As teenagers, almost all of us have battled the occasional pimple and while at that point of time, it would have been truly worrying, it did disappear over the course of a few days. However, the adult version of the same problem is a lot more serious and needs to be given a lot more attention. What most people are not aware of is that acne is more than just the simple pimple – acne is a medical condition, which if not treated properly could lead to more severe problems and of course, scars that could last a lifetime.
Fortunately, acne scars can be treated, but before you can start treating them, you need to figure out which kind of scar you have. Here are the main types of acne scars:
- Dark spots – While most people think that dark spots are scars, they are actually not – the mark that is left behind after a pimple has gone is a dark spot and it can be red, purple or brown in colour. In most cases, these dark spots will disappear over time and you will not need to do anything to them.
- Raised scars – Also known as hypertrophic scars, these are most commonly seen on the back and chest. These scars will stand above the surface and are caused because of an overproduction of collagen, during the healing process.
- Depressed scars – The scientific term for this type of scar is atrophic scars and these scars are seen most commonly on the face. This type of scar sits below the surface of the surrounding skin and the reason for the formation is insufficient collagen at the time of the healing. There are three types of depressed scars:
- Rolling – Wide depressions with irregular appearance, but rounded edges.
- Boxcar – Wide with a U shape and sharp edges. Can be shallow or deep, but the shallow ones are easier to treat with resurfacing treatments.
- Ice pick – Narrow with a V shape; looks almost like chickenpox scars and go very deep into the skin, making them tough to treat.
Once you have been able to identify what type of scar it is, you can look for a method of treating it, but it would make sense to talk to a doctor first, because you would not want to make things worse than they already are.
Here are some treatments that you can try at home:
- Sunscreen – As simple as it might sound, a good sunscreen is your first line of defence against acne scars, because the more the scars get exposed to sunlight, the darker they will get. No matter what type of scar you have, you should wear sunscreen when stepping out.
- Salicylic acid – This is an increasingly popular chemical to treat acne and can be found in a range of skincare products these days. Salicylic acid not only clears out the pores, but also reduces the redness and swelling, ensuring clear skin. You can use this for all types of scars and it can be found as the active ingredient in several over the counter products.
- Lactic acid – Something that occurs naturally in yoghurt and certain types of cheeses, lactic acid has proven to be extremely effective in reducing acne scars. Studies have shown that lactic acid peels done twice a month, for about three months can be quite effective. You can look for face care products which have lactic acid, or you can try diluted apple cider vinegar.
- Alpha hydroxy acids – Commonly known as AHAs, these acids are also easily found in modern skin care products, especially those which are meant to treat acne. These can prevent clogging of the pores and can also remove dead skin. With the exfoliating effect, the acid is also able to remove the outer layer of the skin, reducing the discolouration.
- Retinoids – If you are using a sunscreen with retinoids, then that should be enough, but your dermatologist might prescribe a stronger formulation. In most cases, the over the counter skin care products with retinoids are enough, but if your acne scars are severe, you might need a more concentrated version.
There are some home remedies that you can try, before heading to a clinic for dermatological treatments:
- Lemon juice – Lemon juice has AHAs, which can heal and rejuvenate the skin from within. Apply lemon juice to the scars and within a few days, you should notice them getting lighter.
- Vinegar – This is perhaps the mildest version of a peel that you can do right at home and when the outer layers are removed, fresh new skin was revealed.
- Aloevera – Break open some fresh aloevera and apply it all over your skin for healing as well as natural moisturising.
- Tea tree oil – You can find tea tree oil quite easily online or at your neighbourhood pharmacy. Apply a few drops on the skin and watch your skin become smoother and nourished.
- Baking soda – The sodium bicarbonate crystals can gently exfoliate your skin to remove all the dead skin cells. Create a paste using a few drops of water and apply to the scars, washing it off after two minutes.
However, if nothing seems to be working for you, then you might have to head to the office of your dermatologist. Some of the medical procedures that can be used to treat acne scars include:
- Laser resurfacing – This is an extremely effective acne scar laser treatment and it can remove the top layer of the skin. When the new skin is revealed, it will be healthier and smoother. However, this is not a good option for people who are still having acne issues or have a darker skin tone.
- Microneedling – This is a comparatively newer treatment and is done using a handheld device. Once your skin has been numbed, a tiny needle will pierce your skin on the superficial level, but when this is done, the collagen production in the area increases. This is a good choice for depressed acne scars, but the results take a long time to start showing.
- Dermabrasion – This is perhaps one of the most effective methods to remove acne scars. The basic tenet of the procedure is that it gently scrubs away the top layer of the skin to reveal healthier skin and instigate collagen production as well. This method works really well for scars that are closer to the surface level of the skin.
- Chemical peels – The strong acid of the chemical peel will remove the top layer of the skin to reduce scars that are deeper. While milder peels can be used at home, for stronger versions, you will need to head to a professional.
- Fillers – Fillers can be used to fill in fine lines and wrinkles as well as acne scars, because the basic idea behind them is to even out the skin. Fillers can be made using collagen, commercial chemicals or even the fat from your own body. They will simply be injected under the surface of your skin and leave your skin looking plumper and more even.
- Surgery – As scary as it might sound, there are minor surgeries, which will remove the scar. A simple surgery is done by loosening the fibres underneath the scar, bringing it closer to the surface, making it easier to heal.