Leaving Its Mark: Your guide to acne scars

As if having pimples isn’t tough enough, patients have to deal with the scars left behind. These marks usually take the form of skin discolorations, depressions, and lumps as a glaring reminder of the acne battle you fought. And just like actual pimples, scars can be just as disheartening. But though they can be incredibly stubborn to deal with, acne scars aren’t actually forever.

Let’s get to know these marks and the best way to treat them.

Dark and Red Marks

After a blemish has run its natural course, it’s normal for it to leave brown (AKA hyperpigmentation) or red (AKA erythema) marks. This is just your body’s natural response to skin trauma, whether you pick a zit or get an accidental cut.

But as a general rule, the larger and deeper the pimple, and the more inflammation and melanin (brown pigment) produced, then there’s also more chances it will leave a mark. And if you’re the type to mindlessly pick on skin, then it’s another bad habit that could contribute to a darkening spot.

Although these spots may lighten over time, it could take years for darker skin types. Yes, that’s a really long time, but some treatments can speed up the process. Some of the best ingredients to lighten pigmentation are azelaic acid, hydroquinone, retinoids, and niacinamide. And of course, don’t forget the golden rule of skin care, which is to never skip sunscreen. If you’re prone to acne scars, it’s particularly important to invest in a medical-grade kind to keep UV rays from stimulating more melanin and breaking down collagen necessary to heal scars.

When over-the-counter products don’t cut it, consider going prescription-grade. Chemical peels can work wonders for those pesky brown marks while vascular lasers can help zap the redness away. If these terms sound like rocket science to you, don’t worry. Your dermatologist will be able to advise you which ones you need.

True Acne Scars

Despite how long they take to fade away, dark and red marks don’t do as much damage as true acne scars. Now, true acne marks go beyond color changes and cause texture irregularities, like small indentations on the skin. In some cases, scars can also develop into raised bumpy scars. A study from the Dermatology Research and Practice identifies four main kinds, namely:

  • Ice pick -  Deep, narrow (< 2mm) V-shaped scars that taper to a point at the base; literally look like someone punctured your skin with an ice pick.

  • Boxcar - Wider, U-shaped depressions with sharp vertical edges; similar to chickenpox scars.

  • Rolling - Shallow and wide (>4-5mm) depressions with sloped edges that give them their “rolling” appearance.

  • Hypertrophic - Raised, firm scars due to excess collagen; can be keloidal if extends beyond the border of the original wound.

Can acne scars be prevented?

Remember, acne scars are an effect of acne, which can happen whether mild or severe. So to prevent scarring, you must first deal with the acne you have. Avoid picking, squeezing, or popping pimples, and practice gentle care at all times. Even if your acne has cleared, don’t get lazy with the maintenance treatment. But if you think you’re past that point, you can still get the proper treatment that will undo all those months of fighting acne.

How do you treat them?

To smoothen out your skin’s surface, talk to your dermatologist about the specific treatments that are right for you. Different scars call for different treatments. Just don’t expect a single magic bullet or a one-size-fits-all approach. Often times, it takes multiple sessions and even multiple treatments. But, like we always say at Remedy, there’s always a solution.

In-clinic scar treatments

Here are some examples of procedures that you can do to reduce the size and visibility of your scars:

  • Chemical Peels

  • Microdermabrasion

  • Microneedling

  • Laser Resurfacing

With some time and proper treatments, many of the scars fade and become unnoticeable. However, your results depend on the skill, knowledge and experience of the one performing the treatment. So don’t cut corners, and leave your skin concerns to experts you can trust. The end result? Smooth, happy skin within your reach.

Other things to note

Before you start any treatment for your acne scars, make sure to let your doctor know what kind of treatments you’ve had prior to that, especially if you’ve been taking medications like isotretinoin, which may be a contraindication for some procedures.

That said, acne scars are certainly one of the most sensitive topics for patients. Because even when you think your acne journey is over, the marks it leaves behind can be long-lasting. So while there are definitely solutions out there, an even better plan is prevention.

At Remedy, we’re here to help you nip acne in the bud and improve its aftermath. Whatever stage you’re at, we’ll be there to support you through it.