Acne is a common skin issue that affects around 85% of Australians at some point during their lives. Unsightly breakouts can dent your confidence at the time, but they can also cause scarring that remains even after your pesky pimples have cleared.
But acne scarring doesn’t have to be permanent. With the right treatment, you can achieve smooth and healthy, clear skin.
But before we dive into that, have a read of our guide on what causes acne.
How To Get Rid of Acne Scars
Acne scarring can damage your confidence and be an unsightly reminder of past breakouts. Fortunately, many treatments can help fade and even get rid of acne scars.
Medical Grade Peels
Medical grade peels can be highly effective at reducing the appearance of acne scars without the risks and side effects of more invasive procedures.
A trained skin therapist applies a chemical solution to your skin, causing micro-injuries at a cellular level. When the top layer of skin is injured, it peels off with new cells replacing the damaged scarred tissue.
Chemical peels can vary in strength, with stronger peels requiring more downtime.
Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels have been proven to be an effective treatment for acne scarring. In a 2017 study published in the Scars, Burns & Healing Journal, 73% of people treated with TCA peels had at least a 70% reduction in the appearance of their acne scarring.
Your b clinic practitioner will be able to recommend the right peel for you based on your skin type and the severity of your acne scarring.
Dermal fillers are one of the most popular cosmetic treatments in Australia and are suitable for all skin types. While they are most commonly used for lip fillers and targeting wrinkles, they can also treat some forms of acne scarring.
If you have depressed scars, dermal fillers can restore lost volume and plump the skin from within to create a smoother surface.
The treatment involves injections of hyaluronic acid underneath the acne scarring. The filler raises the indentation and boosts collagen production in the area. The amount of filler required will depend on the size and severity of the acne scarring.
Dermal filler results are temporary. The body will naturally break down the filler product over time, and the area will return to its pre-treatment appearance. Your clinician may recommend that your return to the clinic for a top-up treatment every 6 months to maintain your results.
Skin needling is a collagen-boosting treatment that is proven to reduce the appearance of acne scars.
A handheld device with lots of tiny needles is used to puncture the scarred skin and create micro-wounds. This stimulates the body’s natural healing process, increasing collagen production, which helps to smooth the skin.
The most advanced type of microneedling in Australia is DermaPen skin needling. While a derma roller moves across the skin’s surface, the DermaPen uses fast vertical movement. As a result, it’s more effective and can be used to treat delicate hard-to-reach areas around the mouth, nose, and under-eye area.
In a 2015 study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 85% of patients reported “very good” satisfaction in the treatment of their atrophic acne scarring following 6 microneedling sessions.
There are little to no side effects from skin needling, and most clients can immediately return to work and social activities following a treatment session.
Laser resurfacing is an effective treatment for acne scars. There is a range of laser therapies to treat mild and severe acne scarring.
Ablative treatments are the strongest type of laser resurfacing. Targeted laser energy is used to remove the top layer of the scarred skin. This triggers healing and cell renewal in the treated area. As the skin regenerates, the acne scars fade and become less visible.
Non-ablative laser treatments are gentler on the skin, boosting collagen production to improve the appearance of acne scars. The top layer of the skin is left intact. This type of laser resurfacing is effective for mild to moderate acne scarring.
A clinical review published in Current Dermatology Reports showed that laser resurfacing is proven to improve a range of types of acne scarring following a series of sessions. The study also showed that ablative lasers could provide significant results in fewer treatments but with a more extended downtime between sessions.
Surgical Punch Techniques
Surgical punch techniques are often used to treat severe ice pick scars and boxcar scars. There are several surgical techniques that can be used for treating acne scars.
For mild to moderate ice pick scars, your practitioner may elect to surgically remove the scar tissue with a punch excision before sealing the wound. As the wound heals, the skin appears smoother and more even.
For deeper scars, your practitioner may use a technique called punch elevation. Instead of removing the entire scar, the surgeon removes the base of the scar tissue while leaving the sides in place. The base of the scar is then reattached to the sides at a higher level so that the skin’s surface appears smooth.
Your practitioner may use the punch grafting technique for severe ice pick scars. The scar is surgically removed, but a sample of healthy skin taken from another area of the body is used to plug the wound.
Surgical subcison is an acne scar treatment used to improve the appearance of rolling acne scars. Your surgeon will remove the upper layer of skin from the deeper scar tissue using a small needle. This causes blood to clot where the scar tissue is located.
The blood clot helps to form new connective tissue. This causes the scarring to lift so that it is level with the surrounding skin.
Surgical subcision is sometimes used as the first stage of a comprehensive acne treatment plan. Once completed, chemical peel, laser resurfacing, and other minimally-invasive acne scar treatments are used to improve the appearance of the area further.
Can You Get Rid of Acne Scars?
At-home treatments can help, and you can use makeup to conceal blemishes. But you’ll need professional treatment by a skin therapist to get rid of your acne scarring completely.
Some types of scarring are more challenging to treat than others. For example, treating a deep ice pick scar might take longer, but you can still achieve great results over time.
What Do Acne Scars Look Like?
Acne scars vary in appearance and size. Here’s a look at the most common types of acne scarring:
Atrophic scars appear as sunken depressions, giving a pitted appearance to the top layer of skin. This is caused when the skin heals below the top layer, and the body is unable to grow new tissue.
This is the most common type of acne scarring and appears as small sunken indents in the skin with sharp edges. Boxcar scars are caused by deep inflammation during a breakout and a lack of collagen during the healing process.
Ice Pick Scars
Ice pick scars are deep and narrow. This type of scarring often looks like an ice pick has been used to create small holes in the skin. Ice pick scars are usually the most noticeable type of scarring caused by deep inflammation during a breakout.
Rolling scars have a sloping edge that makes them appear like waves under the skin. This scarring usually occurs in areas where the skin is thicker, such as the cheeks and the lower face.
Keloid scars appear as discoloured raised scars and bumps in the skin. Sometimes the body produces too many cells when the skin heals after a breakout. This results in a raised keloid scar.
While this is not a type of scarring, hyperpigmentation can result from acne breakouts. This appears as discolouration of the skin where acne has caused inflammation.
What Are the Different Grades of Acne Scars?
Your practitioner or dermatologist can diagnose the type of acne scarring you have based on a visual examination. They will also advise you on the severity of your acne scars.
The most commonly used acne scarring measurement system has four grades:
The first grade is macular scarring characterised by flat areas of reduced pigmentation. There is no issue with the skin’s contour, but the area appears red or discoloured.
Mild acne scars are not visible at distances of 50cm and below. Mild rolling acne scars are often categorised as grade 2. Makeup can be applied to conceal most grade 2 acne scarring.
Moderate acne scars are visible from a distance of 50cm and above. Atrophic, boxcar, and rolling scars are often categorised as grade 2. These scars are not easily concealed with makeup but can be flattened if the skin is stretched.
Severe acne scarring is visible from distances of 50cm and above. Unlike grade 3 scarring, severe scars cannot be flattened by stretching the skin. Ice pick, keloid, and severe boxcar scars are often categorised as grade 4.
What Causes Acne Scarring?
Acne scarring is caused by inflammation and damage to the skin as a result of acne breakouts. All types of acne can cause scarring, but it usually occurs following cystic and nodular acne.
The body increases collagen production to heal the damage caused by the acne, resulting in bumps and indentations when the skin has healed.
How Do I Prevent Acne Scars?
There are lots of ways to reduce the risk of developing acne scars. Inflammation can lead to scarring, so your priority should always be to reduce swelling and calm the skin.
Avoid any products or treatments that cause irritation, and don’t scrub the area. It’s also essential to avoid the temptation to pick or squeeze pimples. This can result in debris being forced deeper into the dermis and increases the risk of acne spreading to surrounding tissue.
You can prevent acne and the risk of scarring by following a dedicated skincare routine. Read our guide to learn more about how to keep your skin acne-free and the treatments that can help.
Can Acne Scars Heal Naturally?
Some types of acne scars can improve naturally over time. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is common after an acne breakout. This appears as dark red and brown spots on the skin and usually fades slightly over time and can be significantly improved with in-clinic and at-home treatments. Deep acne scars and raised scarring are typically permanent if left untreated.
Can I Start Treating Acne Scars If I Still Have Active Acne?
Before starting treatment for acne scars, you should wait until your active acne is under control and your skin is relatively clear. New breakouts can lead to new acne scars, so treating the cause of your acne should be your priority. Treating acne scarring can also irritate active acne and increase the risk of side effects.
Do Acne Scars Look Worse with Age?
Acne scars can become more noticeable with age. This is because the amount of collagen in the skin reduces over time, which results in a loss of volume. It’s common for depressed acne scars and atrophic acne scars to look worse as the surrounding skin ages and loses elasticity. Generally, it’s easier to treat acne scars when you’re younger.
Which Skin Treatments Are Best for Acne Scars?
A good skincare regime can help you prevent breakouts and can help to reduce the appearance of acne scars. You can use a range of products to improve the overall health of your skin and lighten scarring.
A daily cleanser can remove dead skin cells and keep your pores clear to prevent blackheads, whiteheads, and active acne from returning. Consider adding an exfoliating lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), or salicylic acid topical cleanser to your skincare regime.
Retinoid serums containing concentrated Vitamin A can help to improve the appearance of scars. In addition, these products help to regulate oil levels and treat hyperpigmentation so your skin appears brighter, smoother, and more even-toned.
It’s also essential to protect your skin from sun exposure with a high-SPF sunscreen. The sun’s UV rays cause inflammation and skin damage, making acne scars more noticeable and less likely to respond to treatment.
How Can I Remove Scars From My Face Permanently?
With the right treatment, it is possible to remove acne scarring altogether. Laser resurfacing is often the most effective treatment for acne scarring, but you may also benefit from a medical grade peel or skin needling.
Schedule a free consultation with one of our b clinic doctors, and we’ll advise you on the best way to achieve a clear and smooth complexion for your skin tone and types of acne scars.