Almost everyone experiences acne at some point in life. For some, acne is nothing more than an occasional annoying and embarrassing event during adolescence, when hormone levels surge. However, some people suffer extreme bouts of acne for decades. Either of these extremes can result in acne scarring, ranging from mild to severe.
Acne scars, like any type of scarring, can seldom be permanently removed. Fortunately, there are several acne treatments now available that can help the scarred area return to a more “normal” appearance.
Today’s available treatment options differ considerably in their approach. What’s right for a person will depend on several factors, including the type and extent of scarring involved, an evaluation of how the scarring is impacting the person’s livelihood, and the individual’s budget. Before making a decision, it’s always advisable to thoroughly discuss treatment options with a dermatologist.
Causes And Types Of Acne Scars
Acne scars result from tissue damage. As with all scars, when tissue is damaged, the body reacts by initiating the repair process and taking steps to protect against infection. The body sends collagen to the damaged area. However, sometimes the body produces too much collagen. When this happens, the excess collagen builds up into a fibrous mass, eventually resulting in a smooth, firm acne scar with an irregular shape. Many different types of scarring exist: “ice-pick” scars, depressed scars, soft scars, atrophic macules and others.
An effective method for most people is injecting collagen into the scar site. Once injected under the skin, the collagen puffs out the scar area, making the scar less noticeable. While effective, it is a treatment that needs to be repeated about every 3 to 6 months.
Another option, called autologus fat transfer, uses a person’s own body fat. Fat is taken from another part of the body and injected into the acne scar, causing it to fill out. This treatment also needs to be repeated, although less frequently, because the fat will be absorbed back into the body.
A common treatment for most types of acne scarring is dermabrasion. Performed under local anesthesia, a thin layer of surface skin is removed using a brush set on high speed. Removing the surface layer removes some shallow scarring at the surface, which lessens the depth of scarring. Microdermabrasion, a similar technique, removes the surface skin by using crystals of aluminum oxide that pass through a vacuum.
Another scar treatment option uses lasers of various intensity and wavelength that are used to change a scar’s shape. Depending on the scar, permanent results are sometimes achieved, although multiple treatments may be necessary.
Other acne treatment options include skin grafting and skin surgery. However, these are extreme procedures, which should be reserved for extreme situations.
Many treatments now exist to help with acne scarring. See your dermatologist to select the best option for you.