Having acne as a teenager is uncomfortable enough, but the scars acne often leaves behind can continue to plague you as an adult. Acne scars are quite common, but if they interfere with the way you feel about yourself or make you want to hide under a paper bag instead of spending a night on the town with your friends, it's time to look into treatment options. There are several treatment methods available, and you and your dermatologist can work together to choose the one that's right for you.
There are two types of acne scars: depressed and raised. Depressed acne scars are the ones that look like pits or depressions on your skin. This type of scar occurs when you lose fat or muscle under the skin. Depressed scars that give your skin a wavy texture are called rolling acne scars, and scars that look like sharp, narrow indents -- that give the impression your face was punctured -- are called ice pick acne scars [source: WebMD]. Raised acne scars, on the other hand, appear above the skin's surface. This type of scar packs a double whammy -- along with becoming larger over time, raised scars can also be itchy and painful [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce the appearance of acne scars. From topical treatments to injections, and from surgery to lasers, you can try a variety of treatment options. Keep reading to learn about the science behind your scars.
Do Acne Scars Ever Disappear?
One of the first questions most people ask when seeking treatment for acne scars is if the scars will ever fully disappear. The answer is the same for acne scars as it is for every other scar you have: No scar ever fully disappears [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. This is because scars form when your skin is damaged in the dermal level, the layer of skin where new skin cells originate. As your body heals the wound, it creates new collagen fibers, and this repair of damaged tissue results in a scar. [source: WebMD]. Once you have a scar, it's yours for life.
Now that you've heard the bad news, it's time for the good news. You may not be able to make those scars disappear, but there are things you can do to reduce the size, color and appearance of your scars [source: WedMD]. Today, some acne scar treatments can reduce and lighten the appearance of scars to the point they're almost undetectable.
If you're ready to reduce the appearance of your acne scars, but you don't want to go under the knife -- or a laser -- read on to learn about less-invasive treatments for acne scars.
Natural Cures for Acne Scars
If the thought of knives and needles makes you woozy, there are many ways to treat acne scars that don't involve surgery or injections. As with any treatment, what works for one person may not work for another. Only you can decide if the treatment you're using is improving your acne scars.
Here are some of the more popular natural treatments available today:
- Topical creams -- You can get both over-the-counter and prescription-strength creams that will stimulate new skin cell growth to reduce the appearance of scars. These creams often contain alpha hydroxy acids or salicylic acids, and some contain corticosteroids or antihistamines to help reduce inflammation and itching [source: WebMD].
- Massage and pressure bandages -- Hypertrophic scars, or scars that have raised tissue, can be treated through the use of massage or pressure bandages to smooth out the build-up of scar tissue. This method often needs to be repeated for several months before results are visible [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
- Tea tree oil -- Gels that contain tea tree oil have been known to heal the skin and make it smoother, but this treatment may cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin.
- Vinegar -- Vinegar acts like a mild chemical peel to remove the top layer of skin, and it promotes a turnover of old skin cells, which are replaced with new cells.
- Lemon or lime juice -- Applying lemon or lime juice to acne scars will help lighten the color of the scars so they're less noticeable [source: Mayo Clinic].
If natural methods don't give you the results you're looking for, it may be time to move on to more aggressive treatment options. Keep reading to learn about procedures your dermatologist can perform to reduce the appearance of your acne scars.
Procedures to Get Rid of Acne Scars
If you've had it up to your eyebrows with acne scars, talk to your doctor about the variety of procedures that are offered by dermatologists, cosmetic treatment clinics and plastic surgeons.
One of the most effective treatments for acne scars is surgery. Dermatologists have many surgical methods at their disposal, including removing, filling and raising scars [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Dermabrasion is an outpatient surgical procedure in which a surgeon essentially sands away the top layer of damaged skin with a wire brush [source: American Society for Dermatologic Surgery]. As new skin grows where the damaged skin was removed, the face takes on a smoother, more contoured look.
Chemical Peels or chemabrasision are similar to dermabrasion -- they also remove the top layer of skin to stimulate new skin growth [source: Mayo Clinic]. However, instead of a brush, chemicals are used to peel away the scar tissue.
Laser treatments are also effective in removing scar tissue. Using a light laser, a dermatologic surgeon removes the top layer of skin to stimulate new skin growth. There are various types of lasers and light ranges available, depending on the amount of scarring and your skin type [source: American Society for Dermatological Surgery].
For more information about skin lightening for acne scars, read Skin Lightening for Acne Scars: Fast Facts.
If you have scars that are below the surface of the skin, fillers like collagen or your own fat can be injected into the scars. As the depressions lessen, so do the appearance of the scars. This procedure has immediate results but will need to be repeated -- the filler isn't permanent. Fillers typically last from three to six months [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
To learn more about acne scars and how to reduce their appearance, see the links on the following page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Acne Scarring." AcneNet. (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.skincarephysicians.com/acnenet/scarring.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "What is a Scar." (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/cosmetic_scar.html
- American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. "Dermabrasion information." (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.asds.net/DermabrasionInformation.aspx
- American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. "Laser surgery information." (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.asds.net/LaserSurgeryInformation.aspx
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Dermabrasion." (Accessed 9/27/09) http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Patients_and_Consumers/Procedures/Cosmetic_Procedures/Dermabrasion.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Acne." (Accessed 9/15/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/natural-acne-treatment/AN01716
- Mayo Clinic. "Acne treatments: Emerging therapies for clearer skin." (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acne-treatments/SN00038/NSECTIONGROUP=2
- WebMD. "Collagen injections and gelatin implants for acne scars." (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/collagen-injections-and-gelatin-implants-for-acne-scars
- WebMD. "Cosmetic Procedures: Scars." (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/cosmetic-procedures-scars
- WebMD. "Skin Conditions: Scars." (Accessed 9/15/09) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/scars