This blog post is based on scientific evidence, written and fact checked by our doctors. Our team of dermatologists and formulators strive to be objective, unbiased and honest.
Acne in itself is quite emotionally draining! But the prominent scars they left behind is causing you more stress? The good news is, these scars can be treated. It is important to know your skin before you begin any treatments.
We have put together information that will make it easier for you to understand more about acne marks and how you can treat them. You must keep in mind that the scars should be addressed after treating the acne.
What is Acne Scarring?
Acne scars are the result of breakouts caused by blocked skin pores. Blocking leads to swelling of the pores, which may cause breakage in the follicle wall. This can create deep or shallow lesions that prominently appear on the skin.
Why Do We Get Acne Scars?
Acne scars are the result of inflamed lesions. These lesions penetrate through your skin, damaging the tissues beneath it. This may leave a mark or pit behind.
Types of Acne Scars
Acne scars can be atrophic (caused by a loss of tissue) or hypertrophic (caused by excess tissue). These are further segregated into ice pick scars, boxcar scars and rolling scars.
A. Ice Pick Scars
Ice pick scars are the result of a severe acne lesion. They usually develop after an infection from cysts that work their way deep into the skin.
These scars are narrower than boxcar and rolling scars. However, they are deeper and more noticeable to the naked eye. Home remedies may not work for these scars.
B. Boxcar Scars
Boxcar scars are wider than ice pick scars. They look like round craters with sharp edges, giving the skin a pitted, uneven appearance. They can be narrow or deep.
They occur due to inflammatory breakouts that destroy the collagen. This leads to loss of tissue, which creates depressions in the skin.
C. Rolling Scars
As the name suggests, rolling scars are wide with rounded edges. They make the skin look uneven and irregular. They are caused by fibrous bands of tissues that develop between the skin and subcutaneous tissue below. The bands pull the epidermis, giving the skin a rolling appearance.
D. Hypertrophic Scars
These scars appear raised. They are the result of excess tissue in the area where the lesion had developed.
How to Remove Acne Scars?
There are several home treatments and in-office methods that people use to get rid of acne scars.
1. Home Treatments
Before starting any treatment for scars, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist to understand your skin.
A. Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient in most anti-acne skincare products. It helps to reduce swelling and redness, clears dirt from your pores and reduces scarring.
This magic ingredient can be used to treat any type of acne scars. However, for people with sensitive skin, it is recommended to conduct a patch test before applying it on the entire face.
B. Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Not just are they used to treat acne, alpha hydroxy acids also contribute to the reduction of scars. These acids help exfoliate the rough surface of the skin to improve texture and reduce the appearance of scars.
C. Lactic Acid
This is found in the form of various creams and lotions, available at your nearest drugstore. Lactic Acid improves texture of the skin and reduces the prominence of scars.However, lactic acid may cause hyperpigmentation in certain cases. It is advised to conduct a patch test before using it.
Diluted apple cider vinegar can be used in place of a drugstore product due to its natural lactic acid components.
Topical retinoids come in the form of creams and lotions. Dermatologists recommend these to reduce discoloration and improve skin texture. Topical retinoids are a good option to treat fresh acne scars.
Using retinoids during the early stages of acne can help prevent and reduce scarring. Topical retinoids may cause sun-sensitivity. Wearing sunscreen before you step out is a must.
E. Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It helps treat acne and scars left behind by it.
Azelaic acid reduces the amount of acne-causing bacteria and allows your pores to breathe. It is used to treat mild or moderate acne. Azelaic acid is available in the form of creams, gels and foams.
Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 that plays a vital role in keeping your skin healthy. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help treat acne and reduce scarring.
Sunscreen plays an important role in skin health maintenance. Regardless of whether you have a skin condition, a good sunscreen is a must. It helps protect the skin from the sun's UV rays and also reduces the appearance of scars. Direct exposure to the sun may darken acne scars.
Always buy a sunscreen that suits your unique skin type.
2. Home Remedies
A. Coconut Oil
Studies indicate that coconut oil keeps your skin moist. It prevents the skin from producing excess serum that reduces the risk of acne scars.
People with extremely oily skin should avoid applying coconut oil directly. It may clog pores and worsen the situation.
B. Shea Butter
Shea butter contains anti-inflammatory properties that help fight bacteria- causing acne. It also helps reduce discoloration and acne marks.
C. Turmeric Powder
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric help fight acne and prevent scarring.
D. Lemon and Honey
Lemon and honey together can work wonders for your skin. Lemon is acidic in nature and contains antibacterial qualities. This may relieve your skin of excess oil and fight bacteria.
Lemon may not suit everybody's skin due to its acidic qualities. Conduct a patch test before you apply it on your face.
Honey is a good antiseptic for your skin and body. It contributes to your body's healing process and helps reduce scars faster. It is also a great way to naturally moisturize your skin and prevent it from producing too much sebum.
E. Baking Soda
Baking soda, with its anti-inflammatory properties, can help fight acne and scars. However, skincare professionals do not recommend baking soda. It is said to soak up essential oils that may cause the skin to overproduce sebum.
F. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera helps regulate the production of melanin. This helps reduce pigmentation and discoloration.
G. Essential Oils
Essential oils have wound-healing properties. They help prevent the development of scar tissues. They also reduce inflammation, redness and smoothen the texture of your skin.
H. Apple Cider Vinegar
The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar helps remove the top layer of the skin. This reduces the appearance of scars.
3. Common Scar Removal Treatments (In-office)
Based on your skin type and the depth of your scars, a number of lab treatments are available to reduce scarring caused by acne.
A. Chemical Peeling
If you have shallow scars, this may be a good option for you.
Chemical peels reduce discoloration and scarring. They prevent breakouts and smoothen the skin. These peels work by removing the top layer of the skin and are a great way to rejuvenate the skin.
Chemical peels usually don't work well for those with deep scars. You may have to try out a couple of peels before determining which one works better for you.
B. Microneedling or Rolling
Microneedling is highly beneficial to reduce scars, wrinkles, stretch marks and discoloration. It also contributes to skin rejuvenation and improvement in texture. The medical process involves inserting micro-needles around scars. This stimulates the body to produce more collagen. Rolling is also an affordable option to address acne scars. Microneedling or rolling can cause temporary side effects like redness, pain and inflammation.
Hypertrophic scars or keloids can be treated with corticosteroid injections. The process is conducted once in every few weeks. Your dermatologist may combine these with other treatments.
D. Dermal Fillers
Dermal fillers are often confused with Botox. However, the former type smoothes out the skin by filling scars or wrinkles, as opposed to freezing muscles. Dermal fillers are usually temporary, lasting between 6-18 months after treatment.
These fillers work best for atrophic scars. Other commercial fillers like polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), hyaluronic acid (HA) and poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) can also be used.
E. Laser Treatment
This is a popular and one of the most preferred methods used to remove acne scars by dermatologists. Laser treatment helps reduce scars by removing the uppermost layer of the skin. This process uses focused light therapy and doesn't involve any chemicals. It may not be suitable for those with sensitive skin.
What to keep in mind before getting a laser treatment done
- Requires a board-certified dermatologist to conduct the treatment.
- Side effects include redness, itching, swelling and temporary oozing.
- At times sedation is required, depending on the depth of your scars.
Dermabrasion is the process of using a rapidly rotating device to sand the outer layers of the skin. It is used to treat acne scars, wrinkles, patchy skin and dark areas. The skin that grows back is younger looking and smooth.
This process can be conducted alone or in combination with other cosmetic procedures. It can cause temporary redness, lasting upto weeks.
Dermatologists may advise a patient to undergo surgery in case of deep scars. Get this done by a board-certified dermatologist only.
H. Platelet-Rich Plasma Technique (PRP)
This technique draws inspiration from the belief that the body can heal on its own. Platelet-rich plasma technique (PRP) involves a large amount of platelets. These are concentrated into a small volume of plasma to stimulate growth factors in the body. This fixes broken tissues. PRP has recently been introduced to the world of dermatology.
According to a study, rolling scars responded better to PRP as compared to ice pick and boxcar scars.
I. Punch Techniques
Punch techniques are used to treat ice pick and boxcar scars. They come in three forms:
Punch Excision (for mild acne scars)
In this technique, the scar is surgically removed and the skin is sealed to achieve a smooth texture.
Punch Elevation (to treat boxcar scars)
The procedure involves surgical removal of the scar, leaving the sides. The base is then reattached to the sides to give a smooth appearance.
Punch Grafting (for deep ice pick scars)
In this process, the wound is plugged with a sample of skin taken from another part of the body, usually the back or the ear.
How Can You Prevent Acne Scars?
Prevention is better than cure. So understanding your skin and taking the right precautions is crucial. Here are some skincare tips for you to avoid acne and scarring.
Dos and Don'ts:
A. Avoid The Sun
Being adventurous is fun, but not at the cost of your health. Too much sun exposure can dehydrate your body. This may cause it to over-produce oil, sometimes leading to blocked pores. If you have to stay out in the sun often, make it a point to stay hydrated.
B. Don't Pop Your Pimples
Popping pimples may increase inflammation. This may not only leave a scar behind but can cause an acne breakout. Avoid touching your face as your hands carry bacteria and dirt that may lead to clogged pores.
C. Follow a Skin Care Routine
Maintain a skin-care regimen. Remember to wash your face and remove your make up before hitting the pillow. Cleanse, tone and moisturize on a regular basis. Stay hydrated.
D. Don't Scrub Too Hard
Don't exfoliate your face on a daily basis. This may cause skin inflammation, redness and itching, which may lead to breakouts.
E. Stay Hydrated
Water plays a major role in preventing acne and scarring. In order to refrain your body from over-producing oil (that may sometimes lead to clogged pores), stay hydrated. As it is rightly said, Water is the cure for everything.
Are Acne Marks Permanent?
People are often confused between acne scars and marks. Brown or red patches (discoloration) left behind by acne on a person's face are marks that fade away with time. However, pits and craters are scars that stay.
Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation is acne marks that look like a flat, discolored surface. As the skin heals, it produces excess melanin. This causes the darkening of the patch. PIH however, does not damage the follicle and fades away over time, usually in about 24 months.
Scars may slightly fade over time but are permanent. However, there are several home and medical remedies with which you can get rid of them.
How Long Do Acne Scars Take to Go Away?
Acne marks (discoloration) usually fade away within 3-6 months. There are many ways to speed up the process. However, scars remain and can be removed medically or by using home remedies.
What is The Difference between Acne Scars and Acne Marks?
People with a darker complexion may experience PIH (marks that appear brown). People with a lighter complexion usually develop post-inflammatory erythema (purple/red marks).
These fade away with time. However, there are faster ways of getting rid of acne marks.
Acne scars are deep indentations. They are usually caused by picking at a blemish and take much longer to heal. Although they may slightly fade over time, acne scars are usually permanent.
It usually takes medical treatment to reduce scarring completely. Atrophic scars appear as indentations in the skin. In today's technologically advanced world, treating acne scars has become an easy task. Always follow a skincare regimen and maintain skin hygiene to avoid future outbreaks.