How to Get Rid of Acne Scars?
Doctor Answers 35
Rid of acne scarring
Acne scars can be a very troubling problem. Even though the acne breakouts may be controlled or have long since stopped, the scarring remains for a lifetime.
Treatment for acne can be as troublesome as the disease itself. Usually, successful treatment requires a team approach with a dermatologist and a cosmetic surgeon.
First, attention must be turned to stopping any outbreaks, then repair of the scarring. If outbreaks continue, scarring is likely to continue, and any treatments aimed at treating scarring would be futile. There are many options for treatment of acne today depending on the severity of outbreaks. These are beyond the scope of this article, except to say that treatment for the underlying disease process is a must. Once the outbreaks are well controlled, attention can be turned toward erasing the lasting marks on the face.
Of note, acne is not only a disease of adolescence. Adult onset acne is not completely uncommon and is seen in women who are pregnant – often with more severe scarring. Treatment options for acne scars depend on the severity of the scarring and the skin type of the person wishing repair.
In people with darker skin, Fitzpatrick Types V, VI; options are limited because of concern for pigment irregularities after treatment. For lighter skinned individuals, treatments range from simple facial exfoliation to deep chemical or laser peels to surgical intervention.
For light scarring after acne, attention is placed on skin resurfacing. By taking off the outer layers of skin and stimulating collagen synthesis with new skin formation, acne scars can be reduced. This is best simulated by placing a finger on either side of an area of scarring and lightly pulling. If the scars fade, this can be a good option for resurfacing.
For deeper scars, a deep chemical peel, ablative laser (CO2 or erbium) resurfacing, or dermabrasion/dermasanding may be necessary. For deeper scars, deeper solutions are necessary. Again, several options exist.
- Deeper scars can be surgically excised with the larger acne scar replaced with a surgically placed small line. This can later be refined with other rejuvenation techniques.
- Punch grafting affords a simple method for treating multiple scars. A circular punch is used to create an incision around an acne scar. The scar is then allowed to heal and the resulting skin irregularity is smoothed.
- Subcision involves releasing the tethering attachments underneath the scar and then filling the space with either a temporary or permanent filler to prevent the scar from reforming when it heals. With the advent of new temporary artificial fillers such as hyaluronic acid, this is a good option for larger depressed scars.
Whatever the treatment option, it is important to consult a physician with a large arsenal of treatment options – if a physician only sells a cheeseburger, then you get sold a cheeseburger, even if you need a bacon burger. It is also important to remember that just as acne scars did not form overnight, treatment can sometimes take months to get the desired result. Once you find an experienced physician and decide on a treatment option, remember that it’s a long road but one that is usually worth the wait.
How to get rid of acne scars
Acne scars can cause red or brown discoloration and uneven skin contour. Usually multiple types of treatments are needed for maximum improvement. Patience is key since the full effect is often not seen for several months.
Skin discoloration and texture can be improved with topical treatments like hydroquinone and Retin-A, but for deeper scars and more significant discoloration, other techniques are needed.
Small, deep acne scars can be treated with surgical excision, which will ideally trade a depressed and discolored scar for a thin, flat scar.This is often followed by other resurfacing techniques like laser, chemical peel or dermabrasion to further smooth the skin and minimize scarring.
Other techniques to improve large or numerous scars involve resurfacing the skin by intentionally traumatizing it in order to stimulate collagen production. This thickens the skin and shrinks the surface area of the scar, and color may be improved as well. The Cross technique uses a very concentrated TCA peel. There are multiple types of laser as well, and the best choice depends on the degree of improvement needed as well as your skin color. Unfortunately options are limited for patients with dark skin due to an increased risk of skin discoloration.
Risks for all these techniques include temporary or permanent lightening or darkening of treated skin, crusting, scabbing, persistent or new scarring, reactivation of cold sores, infection, redness, acne flares, and milia formation.
Getting rid of acne scars
There are generally three viable alternatives that we utilize on a regular basis:
- Erbium Laser which generally works with one treatment, but can be repeated if desired.
- Fraxel Laser which generally provides some improvement after 5 or 6 treatments.
- Injectables to fill the acne scars. This provides temporary but quick improvement of acne scars.
With any of these alternatives, you should find an experienced practitioner who is well trained.
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- Microdermabrasion can be likened to a "superficial skin polishing" using micro crystals vacuumed through a delicate hand piece. In as little as 20 minutes, this gentle abrasive technique efficiently produces satisfying results. Treatments are progressive and are applied through a course of weekly sessions. Often not sufficient for most acne scars as it does not go deep enough. Dermabrasion, which abrades the top layer of skin down to the dermis, is more effective for atrophic scarring.
- Microneedling uses acupuncture-like needles to pierce the skin. These “micro-injuries” cause the controlled start of the skin’s self-repair mechanism, which triggers new collagen production without the risk of permanent scarring. The result is typically smoother, firmer looking skin. Skin needling procedures are performed in a safe and precise manner with the use of a sterile Micropen needle head.
- Chemical peels cause the skin to exfoliate and produce fresh new skin cells. There are different peels of varying strengths based on the results that you want. Usually 3-5 peels will be needed. Often not sufficient for most scarring as these typically do not work deep enough. A stronger chemical peel, 100% TCA used in a “cross hatch” technique, is an effective treatment for “ice pick” scarring.
- Dermal filler injections are good for shallow and deep scars. These fillers can be injected into the area of the scar, smoothing depressions. Results are immediately apparent. Bellafill, a long lasting filler, is now FDA approved for these treatments. Also high grade silicone can be an effective treatment when used properly.
- Subcision is a technique that breaks apart the scar tissue under depressed scars with a special needle. New tissue is created that raises the scar or unwanted depression.
- Non-Ablative laser treatments are not painful and there is no downtime. Most patients receive a series of about 5 treatments. Benefit from this type of laser is usually subtle. (i.e. the improvement is gradual).
- Fractional skin resurfacing treats facial scars by delivering the laser's energy in microbeams and is an effective treatment for many types of acne. Fractional treatments promote the production of softer, smoother skin.
- Laser resurfacing (fully ablative laser) is less commonly utilized these days. It is typically considered an aggressive treatment for acne scarring. It can, produce dramatic improvements, but comes with significantly longer downtime and a greater risk of post laser scarring and or redness.
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Improving acne scars
While there is no way to make one’s skin that of a porcelain doll, acne scars can be improved. This usually requires a number of treatments with the CoolTouch, Smooth Beam, Affirm, Active FX or Fraxel lasers, which can minimize their appearance.
We often combine lasers with subcision and/or injection of fillers.
These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.