How to get rid of acne scars

Acne is not a small problem.
In fact, a whopping 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 are
estimated to have experienced acne at least once in their lives, and it affects
up to 50 million Americans alone every single year. No matter how common the
problem, though, it’s still shrouded in negativity and is usually a shameful
experience for those suffering through it.
Anyone who has ever
experienced acne knows the effects are not just physical, but mental as well.
Those who have dealt with the sever inflammation to the skin of the face, neck
and shoulders know that the embarrassment can also lead to sever mental stress
— and that has lasting affects.
And the worst part is, even
when you think it’s over, it’s not. It’s hard enough to clear up acne, but even
when the sores are gone, you’re often left with scarring that can be just as
depressing. It’s just one hurdle after another, right? Luckily, most of those
scars don’t have to be permanent. I spoke with a few skincare experts who were
more than happy to share their best tips on how to send those acne scars
packing, for good.
of acne scars
All acne scars are not created
equal, according to Erica Parker, director of education and on-air celebrity
aesthetician for Michael Todd Beauty. “The term ‘acne scar’ means
something different to everyone,” she said. “Some people refer to an
acne scar as the post-blemish hyper-pigmented skin that stains the skin after a
particularly aggressive blemish.” These hyper-pigmentations are not
technically scars, since they do eventually fade away, but they are
none-the-less frustrating, especially for the person suffering through them.
There are four main types of
acne scars.

  • Icepick scars: narrow but deep
    divots in the skin that resemble puncture marks.
  • Rolling scars: shallow but
    wide indentations in the skin, sometimes with a gentle, rounded appearance.
  • Boxcar scars: very deep
    depressions in the skin with sharp edges, these may be round or square.
  • Hypertrophic scars: raised
    acne scars that may be firm or rubbery.

to treat acne scars
It’s completely understandable
that anyone suffering from acne scars would want to start steps to get rid of
them right away, but that’s not the best way to approach it. The first step is
to clear up the acne, and then to make sure it isn’t going to make a comeback.
“In my dermatology
practice, I advise clients to make sure their acne is under control for at
least 2 months before seeking treatment for acne scars. This ensures any
inflammation in the skin caused by acne has reduced and the skin is calm and
ready for scar treatment,” said dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Anjali
Butani, MD. “This is also the perfect time window to start scar treatment.
The skin is actively producing new collagen, trying to correct scars. The
longer the scar is left untreated, the harder it is to treat.”
Dr. Michael Rains,
board-certified dermatologist with Westlake Dermatology, said the first step in
getting acne under control is setting up a visit with a dermatologist. “A
dermatologist can devise an effective acne regimen. Once the acne is under
control, then there are multiple treatments, from topicals to lasers, that can
be effective in reducing the appearance and severity of acne scarring,” he
Many people suffering from
acne scars try to address the problem at home before taking more drastic steps
with a dermatologist, and Dr. Michael Rains, board-certified dermatologist with
Westlake Dermatology, said patients have had some success at this, especially
with post-acne redness and hyper-pigmentation. “There are many at-home
treatments that can be helpful with skin remodeling and reduction of redness,”
he said. “First, the post acne redness (called post-inflammatory erythema)
can last longer with unprotected sun exposure; thus, the most important
prevention and reduction of long lasting redness is sun protection, including
sunscreen use. I typically recommend a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB)
with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.” He also recommends antioxidants
(such as niacinamide) to help reduce DNA damage and inflammation that lead to
“There are times that
redness can be replaced with dark areas (called post-inflammatory
hyper-pigmentation) that require brightening products,” he added.
“There are over-the-counter, safe products that include natural-based
lightening ingredients, including vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin A
(retinol), kojic acid (derived from mushroom extract), or arbutin (bearberry
extract). A dermatologist can prescribe lightening medications that include
hydroquinone, if needed. However, over-use and long-term use of hydroquinone
can cause paradoxical darkening of skin, so it is important to be followed
closely by your dermatologist if using hydroquinone products.”
Rains cautions that choosing
the right products for you can be difficult. “Scar topical products are
plentiful; however, it is difficult to decipher through effective topical
products over the less effective products. Studies have shown sun protection in
addition to silicone-based topicals or pads can enhance scar remodeling and
reduce overall scar appearance.”
Thousands of tiny needle holes
in your skin doesn’t exactly sound like a walk in the park, but this process,
called micro-needling, is quickly picking up steam as en effective way to treat
acne scars. The procedure uses a wand-type tool with 11 very small needles at
the tip. Your dermatologist can adjust the height of the needles according to
your skin and scarring levels, and will use the tool to create tiny punctures
in the top-most layer of your skin.
“I perform a lot of
micro-needling. It’s a simple concept with huge benefits,” said
dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Anjali Butani, MD. “We’re making
thousands of microscopic fine wounds in the skin in order to induce collagen
formation. Just like when you cut yourself accidentally in the kitchen
sometimes, the skin is smart. It recognizes the injury and rushes nutrients and
fibroblasts (new skin cells) to heal the area.” These micro-needling tools
are often used together with medical-grade products containing growth factors
to speed healing.
Dr. Jack Zamora, MD, a
Denver-based oculo-facial plastic surgeon, says micro-needling is not as
painful as it sounds. “A micro-needling treatment is safe and effective
for scars on the face and body. A series of five to six treatments is
recommended and more may be needed depending on the area being treated and
desired result. Patients are numbed prior to treatment and then the wand is
passed over the treatment area several times,” he said. “Most
patients don’t experience any discomfort. The treatment takes about an hour
including numbing time. Micro-needling is ideal for all skin tones as well as
those who are sensitive to heat (from laser treatments) and prone to melasma
and rosacea. Downtime is minimal — patients may be red and slightly swollen
post treatment but this subsides within 24-hours.”
For the more adventurous (and
very brave) acne scar sufferers, an at-home version of micro-needling is
available in the form of a derma roller. A less-extreme version of in-office
micro-needling, derma rollers can be ordered online and used as much as once or
twice a week. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou says their results
can be positive. “The use of a derma roller for at-home micro-needling can
be beneficial over the course of months and years to help reduce the appearance
of pitted and depressed acne scarring,” she said.
But some doctors caution
against their use as they can leave you more susceptible to infections and more
scarring. Speak to your doctor before you begin at-home derma rolling, and only
preform the process on clean skin, with a high-quality derma roller for best
Another popular way to deal
with acne scars is through chemical peels, the method of using chemicals to
remove the top layer of skin to reveal the smoother, less-scarred layer underneath.
“Chemical peels can be
used for residual hyper-pigmentation, redness, or to help reduce depth of acne
scars,” said Dr. Michael Rains, board-certified dermatologist with
Westlake Dermatology. “One technique, called the CROSS method, uses a strong
concentration of trichloroactic acid (TCA) that stimulates inflammation with
resulting collagen synthesis to aid with acne scarring remodeling. There is
minimal downtime with small scabs that typically fall off after four to seven
days. On average three to four treatments are required with treatments
performed every three to six weeks.”
According to the American
Society for Dermatologic Surgery, there is some pain associated with chemical
peels, mostly described as a short-term burning feeling during the process,
followed by a less intense stinging sensation. Ice or cold compresses can
sometimes help, as well as pain medication after deeper peels.
Laser therapy is another
effective treatment against acne scars, and is most successful with scars that
are more shallow.
“Laser treatments can
treat initial coloration (redness and hyper-pigmentation) and resulting
scarring. One example is the V-Beam Perfecta that targets new blood vessels,
which can reduce the redness appearance of remodeling scars with minimal
downtime,” said Dr. Michael Rains, board-certified dermatologist with
Westlake Dermatology. “If the redness has faded, but there is residual
scarring, then a laser that targets resurfacing is warranted to help stimulate
collagen synthesis to decrease scarring appearance. There are different types
of resurfacing lasers that your dermatologist can discuss with you, depending
of the severity of the scarring, downtime and cost.”
tissue fillers
Soft tissue fillers are a
fasting-acting option for filling depressed acne scars, but they’re also less
permanent than other options. Using this technique, fillers are injected
directly into the scar, raising the surface and helping it blend in with the
surrounding area.
“Soft tissue fillers can
reduce the visible appearance of deep scars; however, it typically requires
repeated treatments every four to eight months, as the fillers reabsorb into
the skin,” said Dr. Michael Rains, board-certified dermatologist with Westlake
to heal
As hard as it is to be
patient, it’s important to allow your skin time to recover and not expect
results immediately.
“When scarring does
occur, it deserves special attention because scars leave an impact both
physically and emotionally for many years to come,” said Dermatologist and
Cosmetic Surgeon Anjali Butani, MD. “That’s why I’ve committed a great portion
of my clinical practice and skincare research to this area of dermatology. I
believe with consistent, non-invasive treatments and skincare that contains
cutting-edge ingredients, there is hope for the improvement of acne
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.