As if dealing with the stress and discomfort of acne weren’t enough, those with serious acne are also faced with the reality of unsightly scarring. According to the Acne Resource Center Online (www.acne-resource.org), some 60 million Americans have active acne and some 20 million have it badly enough to cause some form of scarring.
If you have been following our previous articles, you are aware that scarring is the body’s natural response to trauma to the skin. In the case of acne scarring, there are two general types, those caused by increased tissue and those caused by tissue loss.
Scars caused by increased tissue are known as Keloid or Hypertrophic scars. These are enlarged skin overgrowths associated with the body’s overproduction of Collagen in response to skin injury. The excess Collagen builds up and forms firm, irregularly shaped raised scars.
Scars caused by loss of tissue are commonly referred to as Ice Pick Scars and are very similar to scars associated with Chicken Pox. These are scars that form an indentation or pit in the skin that may be quite deep or very shallow depending on the severity of the trauma to the skin. These Ice Pick scars are much more commonly caused by Acne than are Keloid or Hypertrophic scars.
There are several possible treatments for Acne scars. One should study the options carefully and discuss them with a qualified physician prior to making a decision. The best option for one person may not be the best option for the next person. Below I will briefly describe some of the more common treatements.
Soft Tissue Fillers – Involves injecting either collagen or fat under the skin and or into the scar to fill them out and make them less noticeable. Results from this procedure are temporary and would therefore need to be repeated periodically to maintain the desired appearance.
Laser Treatment – Involves the use of a YAG or CO2 laser to destroy the outer layers of skin. As the wound heals, new skin forms. After several treatments, the scars should appear less noticeable.
Dermabrasion – Involves the use of a rapidly rotating wire brush to remove the top layer of skin. Surface scars may be erased using this procedure and deeper scars may be made less noticeable.
Microdermabrasion – Involves the use of a device that blows crystals onto the scar. The crystals break down the scar. A vacuum that is part of the device then removes the crystals and skin cells. Results from this procedure are generally subtle and the scar may still be noticeable.
Chemical Peels – Involve the application of a chemical cream or lotion on the affected area. After a period of time the chemical is removed and the old skin cells flake off. This allows the skin to regenerate and repair itself.
Punch Grafts – Involves cutting the scar with a round sharp cookie cutter like tool. The tool comes in various sizes to treat different sized scars. Once the scar is cut out the surgeon will either pull the edges of the skin together and stitch it, or in some cases might take a skin graft and place it in the void left by the removed scar.
Topical Treatments – Involves the application of a cream, gel or sheet to help shrink the size of the scar. This is only effective on raised Keloid or Hypertrophic scars. There is solid evidence that silicone based topical products can help reduce the size and intensity of raised scars. It is important to note that these types of products are generally only useful on newer, active scars.
The treatments listed above are by no means the only options available. It is always a good idea to enlist the advice of a qualified professional prior to making a decision. And it may be wise to speak with two or more such professionals in some cases.