Many acne scar treatments focus on acne prevention and minimising acne breakouts, but if you have acne scars from a previous breakout, it is important to know what causes them.
Acne scars form for two reasons: the acne lesion doesn’t heal completely or excessive inflammation around the area of the acne lesion. Gladly, many treatment options, which you can read more about here, are available that can help fade away acne scars, including chemical peels, laser therapy, microdermabrasion, and surgical procedures.
Here are some of major factors worsen acne scars and what treatments can fade away acne scars:
How to identify an acne scar?
A scar is the result of acne lesions that do not heal completely. This can be due to acne lesion not healing correctly, inflammation around it disrupting its natural healing process, or bacteria in the area causing infection and acne scarring.
The most common are ice pick scars which are deeply indented scars on your skin’s surface with sharp points, making them resemble an icepick wound. Rolling scars are broad depressions along the skin’s surface that look like waves when pressed upon, while boxcar acne scars appear as angular scratches across your face similar to a scratch from someones fingernail. Have you ever been scratched by someone cat?
Lastly, hypertrophic acne scars appear thickened red nodules on facial areas where there have been previous acne breakouts.
What factors worsen acne scars?
A lot of factors may worsen acne scars. When acne becomes inflamed, acne can leave behind an acne scar for several months or even years after the acne has healed. With that said, we have listed below some common factors that worsen acne scars:
- Genetics. Genetics can play a major role in how much skin damage acne lesions cause when they heal after an outbreak. People with severe acne parents will likely get the worst scarring, while those whose parents never experienced any acne may only experience minor changes or none at all. Genetic components also determine your risk for developing other medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which means genetics not only affect our physical appearance but overall health too.
- Excessive inflammation. Excessive inflammation around the site of acne lesions is another factor that can worsen acne scars. This includes acne cysts, which are severe acne eruptions caused by bacterial infections in the hair follicles of your skin. These bacteria secrete chemicals into the body, which trigger an immune response resulting in inflammation around acne lesions and more swelling than usual at the site of acne lesions. Excessive inflammation also occurs with inflammatory acne such as papules and pustules because these types of inflamed pimples swell up to three times their normal size when they become infected with P. acnes. This is a type of bacterium found on everyone’s skin but is over-represented in people who have acne breakouts during adolescence. When inflammatory acne lesions heal, acne scars are often the result.
- Over-exfoliation and scrubbing too much. When people have acne problems, they tend to scrub too hard at their skin in an attempt to wipe away acne lesions and remove acne marks before they become permanent tissue damage or scars. However, excessive exfoliation can actually make acne inflammation worse rather than making it better because deep pore cleansing routines that involve using harsh chemicals like salicylic acid gently exfoliate your skin without irritating it further or disrupting its natural protective barrier. You should also avoid over-scrubbing your skin with abrasive materials such as wash cloths which can irritate acne lesions even more since these types of tools for washing up usually lack the proper texture to gently clean acne lesions without irritating them.
- Excessive sun exposure. Sunlight is one of the common known causes of skin damage associated with acne scarring because UV light from sunlight causes inflammation around acne lesions, resulting in acne scars when they heal after an acne lesion has formed. Furthermore, long-term exposure to sunlight can lead to abnormal changes or mutations within your skin cells, which often manifest as wrinkles and age spots on the surface of your skin over time!
Medical treatments to fade away acne scars
Acne scars are permanent acne lesions that remain after acne has healed. However, there are medical treatments available that can help fade away acne scars, like laser resurfacing, which uses lasers to remove the top layers of your skin in order to smooth out acne scarring on the surface of your face.
Lasers work by penetrating deep beneath the surface of your skin, where they produce heat energy under your outer layer of dead cells (the stratum corneum). This causes surrounding tissues within these areas to swell up while increasing blood flow through tiny capillaries underneath this tissue. As a result, new collagen is produced at an accelerated rate for several months following treatment with fractional or ablative resurfacing lasers.
Please note that acne scarring may take up to 12 months after laser resurfacing before you notice any changes in the appearance of acne scars on your face. Medical professionals recommend waiting at least one year after treatment with fractional or ablative lasers to see if acne scarring will respond positively to these types of procedures before moving on to another option like injections.
Additionally, chemical peels are often used by dermatologists who specialise in acne problems. The reason behind this is that the treatment removes dead skin cells from your top layer of epidermis while increasing new collagen production beneath this outer layer of skin which helps fade away acne marks and reduce the appearance of acne scars.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.