Acne can be a long-term (chronic) condition. But even if it occurs only during the teen years, it can leave lifelong scars. Acne scars can be sunken (depressed) due to the loss of tissue. They may look like ice pick pits. They can be rolling, creating a wavy texture in the skin or they may also be boxlike. These are sometimes called boxcar acne scars and are often on the face. Acne scars can also be raised due to excess tissue in the form of a keloid or hypertrophic scar. These are more common on the back and chest. Lastly, acne can leave colored spots . These spots can be purplish, red and pink in lighter skin. They can be tan to dark brown in darker skin. These are technically not scars and will often fade over time.
Treatment for acne scars
Your healthcare provider will determine specific procedures to minimize your acne scars based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Severity of the scar
- Type of scar
- How well you handle certain medicines, treatments, or therapies
- Your opinion or preference
Proper treatment for acne may help minimize scarring. But some procedures may help to further minimize any acne scars. These procedures include:
This treatment may be used to minimize small scars, minor skin surface irregularities, surgical scars, and acne scars. It involves removing the top layers of skin with an electrical machine that scrapes (abrades) the skin. As the skin heals from the procedure, the surface looks smoother and fresher. You will typically need 5 to 7 days at home to recover. Microdermabrasion is a less invasive option. It's done in a series of treatments that don’t require the same downtime.
Chemical peels are often used to minimize sun-damaged skin, irregular color (pigment), and superficial scars. The top layer of skin is removed with a chemical applied to the skin. By removing the top layer, the skin regenerates. This often improves its appearance.
Dermal filler injections
These are injected under the skin to replace the body's natural collagen that has been lost. Injectable dermal fillers are generally used to treat wrinkles, depressed acne scars, and facial lines. Most fillers are short-term (temporary). They last about 6 to 18 months.
Laser resurfacing and light therapies
Laser resurfacing uses high-energy light to burn away damaged skin. It may be used to minimize wrinkles and fine scars. A pulsed dye laser may be used to specifically treat raised acne scars. For lighter-skinned people, intense pulsed light may be another treatment option.
These are often called intralesional injections. These involve injecting a medicine, usually a steroid, directly into a raised scar. This causes the scar to flatten and soften. Multiple treatments are usually needed.