If you’re dealing with acne, you may well be dealing with the scarring that can come with it.
Whether it’s on your face, chest, back or anywhere else on your body, it’s totally understandable to be, well, not so into the look of the acne scarring and surrounding skin.
But we’ve got you. Not only is acne scarring pretty common, but it’s also very treatable. There are lots of ways to significantly reduce the appearance of acne scarring and get your skin back to its smooth, soft and glowing self.
Why can acne leave scars?
Like any other kind of scar, acne scars are basically what’s leftover after your skin heals. They can appear on your face, back, chest or any other part of your body that has acne.
When acne crops up on the skin, it can cause inflammation under the skin’s surface. This inflammation has the ability to damage skin tissue, which your body then works to fix.
It does this by producing collagen — one of the proteins responsible for firm skin as well as repairing damaged tissue. Sometimes, though, your body may produce too much or too little collagen, which leads to the formation of a scar.
Too much and the scar will appear as a raised bump, too little and it forms an indentation in your skin.
Because inflammation is at the root of acne scarring, more inflammatory types of acne lesions (think cysts and nodules) that go deep below the surface of the skin tend to scar more than mild forms (whiteheads, blackheads and papules).
In short, the more serious the case of acne, the higher the likelihood of it leaving scars. Squeezing, pinching and picking at a pimple can also make it more likely to scar, as this can aggravate inflammation.
Remember, your genes play a big part when it comes to scarring. Genetics are responsible for your skin type, the kind of acne you have and how often you experience it as well as your body's ability to repair itself.
And even if you have acne, it’s not a given it’ll leave scars — around one in five people who have acne will experience scarring.
Common types of acne scars
As we know, acne scars are a result of your body making either too much or too little collagen. For that reason, they generally fall into one of two categories: atrophic scars and hypertrophic scars.
Atrophic acne scars happen when your body doesn’t produce enough collagen, resulting in indentations. Types of atrophic acne scars include:
- Ice-pick scars: These scars are narrow but deep and usually resemble small, round holes.
- Boxcar scars: These are wider scars that can be shallow or deep. They kind of look like U-shapes with well-defined edges.
- Rolling scars: Like boxcar scars, rolling scars are somewhat wide. However, they have curved edges and their appearance can be quite variable.
Hypertrophic acne scars (also known as keloid scars) are the result of too much collagen being produced, leading to a raised bump on the skin.
While atrophic scars are usually found on the face, hypertrophic acne scars tend to surface on the chest and back. Several people with acne may have only one kind of scarring, while many others will have a mix of different types.
And while not technically a form of scarring, some may also experience hyperpigmentation, which is a darkening of the skin after a pimple disappears.
Is there a way to permanently remove acne scars?
We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news: the very nature of scarring means it’s pretty much permanent.
That being said, a combination of at-home and dermatological treatments has the potential to help reduce the appearance and size of acne scars, which can make a huge difference to the look of your skin.
Wondering what kind of acne scar treatment to go for? The type of scarring, as well as how extensive it is, is a big factor. Light hyperpigmentation, for example, tends to respond well to at-home products and sometimes even goes away on its own.
Deep acne scars, such as ice pick scars and boxcar scars, are harder to get rid of and often require professional treatment. If you’ve got deeper scars, your first port of call should be a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist.
After assessing your skin and the types of acne scars you have, they can help figure out the right way to treat them.
What are the best ways to treat or remove acne scars?
OK, now to the real reason you’re here: the best ways of treating acne scars so they are (almost) no longer noticeable. It’s worth mentioning that not every acne scar treatment will work for all kinds of acne scarring.
Some scars respond pretty well to at-home solutions, while others require a bit more work.
Others still may need a combination of acne scar treatments to be effective. Plus, some treatments might be great for your best friend and not so helpful for you — there’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all remedy.
To give you an idea of what kinds of treatments might be possible, here are 13 ways to treat acne scarring — from at-home fixes and preventative measures, to professional solutions performed by a dermatologist.
If your scarring is on the milder side — say a bit of discolouration or hyperpigmentation — there are numerous topical solutions that can help with treating acne scars.
The best part? They can be used in the comfort of your bathroom.
Melanin is the pigment responsible for giving your skin its colour. Sometimes, your body produces too much melanin when recovering from acne, leading to hyperpigmentation.
Topical vitamin C is a fantastic hyperpigmentation-buster because it can help stop your body from producing melanin — neat, huh? On top of that, vitamin C can help reduce the swelling and redness associated with acne, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Looking for a vitamin C serum that’ll do all of the above and more? Our Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum is the way to go.
Unlike other formulas, our serum contains a full 15 per cent dose of vitamin C, which works fast to fight dullness, dark spots and discolouration deep within the skin.
Plus, at $49, it's a fraction of the price of other popular vitamin C products while also being more effective.
Not only can it help combat pimples, but it also has the power to reduce hyperpigmentation and scarring.
It does this by blocking the production of melanin and promoting cell turnover, which can help fade the appearance of acne scars. Bonus: it’s great for sensitive skin!
While retinol can be a handy tool for reducing mild scarring, prescription retinoids can be a more effective acne scar treatment.
Software's prescription acne treatment, which contains retinoids, can target both active breakouts as well as older scars left behind. Retinoids work by stimulating the growth of new skin cells, while also increasing the rate in which old skin cells are shed.
And, when combined with other medical-grade ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, can strengthen the skin barrier and prevent the formation of new breakouts.
Retinol is another stellar acne scar treatment. This over-the-counter form of vitamin A is an exfoliant that gets deep under your skin.
By penetrating your dermis (the skin’s middle layer), it can actually promote elastin and collagen production — two proteins that help firm and repair your skin.
Professional or in-office solutions are usually performed by a skincare or medical professional, such as a dermatologist. They tend to work well on deeper scars, like ice pick scars.
Aside from the treatments we’ve outlined below, your dermatologist might suggest other ways to treat acne scars or even a combination of solutions to get the best results.
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are basically really strong forms of exfoliation. Each uses a special tool to remove the top layer of skin.
Then, when new a new layer of skin emerges, it often appears smoother. The difference between the two is that dermabrasion is quite a bit stronger and produces more noticeable results.
Microdermabrasion removes dead skin cells, whereas dermabrasion travels deeper to remove some alive skin. This potentially makes dermabrasion more effective for more serious scarring.
Laser resurfacing is a fantastic acne scar treatment that works by promoting collagen production, which helps your skin to heal and repair itself.
Chemical peels use acids like glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid to exfoliate the top layer of skin. The result? New skin that’s significantly smoother.
There are varying strengths of chemical peels, with milder ones usually needing repeat sessions.
Microneedling, or skin needling, involves using a tool with tiny needles that effectively puncture your skin to promote collagen production and in turn, reduce the appearance of scars.
While this may sound a little terrifying, skin needling is a safe procedure.
There are numerous substances that can be injected into the skin to minimise acne scarring, including steroids, collagen, fat and dermal fillers. They can either work to lift depressed scars or, in the case of steroid injections, help flatten raised scars by making skin tissue softer.
Botox is also used to relax the skin around an acne scar and, in turn, enhance its appearance.
Surgical options to treat acne scars can be a little more intense. However, they can also be very effective with certain types of acne scars, like ice pick scars.
Surgery might involve total acne scar removal, or it could be used to break down scar tissue (which can work well for raised scars) or lift depressed scars.
There are also a bunch of things you can do to try and prevent acne scars from forming in the first place.
Control the acne
Like many things, prevention is often better than a cure. Actively trying to prevent acne is a great way to ward off scars — simply because there’s less for your skin to heal from.
Software's personalised prescription acne treatment is a great way to tackle acne and prevent it from returning. Plus, the addition of prescription retinoids will help fade any existing discolouration or mild acne scarring you might have.
Resist the urge to pick
We get it — a big pimple in the centre of your cheek is just begging to be squeezed.
But squeezing, picking, scratching and pinching pimples can cause further inflammation and increase the likelihood of scarring. This is especially true with severe acne, like cysts.
If you really want to squeeze that pimple, there are a few ways to make the process less damaging to your skin. You can find out more here.
There’s a well-known link between smoking and acne, but there’s perhaps a lesser-known one between smoking and acne scarring.
While acne scars aren’t necessarily more common in smokers, a 2015 study found that smoking can actually increase the severity of scarring.
The sun can worsen things like scarring and hyperpigmentation by making them even darker. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, however, can help combat the nasty effects of the sun’s rays.