Acne is a very common, often irritating, condition that sometimes leads to scarring and bruising. While acne scars won’t go away on their own, there are a few ways you can encourage them to fade.

Here’s what you need to know about the causes and treatment of acne scars.

Inflammatory acne can cause painful, swollen, red, and deep skin lesions that damage the skin and the collagen underneath. As these injuries heal, the body produces collagen. Too much or too little collagen production both leads to acne scarring unlike the surrounding skin.

Several factors can increase your risk of scarring, including:

  • genetics (i.e. a close family member with acne scarring)
  • delay the treatment of inflammatory acne
  • pick or pop a pimple
  • the severity of acne, which often correlates with the amount of scarring a person will experience

Hyperpigmentation is a dark patch where the skin has healed. It occurs when inflammatory acne increases the amount of melanin in the skin. This pigment gives color to the skin. Dark spots usually affect people with dark skin.

Acne scars do not go away completely on their own. Depression acne scars often become more noticeable with age as the skin loses collagen. However, there are many treatments that can make acne scars less noticeable.

Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation may resolve on its own within a few months. However, it can take years to clear up on its own without treatment for some people.

There are several different types of acne scars. They fall into one of the following categories:

Indented scars (atrophy)

Depression acne scars occur when the skin loses collagen. Types include:

  • Icepick Scar: small, deep hole in the skin
  • Boxcar scars: Dimples that are wider than oval or round with clear edges look like chickenpox scars
  • Rolling atrophic scars: a wide depression in the skin with a rolling or undulating shape, like the letter “M”

Large scars (hypertrophy)

As skin heals from acne, it sometimes produces too much collagen. This leads to the formation of overhead scars. They are usually found on the chest and back.

Dark spots (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation)

While dark spots aren’t technically scars, they’re a noticeable sign of acne. The inflammatory process of acne can lead to hyperpigmentation or deeper color where the acne has healed. Hyperpigmentation can also be a temporary side effect of acne scar treatments, especially in people with darker skin.

How you get rid of acne scars will vary depending on the type of scars you have and how severe they are. Treatment should not be started until the acne has completely healed.

Dermatological treatment

  • Reshaping process: Laser therapy, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels can help improve the appearance of non-deep acne scars. They all involve shedding layers of skin cells to encourage the skin to produce new cells.
  • Filler: Your dermatologist can fill in shallower scars with substances like hyaluronic acid, collagen, or your own lipids. Results usually last a few months, although some fillers are permanent.
  • Microneedling: Also known as collagen induction therapy, this is a good option if you have a lot of depressive acne scars. It involves pressing a needle-stick roller into indented acne scars to stimulate collagen production.
  • Radiofrequency skin tightening: This treatment can sometimes effectively treat deep scars and boxcar scars. The doctor will use radiofrequency to tighten the skin and fade acne scars.
  • Electrical rating: This is a complementary treatment for boxcar acne scars that uses an electrical probe to heat tissue and even out the edges of the scar.
  • Injection: A series of injections of medications such as corticosteroids into the skin can smooth and soften raised and thickened scars.
  • Surgery: Surgery involves removing and elevating tissue or disrupting tissue to reduce the appearance of indented acne scars. Cryosurgery freezes raised acne scars, but it’s not recommended for people with darker skin.

At home or natural remedies

You should always check with your dermatologist before trying new acne scar treatments. Your doctor can determine that you really have acne scarring and not another condition, and can recommend the most effective treatment.

Many ingredients in over-the-counter chemical peels have been shown to improve acne scarring and hyperpigmentation by encouraging skin cell turnover. Look for products with the following ingredients:

Acne scars form when the skin produces too little or too much collagen as it heals. There are several different types of acne scars, including icepick, boxcar, atrophic scars, and keloids. Acne can also leave behind dark spots known as hyperpigmentation, especially in people with darker skin.

While acne scars won’t go away on their own, some treatments can improve their appearance. This includes in-clinic dermatological procedures such as laser resurfacing or microdermabrasion, fillers, microdermabrasion, skin tightening, and surgery. At-home chemical peels with ingredients like retinoids and salicylic acid can encourage skin cell turnover to reduce scarring.

Talk to your doctor to get recommendations on the best treatment plan for the type and severity of your acne.

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