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How-To: Treat Acne Scars

To round out my acne series, I am going to give you some treatment options for healing your skin and reducing scarring once you've got your acne under control. Even mild acne can leave minor scarring, and for those of you who have battled moderate or severe acne, the scarring can be a lot worse.

It is common for acne lesions to leave a red or elevated mark behind once they're healed. This usually goes away within six to 12 months. Severe lesions can leave marks that persist after a year, and these are considered "permanent" scars. Luckily, there are things you can do to help minimize, and in some cases eliminate, this scarring. For treatment suggestions,


  • Wear sunscreen By now you are probably starting to think that I probably drizzle sunscreen on my breakfast toast, since I am so raving mad about it. But the fact is that UV exposure from the sun not only damages skin further, but it also delays the healing process of your skin. That means scars stick around longer and may not heal at all with prologued sun exposure. So always always cover your scars with sunscreen, or better yet, wear a cute hat and stay out of the sun altogether.
  • Try a retinoid: A retinoid is a topical vitamin A treatment, such as Retin-A. When applied to the surface of the skin, Vitamin A speeds up cellular regeneration and helps skin renew itself more effectively, which can help scars heal more quickly and smoothly.
  • AHAs and BHAs: Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids are a more mild skin-rejuvenating option than a retinoid. Both work by sloughing off dead or damaged skin on the surface of your face, encouraging new, fresh skin to appear. The major difference between the two is that beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble, which means they can penetrate deeper into clogged pores to actually clear up sebum. If you are still struggling with breakouts, a beta hydroxy acid might be the way to go. Otherwise, stick with an alpha hydroxy acid since it is significantly less drying.
  • Injectable fillers: Facial fillers like collagen can smooth out deep pitted acne scars, but only temporarily. Still, it is less expensive than surgical removal of scars, and if you only have a couple deep scars, this will smooth them out completely.
  • Surgical removal: It might sound strange that you can eliminate a scar by creating a new one, but in fact, you can. Pitted scars can be removed by what is called a "punch excision." With this procedure, a doctor uses a small tool that resembles a hole puncher, punches out the acne scar, and gently sutures the surrounding skin together. When it heals, the resulting scar usually disappears completely, or is significantly less noticeable than the acne scar.
  • Laser Resurfacing: Laser resurfacing works by essentially burning your top layers of skin down to a certain level, depending on the depth and severity of your scars. The skin then regenerates over the area of the scar, or in some cases, the entire face, and the scar is removed completely. Laser resurfacing can be very painful, so post-treatment skin needs to be cared for with extreme caution, as it is extremely fragile and susceptible to damage. Sunbathing is not an option, and you will probably not be going in public for a couple of weeks while your face heals. The upside is that the effects are permanent, so you don't need to have the process repeated as long as your acne stays away.


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