How to Prevent and Treat Acne Scars
We understand how frustrating hormonal acne can be. Even after it clears up, you might be left feeling self-conscious about your skin due to lingering scars. However, there’s good news for those who suffer from acne and scarring.
With time, patience, and the right care, you may be able to prevent scarring or reduce the appearance of existing acne scars with acne scar treatment.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to prevent acne scars and how to reduce existing scarring.
What Causes Acne Scars?
When severe acne breakouts clear up, they can sometimes leave behind lasting scars. These scars result from damage to the skin’s second layer—the dermis. Certain types of acne are more likely to leave scars behind, such as:
The inflamed red blemishes known as papules
These three types of blemishes result from the breaking of the pore wall in your skin.
Think about when you try to squeeze, pick, or prod a pimple after an acne breakout (which you should never do). You aggravate the area in the hopes that the pus and debris inside will come to the surface so you can wipe it away from your skin.
Often, this doesn’t work out the way you hope, and you actually end up interfering with your skin’s natural healing process. When you pick and prod at pimples, you may push debris from the inflamed area into surrounding pores, increasing skin’s likelihood of scarring.
Any time a localized area of skin undergoes sustained inflammation—whether from acne, or even an ornery insect bite—the deepest layers of your skin are at risk of injury. Subjected to stimulating like picking, scratching, and squeezing, the skin is unable to complete the healing cycle and may instead develop hypertrophic or keloid scars.
How Do Acne Scars Develop?
Keloids and hypertrophic scars contain three types of cells associated with the inflammatory healing process:
Fibroblasts (these comprise your connective tissue)
Collagen is a protein known for giving skin its plump, smooth appearance, but it’s also highly implicated in acne scarring.
Normally, collagen serves as a key mediator in the inflammation process. But when excessive amounts are produced—whether due to skin-picking or genetic factors—it can accentuate the site of injury rather than restoring skin’s smooth texture.
Different Types of Acne Scars
Not all acne scars are the same. An atrophic scar can differ in color, depth, and pattern. There are four main categories dermatologists use to describe the traits and appearance of acne scars. These include:
Ice pick – Ice pick scars are a type of depressed acne scar. This means the scar occurs below the level of the surrounding skin, so it appears as a depression in the skin. An ice pick scar is a small, v-shaped acne lesion scar that may extend deep into the skin. These scars can be very difficult to treat because of their depth.
Boxcar – Another type of depressed, or atrophic, acne scar is the boxcar. These atrophic scars can either be deep in the skin or more shallow. Boxcar scars are wider than ice pick scars and have a u-shape.
Rolling – Rolling scars are the final type of atrophic acne scar. These scars have variations in appearance and don’t have a regular pattern. This acne mark typically has rounded edges and appear to undulate across your skin tissue.
Hypertrophic – Hypertrophic scars are a specific type of acne scar that appears as raised bumps on the skin.
As you might imagine, each of these types of scars may require a different approach to treatment.
Tips for Preventing Acne Scars
Of course, the best action you can take against acne scars is to try to prevent them from forming in the first place. Some of the ways you might be able to prevent acne scarring include:
Staying on top of acne treatment – Treating your acne right away might help mitigate the amount of scarring left behind. Including the proper serums and treatments, is essential to combat acne. There are many hyaluronic acid benefits that could help to prevent the formation of acne scars by promoting healthy, hydrated skin, as well as additional products. Working with a healthcare professional to develop a treatment plan appropriate for your skin can help you get your acne under control and minimize breakouts.
Keeping your hands away from your face – This one can be tough. We’ve all been in the position where we see a blemish forming and we want to squeeze it. However, squeezing or picking at your breakouts can force the oil and bacteria causing the blemish deeper into your skin.
Reducing inflammation – Calming the inflammation that leads to painful, red, swollen blemishes may also help mitigate the scarring left behind. To calm inflammation, stick to gentle, non-irritating skin care products, and avoid scrubbing at your skin.
Seeing a healthcare provider for assistance – Sometimes, acne can flare out of control, and you can end up with very deep, painful cysts. In these instances, a professional dermatologist can help you navigate the treatment and care of your acne to prevent serious scarring.
Treating Acne Scars
We’ll be honest—sometimes acne scars will form even when you take as many precautions as possible. But the good news is that there are treatments and cosmetic services that can help reduce the appearance of these scars.
Let’s look at two different types of treatments that may reduce scarring from acne.
Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments
What should you look for when choosing an acne treatment? The first place many people turn when they have acne scars is over-the-counter treatments. Some popular options that are available without prescriptions include:
Salicylic acid – Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in acne treatment products. It’s known for its ability to reduce redness and swelling while also keeping your pores clear. Its exfoliating properties may also help reduce the appearance of acne scars when used regularly.
Topical retinoids – Retinoids are another popular approach to treating both acne breakouts and scars. Retinoids may help reduce inflammation and redness during breakouts. Over time, retinoids may also help lessen the discoloration and appearance of acne scars.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) – AHAs are found in many acne treatments because they help gently exfoliate the top layer of skin. This removes dead skin cells and helps keep your pores clearer. The exfoliating power of AHAs may also make your acne scars less visible over time.
Sometimes, the over-the-counter approach isn’t enough to reduce the appearance of your acne scars. This is where prescription skin care treatments can step in and save the day. Two prescription skin care products that have been shown to reduce scarring include:
Tretinoin – Tretinoin is a more powerful form of retinol. It’s only available with a prescription, and it works to reduce inflammation, exfoliate the skin’s surface, and prevent clogged pores. These actions help improve the skin’s texture, tone, and appearance in many users.
Clindamycin – This prescription medication is an antibiotic that helps treat acne by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria that can cause an breakout. It can be used in both oral and topical forms. Clindamycin is frequently paired with another form of topical treatment, such as retinoids, to mitigate breakouts and scars left behind.
Although both of these treatments require a prescription, they’re proven methods that can be used to get acne breakouts under control and reduce the appearance of scarring.
Some acne scars that don’t respond to topical treatments may require more extreme and invasive care from surgical services, such as:
Microneedling – This technique involves using a small pen-like tool to gently puncture the skin. This stimulates collagen production which may help lessen the appearance of atrophic acne scars over time.
Chemical peels – Chemical peels rely on a strong acidic product that’s designed to remove the top layer of skin. They may help make deep acne scars less visible.
Dermabrasion – Dermabrasion involves gentle but thorough exfoliation of the top layer of skin. It can be highly effective for shallow scars and may also help lessen the visibility of deeper scars.
Fillers – A filler is typically an injection of collagen or fat. When injected into your skin, fillers may help provide a smoother appearance.
Regardless of which treatment type ultimately works best for you, one thing you should never skip is sunscreen. Sun damage can make all scars appear more visible and increase your risk of skin cancer.
Find Your Best Skin with The Pill Club
Acne and acne scarring can be frustrating to deal with. Fortunately, by taking the right precautions and finding the best treatments, as well as implementing the proper skincare routine order, you may be able to prevent acne scarring, lessen the appearance of old scars, and improve your overall complexion.
Regardless of whether your goal is to learn how to prevent acne scars or how to reduce scarring from acne, The Pill Club is here to help. We offer online telemedicine consultations and powerful skincare products designed to empower you to uncover your best skin yet.
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