How to prevent and treat acne scars



The best ways to get rid of acne scars

A scar is a natural part of the body’s healing process and is the result of a biological process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues.   

How do scars form?

Scars form when the middle layer of the skin, the dermis, is damaged.  The dermis is where the collagen fibres lie and the skin forms new collagen fibres to mend the damage, which results in a scar.  The new scar tissue will have a different texture and quality from the surrounding skin tissue and are formed after a wound is completely healed.

Different types of scar

1.  Atrophic scars

These appear like small indentations in the skin.  They occur when the skin doesn’t make enough fibroblasts in the healing process. Fibroblasts are cells that make collagen. 

2.   Hypertrophic scars

These are raised scars that occur when the skin makes too many fibroblasts, resulting in too much collagen, as the acne spot healing – causing the scar to raise. 

3.   Keloid scars

Similar to hypertrophic but are typically much thicker than the original acne spot.  They are usually darker than the surrounding skin and can be red or brown.  Keloid scars can also cause itchiness or pain.

Acne Scar Skincare Ingredients to look out for!

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring compound found as an ingredient in acne skincare products. Salicylic acid helps clear dirt, skin cells and other debris that leads to acne from the pores of the skin.  It also helps reduce swelling and redness, which will minimise the appearance of scarring.  This ingredient is beneficial for all scar types and is a must-have for most people who live with acne.  

Retinol

Topical retinol delivering vitamin A to the skin should help get rid of acne scars.  Topical retinol blocks inflammation, reduce acne lesions and speeds up cell regeneration.  

Retinol also helps to lighten hyper-pigmented acne scars, including those in people with darker skin tones.  

NB.  Anyone using retinol for acne or scar treatment should wear sunscreen.

Alpha hydroxy acids

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) eg. Glycolic Acid can help get rid of dead skin cells and prevent clogged pores.   Aestheticians will recommend AHAs for treating acne and reducing the appearance of acne scars.

AHAs are a mild form of acid that scrapes away the outer layer of skin to reveal fresh, new skin underneath. This process may help with discolouration due to scarring.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid can act as a gentle peel to pull away dead skin cells. It may help reduce the appearance of scars and smooth the overall texture of the skin.

Lactic acid may also help lighten dark scar tissue, although it sometimes causes hyperpigmentation. Due to this possible adverse effect, it is best to test products that contain lactic acid on a small patch of skin before using them to treat acne scarring.

Treatments

Dermabrasion

This facial treatment involves the removal of the surface layer of the skin with special equipment. Dermabrasion is a good treatment to consider when you want to blend in the irregularities of a scar whether it is raised or depressed.  

Microdermabrasion

Less invasive but is quite useful for very superficial scars.

Chemical peels

Many aestheticians will recommend a course of glycolic acid chemical peels to smooth out the skin surface and stimulate new collagen.  Old skin cells will be replaced by new fresher skin resulting in clearer skin with improved skin texture.  This treatment will work best when glycolic acid skincare is being used at home for several weeks beforehand.  

Injections

When a person has either hypertrophic or keloid scars, injections of corticosteroids should help smooth and flatten the scar.  This treatment typically consists of a series of injections.

Dermal filler

Dermal fillers are a good option for atrophic scars but are usually temporary lasting between 6 to 18 months.  Dermatologists may use a collagen-based soft tissue filler to reduce the appearance of scars.  

Microneedling

Microneedling is a treatment where tiny needles are inserted into the skin surrounding the scar to stimulate the skin to make more collagen.  This can reduce the appearance of acne scars by smoothing out the skin.

Laser treatment

Laser resurfacing is an excellent treatment that removes the uppermost layer of skin to reveal younger skin cells underneath which should help reduce the appearance of scarring.

Final word: Acne scars are an unwanted reminder of acne and can result in some people having low self-esteem, but they do not have to be permanent.  Many people have success using good skincare with acne busting ingredients but if you have stubborn scarring, then a visit to the dermatologist to find out which medical treatment would have the best result for you.