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What solutions are there for acne scars?

Pock marks, hyper-pigmentation, bumpy skin – acne scars are incredibly difficult to hide with makeup. We look at the reasons behind acne, and the range of treatments for acne scars that are available.

What is acne?

It’s important to recognise that acne isn’t just spots. And it isn’t just limited to teenagers – adults can suffer from it well into middle age.

Acne occurs when the skin produces too much sebum. This is particularly common, but when the sebum is mixed with clogged pores, this gives a great environment for the acne bacteria – propionibacterium acnes – to multiply, causing lots of inflammation in the skin. This then gives rise to the bumpiness and blemishes that are symptomatic of acne.

What causes acne?

Acne can be exacerbated by medication, allergies, pollution and smoking. However, the majority of acne is caused either by fluctuations in hormones or just simple genetics.

Some research studies have found a positive link between a high glycemic index food, carbohydrates, diary products, insulin resistance and acne. In fact, some people have seen their conditions become worse when food groups such as dairy are consumed. However, this may not be the case for everyone.

What causes the scarring?

The scarring is a result of the body going into overdrive to fix the skin complaint. In the healing process, the skin produces an excess of collagen that remains in the dermis and creates the uneven, dimpled skin texture.

What treatments are there to remove scars caused by acne?

There are a number of products on the market, which claim to reduce scarring. However, the most successful results are usually from medical procedures that aim to repair the skin in and around the scarring and encourage the dermis to repair itself.

Treatment will depend on the severity of the scar so after your initial consultation, you will be offered one or more of the following:

  • TCA chemical peel

This is a treatment that removes layers of damaged skin, allowing the newer skin to resurface. This treatment is only suitable for very mild acne scars, and the results may vary among individuals. The downtime varies among individuals, usually from 4-10 days. Strict sun protection before and after the procedure is important to reduce the risk of pigmentation.

  • Punch excisions

This is a minor skin procedure that removes ice-pick scars (deep V-shaped tracks in the skin). It is performed under the local anaesthetic. This type of procedure is only suitable for isolated deep scars.

  • Laser resurfacing treatment with CO2 or Erbium:YAG lasers

Laser treatments are the main treatments for acne scars especially those with atrophic, rolling scars. With the fractionated technology, laser resurfacing treatments remove the surface cells without causing damage to surrounding healthy skin cells. Also, the heat generated from lasers can also stimulate collagen to remodel, thereby improving the skin texture with time. The downtime varies among individuals, usually about a week. Results are visible usually after the surface skin cells have shed, but continuous improvement can be seen after a few months. 1-3 treatment sessions may be needed (each treatment 3 months apart)to see some results. Strict sun protection before and after the procedure is important to reduce the risk of pigmentation.

  • Microneedling

By applying tiny punctures into the skin, it helps to kick-start natural healing, and encourages the growth of new cells. This type of treatment is suitable for mild acne scarring. Usually 4-6 treatments are needed (each treatment about 6 weeks apart) to see some results.