For many, acne is an embarrassing and frustrating ordeal that lasts throughout adolescence, and often into adulthood. But even after the acne clears up, some people are left with permanent scars, which can be just as embarrassing and demoralizing. Thus, one of the most frequent questions people have is whether there is anything that can be done to remove or reduce the appearance of their scars.
Fortunately, though scars can never be completely erased, there are a variety of procedures and medications that can significantly improve them, and even a few topical medications that may make a difference. These procedures vary greatly in their methods, cost, and applicability to different types of scars, so a consultation with a dermatologist is necessary in order to determine which is the best option for your particular situation.
Because scars are to some extent permanent (even if their appearance can be drastically reduced), prevention is always the best option. Don’t wait to treat your acne, especially if it is severe, involves cysts, or leaves visible scars. There are many effective commercial treatments available, like Proactiv (check here for the most comprehensive Proactiv reviews), and if you take the time to investigate and to try them, you will almost certainly find one that will work for you. The key is persistence.
Scars or Hyperpigmentation?
The first step in dealing with acne scars is determining which kind they are. This will determine what kind of treatment is possible or appropriate.
One mistake people often make is confusing the red marks left behind by acne – known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH – for a permanent scar. PIH marks are the normal result of the body’s inflammation and healing response, and they will fade by themselves over time. This can take quite a while to happen, 6 to 12 months for most people. In cases where the acne is severe and there has been repeated trauma to the same area, hyperpigmentation may last even longer.
There are many over-the-counter and even some prescription medications that can help with PIH, though it is rare for a prescription to be given just for hyperpigmentation, since it does fade by itself. Anything that exfoliates the area (like a gentle scrub), increases the skin turnover rate (retinoids, alpha hydroxy acid), or has a bleaching effect (such as hydroquinone) will speed up the process. Your dermatologist should be able to recommend something along these lines.
Treatments for Scars
There are several recognized types of acne scars. Facial scars tend to be atrophic, meaning they are sunken into the skin as opposed to being raised. There are a few different types of atrophic scars, including icepick scars (deep, narrow scars with jagged edges), boxcar scars (wider and usually shallower than icepick scars), and rolling scars (which give a wave-like appearance to the skin). Atrophic scars are usually dealt with either by filling the area with collagen or fat, through skin grafting, or resurfacing with a laser or ultrasound device. Identifying the specific type of scars present will allow your doctor to make the determination of which kind of treatment to use.
Sometimes acne can leave raised (hypertrophic) scars. These are more common on the torso, especially in males. Steroid injections can flatten or shrink these kinds of scars, and certain types of surgery (like cryosurgery) may be used to remove larger hypertrophic scars, though surgery always poses the risk of the scar returning, often times larger than the original scar. Laser resurfacing can also be used in some cases.
Just like when dealing with breakouts, there are many treatments available for the scarring left behind by acne. Only a qualified professional can tell you which is most appropriate for you. Most of the time, if the scarring is serious, people have a combination of different scar types, which can complicate the treatment.
Also Read: 8 Beauty Hacks That You Should NEVER Try!
Regardless, in-office scar treatment tends to be expensive and sometimes rather invasive, especially in the case of grafting or other surgical methods. A determination must be made whether the scars are severe enough or cause enough personal anxiety or other emotional turmoil to justify the cost of the procedure, either financially or physically. Often times, acne scars are most visible and noticeable to the person who has them. Only you and your doctor can make this determination with a comprehensive discussion of the available treatments, their cost, and the potential risks.