Once you’ve started and used the right skin care regimen to get active acne under control, you might be left with troublesome acne scars that won’t go away on their own.
While this can be frustrating, there are several treatment methods that can help. These are some of the best ways to get rid of acne scars and start enjoying clear, blemish-free skin.
Ask your dermatologist
I see many acne patients in my practice. About 50 percent who complain of scarring actually have redness or brown pigmentation that is not a scar. The red areas will resolve with time or vascular laser treatments. The brown scars will resolve with daily sunscreen use, a skin lightening product — and time.
Know the different types of acne scars
The treatment of acne scars depends upon the type of scar that you have. There are several types.
- Hypertrophic or keloid scars are caused when too much collagen is produced as acne wounds heal. This results in a hard bump on the skin’s surface.
- Keloid scars are treated either with an injection of a steroid like kenalog or injections of 5 Fluorouracil or treatments with a vascular laser.
- Atrophic or depressed scars develop when there is a loss of collagen and other skin structures. Atrophic scars are further divided by their shape.
- “Icepick” scars are deep holes with a very narrow diameter. These are usually removed with a punch biopsy.
- “Boxcar” scars are round, oval, or angular depressed areas. These are treated with dermal fillers, and/or resurfacing with laser, peels or microneedling.
Dermal fillers are made of hyaluronic acid or other substances used to fill in space. These are injected into atrophic scars to fill in the concavity. It usually requires one syringe at the initial visit and may require a second one at the follow up visit. This is because swelling occurs at the initial treatment, so the concavity may look flat but may return when the swelling subsides.
In cases of moderate to severe acne scarring, three to four treatment sessions may be needed. I prefer hyaluronic acid fillers because they are reversible, but there are many options.
For mild acne scarring, office treatments like chemical peels can help. These treatments remove the outer layer of skin and stimulate new cell growth, which can help to minimize the appearance of scars. Chemical peels come in a range of intensity levels. The deeper ones should only be performed under the supervision of a physician and physician’s assistant. They can advise you which type of peel is most appropriate for your skin type.
People with darker skin tones require peels with very low concentrations of active ingredients to avoid worsening hyperpigmentation, so peels are not usually the best option in darker skin types and those exposed to a lot of sun.
Laser treatments such as Vbeam and Fraxel lasers are some of the most effective options for getting rid of acne scars. Vbeam is a pulsed dye laser that works by breaking up the blood supply in scars. The Fraxel laser resurfaces your skin by removing the outer layer and stimulating new collagen production and cell growth underneath.
Most laser treatments produce the best results after a series of multiple treatment sessions spaced a few weeks apart.
Microneedling and PRP
Microneedling and PRP are the most exciting new treatments for acne scars (and wrinkles). First, your blood is drawn, and then the platelets and their contents are separated out by spinning in a centrifuge. Then, tiny holes are put into the skin with a device that contains many needles. Then, the platelet mixture is applied over the holes. It goes down into the holes, and the many natural growth factors that the platelets contain stimulate the cells to make more collagen and fill in the depressed scar.
Acne scars are a frustrating problem for many people with acne-prone skin, but it is possible to improve the appearance of acne scars. If you do develop acne scars, work with your doctor (usually a plastic surgeon or dermatologist) to learn more about your treatment options and which one(s) would be the most suitable for your skin type and needs.