Acne scars - prevention and treatment

How to avoid and treat acne scarring


Acne is a skin condition that causes breakouts of spots and pimples on the face, chest and back. It is most commonly associated with teenagers, however, it can affect all ages and almost everyone will experience it at some point in their lives. While it can disappear on its own, treatment is recommended if it is causing you embarrassment or discomfort. If left untreated, acne can get worse and even lead to scarring.


What are acne scars?

Acne scars are caused by spots that break the surface of the skin. They can be caused by any type of spot but it’s most common with serious spots which are cysts and nodules. Both these types of spots are larger than regular pimples. Nodules are hard lumps that grow under the surface of the skin and often feel painful. Cysts are more severe and resemble pus-filled lumps, carrying the highest risk of scarring.

There are three different types of acne scars:

  1. Ice pick scars: these are small, deep holes that resemble a puncture mark
  2. Rolling scars: where scar tissue has formed underneath the skin resulting in an uneven appearance
  3. Boxcar scars: These are round indentations in the surface of the skin

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Will I develop acne scars?

The most likely scenario for causing acne scars are serious spots like cysts and nodules or picking and squeezing spots. While it can be tempting to burst or squeeze a spot if it looks unsightly, doing so breaks the surface of the skin, which is what causes scarring.

There are preventative steps to take in reducing the likelihood of developing acne scars, however:

Get Treatment for your acne

The best course of action if you are suffering from acne is to see a doctor who can help identify the best course of treatment for you. This is particularly important if your acne is severe and your spots resemble cysts. You may be prescribed creams, lotions (such as Zineryt), gels (such as Epiduo Gel) or a course of antibiotics (such as Oxytetracycline or Tetralysal). Dr Felix is available to help you find out what is causing your acne and the best way of treating it.

Self Care

When your skin is irritated and inflamed, it’s important to look after it to prevent scars from getting any worse. Cortisone cream is a medicine available over the counter to soothe redness and irritation should it occur.

Avoid exposing your skin to direct sunlight, or use SPF 30+ if you do as the sun can darken scars and cause healing to slow down. A recent study in Miami has also found that using vitamin E might actually make scars worse and has no positive effect on the healing process.

Leaving your spots alone gives them the best chance to heal. Squeezing, popping or picking them can cause permanent scarring; plus the added risk of transferring bacteria from your fingers and exacerbating the spots. The best thing to do is not to touch them. When applying lotion or cleansing, make sure your hands are clean first.


Can acne scars be treated?

There are cosmetic treatments available to reduce the appearance of acne scars by 50-75% on average. These methods include laser treatment which will either remove small sections of skin or stimulate repair; dermabrasion which takes off the top layer of skin and subcision which is a similar process used to treat ‘rolling scars.’

Certain creams and oils can be prescribed to help reduce the appearance of acne scars. A quick two-minute consultation with Dr Felix can help point you in the right direction of the treatment most suitable for you.

You might also wish to try home remedies to treat acne scars. Natural solutions like coconut oil, aloe vera, rosehip oil and honey and lemon are firm favourites. These methods have less evidence to back them up however, as there is less research on the effectiveness of these ingredients for treating scars.


Will my acne scars disappear?

The red marks and mild scars left behind from spots usually disappear on their own in a short period of time. Serious scarring can be long term, however, and in some cases, cosmetic treatment is necessary to get rid of them. Treating acne scars as soon as possible and avoiding bursting your spots will give you the best grounding for getting them to disappear.


Lasting effects

Having acne can lead to low confidence and self-esteem due to the effect it has on your appearance. Some sufferers may experience social anxiety as a result of this. Acne can be difficult enough to deal with but if it has left you with scars that are causing anxiety or low mood it’s important to speak up about it. There may be further treatments that can help you with this such as CBT techniques or anti-depressants.

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