Should Acne Scars Be Treated by a Dermatologist?
For people prone to acne flare-ups, zits themselves are only part of the problem. One of the most frustrating things about acne is its tendency to leave a scar. For some people, these acne scars can feel like a much more unseemly problem than the acne that caused them in the first place.
Particularly for adults who struggled with acne as teenagers, acne scars can be incredibly frustrating. They can also have a damaging impact on our self-esteem. Luckily, over-the-counter acne scar treatments do exist. Many teens and adults sing the praises of common household acne scar treatments and are delighted with the results.
However, some severe scars don't go away even with treatment. So, what can be done?
Dermatologists today offer a range of in-office treatments that can positively impact acne scarring. Over-the-counter acne treatments might do the trick, but for the sake of your skin quality, it's important to know when it's time to call in an expert.
Where do acne scars come from?
Acne scars are most commonly caused by pimples that didn't heal right. In general, acne has about a 6 percent chance of scarring on its own. People with a hereditary disposition to acne scars—for example, people whose parents have visible acne scars—are more likely to develop scarring themselves.
There are a few different types of acne scars:
- Boxcar scars tend to form from inflamed, red pimples.
- Ice pick scars (a.k.a. pitted scars) are small, deep holes in the skin caused by hair plugs that blocked a follicle and never healed right.
- Keloids and hypertrophic scars are two types of the same scar. A hypertrophic scar looks like a raised bump over an old acne wound. A keloid is a more severe form, where the scar extends past the wound itself.
- Rolling scars are uneven acne scars that look smooth around the edges.
- Combination scars are typically a mix of some or all of the above. This uneven skin condition is usually the most obvious and can be the most frustrating to treat.
- Hyperpigmentation occurs when a healing pimple "stains" the skin. It doesn't actually leave behind a stain, but rather a deposit of additional pigment, kind of like a reddish freckle.
What home treatments are available for acne scars?
Most acne scars affect only the outermost layers of the skin. This means that they can often be treated with simple products like face masks, chemical peels, and certain creams. Sunscreen can also play a major role in improving your skin quality after acne scarring: acne-scarred skin is more prone to burns, which can make the scars themselves stand out more obviously.
Generally, when you're looking for over-the-counter acne scar treatments, you want to find products that nourish the skin, not just ones that "remove" scar tissue. Retinoids and serums that contain vitamin C are your best bet because these add much-needed lift and elasticity back into damaged skin.
When is it time to see a dermatologist for acne scars?
Unfortunately, over-the-counter acne scar treatments aren't for everyone. For severe scarring, it's important to see a dermatologist before you try anything from a box. The last thing you want to do is make your skin quality worse by trying to improve it—only to have an adverse reaction to an unknown ingredient that causes another flare-up.
For people with moderate to severe scarring, a dermatologist can analyze more about your skin than a regular beautician or makeup counter employee could. They can offer specialized treatments, from laser therapy to medical-strength chemical peels, that will have a more intense impact on scars than any over-the-counter treatment.
It's important to note that medical-strength treatments aren't for everyone. The intense chemicals in some medical treatments can be so strong that they damage healthy skin. Your skin deserves to be protected—if you only have a couple of small scars, give a boxed treatment a try. If you're not sure, it's never a bad idea to ask your dermatologist for advice.
How does a dermatologist treat acne scars?
Dermatologists offer a wide range of services to treat acne scars. Some of the most popular include:
- Laser therapy, using highly-targeted lasers to isolate and treat scar tissue.
- Dermaplaning or microdermabrasion, which uses a specialized razor to scrape off the outermost layer of skin, removing scar tissue in those areas.
- Subscision, a deeper form of dermaplaning, where the dermatologist removes deeper layers of skin to "dig out" a deep-set scar.
- Medical-strength chemical peels, which use much stronger chemicals to safely remove multiple layers of skin.
- Scar revision, where the dermatologist removes a larger scar and stitches it closed so the body can heal more naturally.
If you're dealing with acne scars, there is a treatment for you. Whether you've got a couple of small spots to take care of, or you need a longer-term treatment plan, certain over-the-counter treatments and doctor-supervised procedures can make a lasting impact on your skin quality. When in doubt, talk to your doctor. They'll help you find the perfect products for you!