Acne scars can be demoralizing and affect your self-confidence. No matter how well you take care of your skin, scars can develop when pores become clogged or infected. While acne is associated with your younger years, many people can develop acne scar well into their 20’s and 30’s. If you want to know how to get rid of acne scars, you’ve come to the right place.
Fortunately, scars don’t have to last a lifetime. There are numerous ways you can help to improve the appearance of acne scars. From chemical peels and laser treatments to over-the-counter retinoids and salicylic acid, there’s a solution for your skin type. Discover how to get rid of acne scars with this handy guide.
Types of Acne Scars
Not all acne scars are the same and the best treatment methods often depend on the severity of the scar. There are two main types of acne scars: atrophic scars and hypertrophic scars. Here, we’ll quickly breakdown the different types of acne scars so you can better understand how to treat them.
Atrophic scars are acne scars that look like small dents in the skin. They are caused by a loss of skin tissue due to acne. These scars can range from small indentations to larger indentations. They typically occur on the cheeks and chin.
These scars are the result of a lack of fibroblast cells. Fibroblast cells work to heal wounds and encourage collagen production. Atrophic scars develop when the body doesn’t produce enough fibroblast cells during the healing process.
Icepick scars are used to describe scars that feature long, deep indentations in the skin’s surface. These scars are generally caused by infections that result from ruptured cysts. They can also be caused by blemishes that start deep in the skin’s layers and then work their way to the surface.
Boxcar scars are larger than icepick scars and generally appear in a round or oval shape. These are the classic scars associated with acne that give off a pitted skin look. Boxcar scars are caused by blemishes and skin infections that cause collagen to die. The resulting tissue death causes a collapse in the skin, which can be small or large depending on how much collagen has been lost.
Rolling scars are the result of fibrous tissue that develops in response to infections and clogged pores. These scars feature a build-up of scar tissue or bands of skin that may be raised or depressed compared to normal skin. The indentations and raised skin tissue are not as clearly defined as boxcar scars or icepick scars.
Hypertrophic scars are the result of excess skin tissue. These types of acne scars are characterized by raised skin and tend to be more prevalent on the body rather than the face. The scars tend to be worse when the skin damage occurs on skin that has already experienced trauma.
Keloid scars are among the most severe types of acne scars. They are very similar to hypertrophic scars except that the scar can stretch out past the original skin damage. Keloid scars can become larger even after the skin wound has healed. That’s because these scars are the result of an overproduction of collagen. The immune system may not recognize that the wound is healed and may continue to produce collagen, leading to raised scars.
In addition to these classic acne scars, some people may experience discoloration of the skin during acne flare-ups. This acne side effect is not technically a scar and is actually just a flat portion of skin that may turn colors from red to purple of black.
The discoloration varies depending on your skin color, skin tone, skin type, and the severity of the skin damage. Hyperpigmentation and dark spots are caused by the production of melanin, which is a component of the healing process. The red marks and dark marks tend to heal themselves over time, though there are a few treatment options including a vitamin C serum — such as Skinceuticals C — that can help speed up the process.
How to Get Rid of Acne Scars: Holistic Treatments
Salicylic acid is one of the leading ingredients in over-the-counter acne-fighting medications. This acid helps to eliminate dirt and bacteria that can cause pores to clog. Salicylic acid also boasts anti-inflammatory properties that help to decrease swelling and redness associated with acne and scarring.
This product works best when used consistently and is an integral part of many acne skincare regimens. Salicylic acid may be too strong for people with sensitive skin. Test the product on a small area before applying liberally. Start by using every other day to prevent drying of the skin. As your skin begins to tolerate the product, you can increase to daily usage.
Lactic acid is used in skincare as a mild peel. This product can help to minimize the appearance of scars by reducing hyperpigmentation. This acid also helps to even out skin tone and minimizes the look of deep pitted scars. Overuse of the product can cause pigmentation so talk to a qualified healthcare professional before using to get the proper dosage for your skin.
Apple cider vinegar contains high concentrations of lactic acid. If you don’t want to splurge on fancy acne products, mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. Rinse your face each morning and evening with the mixture. You can also add a few drops of jasmine essential oil, which is a natural cicatrizant. Follow up with a hydrating cream as the acidity of the vinegar may dry out the skin.
Retinoids are famous in the world of skincare as they help to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. These compounds work to decrease inflammation and encourage cell turnover, resulting in softer, younger-looking skin. These powerful compounds can also help to lighten the pigmentation of acne scars — particularly for people with darker skin tones.
They may decrease the risk of new scars by supporting the creation of new cells during the healing process. Retinoids may cause irritation for people with sensitive skin. Start using the product every other day and increase when your skin starts to tolerate the new product. Retinoids also cause an increased risk of burn from sun exposure so make sure to apply sunscreen — like one from dermatologist-approved Elta MD — if you’re heading outdoors.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
AHAs are another popular component of acne spot treatment and are commonly found in skincare routines. These acids work like a chemical peel to help slough off dead skin cells and eliminate bacteria that can clog pores. AHAs remove skin cells, revealing healthier skin below. This can help to minimize the look of raised scars while anti-inflammatory properties work to reduce inflammation and discoloration.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera can help to minimize symptoms such as itching and burning associated with severe keloid scars. The aloe vera helps to hydrate the skin and can balance oil production to minimize the risk of clogged pores that lead to scarring. Aloe vera may also help to stimulate blood flow, speeding up the healing process and reducing redness and irritation associated with acne scars.
How to Get Rid of Acne Scars: Medical Treatments
When alternative treatments aren’t enough to improve the appearance of scars, there are medical treatments that may help.
Chemical peels use a variety of different chemicals to remove the top layer of skin. This can help to reduce the appearance of raised scars and pigmentation. The most common chemicals used in peels include glycolic acid and trichloroacetic acid.
A study published in Scars, Burns, and Healing found that trichloroacetic acid achieved a 70 percent improvement in 73 percent of patients while glycolic acid was less effective (1). Chemical peels have few side effects though irritation is common immediately after the procedure. To find the best chemical peel for your skin type and scarring, talk to a certified dermatologist.
Laser treatments are used to remove the top layer of skin, revealing new and healthier skin cells. Laser treatments are extremely effective though they tend to be costly and many insurance providers don’t cover the premiums. For people with stubborn acne scars, laser treatment may be a good choice.
Some dermatologists treat atrophic scars caused by cystic acne by encouraging the body to produce more collagen. The most common method to promote collagen production is called microneedling. The dermatologist inserts small needles into the skin directly along the rim of the scar. This helps to increase cellular regeneration, which may fill out scar indentations.
As expected, this treatment option may be painful and can cause redness and swelling immediately afterward. Most side effects diminish after a few hours, but some people may experience severe discomfort during this procedure.
Corticosteroids are used to treat acne scars that are raised. The process involves getting injections every few weeks from a dermatologist. You can also opt for a corticosteroid cream or silicone gel. These creams and gels help to treat keloid and hypertrophic scars by flattening the skin. Prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause skin irritation and other skin disorders so it’s best to use these creams under the supervision of a dermatologist.
Fillers can be used to treat atrophic scars by adding soft tissue to the voids where the tissue was previously damaged. The fillers can contain collagen, which helps to regenerate skin or can consist of fat cells from other parts of your body. Other fillers such as hyaluronic acid and poly-L-lactic acid can also be used for more severe scarring cases. Most fillers are only a temporary fix and must be repeated every six to eighteen months for the best results.
How to Get Rid of Acne Scars Recap
Acne scars can be difficult to treat and last for years. The best treatment method is prevention. If you suffer from acne, talk to a dermatologist to set up a skincare routine that helps to prevent breakouts. Protect your skin by using sunscreen and a vitamin E moisturizer regularly. The right skincare products to get clear skin will depend largely on your skin type. A dermatologist can help you select the best products for your needs.
If you already have acne scars, you can help to minimize their appearance by using alternative medicine and conventional acne treatments. With this handy guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of acne scars by better understanding the different types of acne scars and how you can treat each one.