed you to eliminate a few options. I would suggest that after digesting all of this information, you visit your dermatologist/medical esthetician/doctor friend - or whoever it is you like to go to - and discuss your thoughts and concerns with a medical expert. I wish you the best of luck in your inquiries, and hope that all of your skin dreams come true!