By: Laurie Edwards for Scars1
If you are one of the 40 to 50 million Americans who suffer from acne, you know dealing with embarrassing blemishes and active inflammation is difficult enough. Many acne cases do respond to treatment and clear up eventually, but some patients are left with scars and for them, this reminder can be more painful than the acne itself.
Facts About Acne:
Acne that is treated early is less likely to leave scars, so don’t wait to consult your physician and explore acne treatment options.
Try to prevent your acne from worsening by cleaning your skin gently – washing too often or too harshly can exacerbate acne.
Avoid touching your face or spending time in the sun since these behaviors can also aggravate acne.
If you do have scars, don’t let them interfere with your social life or self-esteem – there are plenty of ways your physician can help minimize your scars.
While it is hard to predict who will have scars from their acne, the good news is that there are many treatments options available and there are simple steps you can take to lessen the chance of scarring.
Acne happens when the sebaceous glands in the skin become enlarged and produce oil, plugging the skin’s pores. Whiteheads, blackheads and pimples can form. While the exact cause of acne is unknown, hormonal changes like the ones that occur during puberty or pregnancy are believed to play a role. Common myths about what causes acne include eating chocolate or greasy goods, but there is little to research to support this. It is also important to distinguish that while stress can exacerbate acne, it does not cause it.
Types of Acne Scars
Since acne usually appears on the face, as well as the back, shoulders, upper arms and chest, scarring can be particularly distressing for patients. Scars appear at the site of an injury to tissue, and acne scars in particular are the result of the body’s inflammatory response to the bacteria present in plugged pores.
When the skin is inflamed with acne, two different body responses can lead to scarring: an increase in tissue formation, or a loss of tissue. Scars that happen when tissue formation increases are called keloids, and some people may have a genetic disposition towards forming them.
The more common acne scars, however, occur from loss of tissue. There are several types, including the “ice-pick” scar known for its jagged, steep sides that look like an ice-pick wound. Depressed fibrotic scars also have steep sides and look a lot like chicken pox scars. Superficial and deep soft scars have more sloping sides that merge with normal facial skin.
There are many treatment options out there, and deciding on the best fit for you depends on how severe the scarring is and how much your scarring affects you psychologically. It is important to have an open and honest discussion with your dermatologist, who can not only determine the severity of the scarring but can walk you through the various options.
Treatments can involve procedures that try and remove scars or processes that rejuvenate and repair skin. In addition to surgery to excise scars, some of the most common methods include:
Chemical peels, which are best suited for small, depressed scars. They can also remove remaining acne.
Dermabrasion, which reaches more layers of tissues that chemical peels and so is most effective in treating deeper scars. When used in combination with the excision of scar tissue, dermabrasion can also help remove ice-pick scars.
Laser treatment, which is a newer method and due to its tissue-penetrating power, it has proven quote effective in select patients, particularly those with complex scarring.
Soft-tissue augmentation can help remedy atrophic scars – those caused by loss of tissue – by injecting subcutaneous fat or collagen underneath the scars, making them more even with the rest of the skin’s surface.
Steroid injections are often used to treat keloids since people prone to keloid formation could also form them in response to skin surgery.
Together, you and your physician can decide which option is the best fit for you.