Acne scars

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Acne Scars

Patient's Guide to Acne Scars is the leading dermatologist-reviewed resource for Acne scars, scar treatment, symptoms, questions, peels, lasers, ...

Acne is a skin condition that affects up to 80% of people in their teens and twenties, and up to 5% of older adults. While many people recover from acne without any permanent effects, some people are left with disfiguring acne scars. The redness or hyperpigmentation is seen as the skin goes through its healing and remodeling process, which takes approximately 6-12 months. If no more acne lesions develop in that area, the skin can heal normally. Any color change or skin defect still present after 1 year is considered to be a permanent defect or scar.
It's important to be realistic about treatment, and understand that most scars can't be completely erased. But marked improvement can be achieved with the right treatment or combination of treatments.

1. Laser treatments

Laser treatments for acne scars come in two forms: ablative and non-ablative.
Ablative lasers: resurface the skin by removing outer layers. The "new" skin is smoother, atrophic scars have been reduced in depth, and the overall look of scarring is softened. Skin generally heals within two weeks, but can remain red for a period of time after healing. The redness fades over the course of several weeks to several months.
Non-ablative: lasers create changes in the dermis without causing damage to the skin's surface. Non-ablative lasers tighten the skin and stimulate new collagen formation. These lasers are most beneficial for mild acne scarring and pigmentation problems, rather than deep, pitted scars.
Hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation, are possible side effect of laser treatment.

2. Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion, not to be confused with microdermabrasion which will do little for acne scarring and are primarily for fine lines and complexion rejuvenation, is performed under local anesthesia at the clinic. A rapidly rotating wire brush abrades the top layers of the skin. After healing, the look of scars has softened and pitted scars are reduced in depth. Dermabrasion is used to treat depressed boxed scarring. This procedure may make ice pick scars look more prominent because while narrow at the skin's surface, they often widen near the base.
It may cause pigmentation changes in darker skin tones. The procedure usually takes about a half an hour to an hour, and the skin is either frozen or numbed first.
Recovery: For a few days following the procedure, your skin will look scraped, and then a scab will form. Swelling occurs usually as well. After the scabbing has fallen off, your skin will be reddish for several weeks to several months. Most people can return to work after two weeks.


Microdermabrasion is a machine is used to discharge ultra-fine aluminum oxide crystals through a tube and onto the skin. During a microdermabrasion treatment, the crystals are simultaneously vacuumed away. There may be slight improvement of the most superficial of acne scars. Stimulation of new cell growth occurs, which gives the skin a glow and a smoother texture.
There is usually no recovery time. You can go back to your normal schedule right away. A series of treatments is needed.
Dermal Fillers

Another treatment option for depressed acne scars is the use of dermal fillers. A filler substance is injected into the acne scar, elevating the base of the scar so it is more even with the skin's surface. Collagen, hyaluronic acid, and fat transferred from the patient's own body are often used. The doctor will help you decide which filler will be most appropriate for you.
There is usually no recovery time. You can go back to your normal schedule right away.

Steroid Treatments

Steroid treatments are often used for raised hypertrophic and keloid scars. Steroids may be injected directly into the scar tissue, causing the tissue to shrink or flatten, softening the scar tissue and improving the overall appearance. Corticosteroid creams and impregnated tapes (which are infused with a corticosteroid, applied over the scar and left on for several hours at a time) may also be used to treat hypertrophic scars.


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