What's the best treatment for acne scars?

Acne is a skin condition that affects up to 80% of people in their teens and twenties, and up to 5% of older adults. While many people recover from acne without any permanent effects, some people are left with disfiguring acne scars. There are some topical skin care products and medications that can improve mild scarring, but most acne scars are treated with a combination of surgical procedures and skin resurfacing.

Early Acne Scars
After an acne lesion has healed, it can leave a red or hyperpigmented mark on the skin. This is actually not a scar, but rather a post-inflammatory change. The redness or hyperpigmentation is seen as the skin goes through its healing and remodeling process, which takes approximately 6-12 months. If no more acne lesions develop in that area, the skin can heal normally. Any color change or skin defect still present after 1 year is considered to be a permanent defect or scar.

Acne scars are stubborn, and no single treatment is best for everyone. However, various procedures can improve your complexion.

        

  • Laser treatments. In laser resurfacing, a laser beam destroys the outer layer of skin. As the wound heals, new skin forms. Less intense lasers cause less damage, but are also less effective.
  • Other energy-based procedures. Pulsed light sources and radiofrequency devices help create new skin without damaging the outer layer of skin. After several treatments, acne scars may appear less noticeable.
  • Dermabrasion. This procedure involves removing the top layer of skin with a rapidly rotating wire brush. Surface scars may be completely removed, and deeper acne scars may appear less noticeable.
  • Surgery. In some cases, surgery to remove deeply indented acne scars is an option. A minor procedure, called punch excision, cuts out individual acne scars. Stitches or a skin graft repairs the hole left at the scar site.
  • Tissue fillers. Injecting collagen or fat under the skin and into the acne scars can fill out or stretch the skin, making acne scars less noticeable. Results are temporary, so you'd need to repeat the injections periodically.
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