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What to Consider When Treating Acne Scars

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Acne scars-dermatologist-scarring-acne-collagen

Mild acne can often be treated with drugstore products, but severe acne should promptly be evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.

Lauren Fine, M.D.

Board-Certified Dermatologist, Member, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery; @drlaurenfine

Dr. Fine practices both general and cosmetic dermatology for adult and pediatric patients. She is an expert in laser procedures and cosmetic procedures with clinical interests including comprehensive treatments for acne scarring, hair loss, adult female acne, inflammatory skin conditions, and skin cancer surveillance. At the cornerstone of Dr. Fine’s practice philosophy is a physician-patient relationship that fosters open communication and patient education.

Acne vulgaris is one of the most common skin conditions that affects both adolescents and adults, especially women. It is a myth that only teenagers get acne! The number of adult women suffering from acne is on the rise.

While mild acne that consists of only a few pimples or whiteheads that can often be treated with products found at the drugstore, more severe acne should be promptly addressed by a board-certified dermatologist. More severe acne can include deeper, painful, inflammatory red bumps that can take a long time to resolve and often leave marks or scars that can be permanent without intervention.

Not everyone who gets moderate-to-severe acne will have scarring. Some people have a genetic predisposition for scarring, especially those with darker skin. Trying to “pop” or pick at acne lesions may also lead to scarring.

Sometimes acne scars look like brown or red spots that leave a “stain” on the skin. This type of scarring typically resolves on its own over months, or can be treated with fading creams or non-invasive options, such as chemical peels. However, acne that leaves pits, depressions or punched-out lesions can be permanent.

While it is best to address scarring as soon as possible, scarring from many years ago can be improved with dermatologist intervention.

The right care

Choosing the right intervention depends on the type of scarring, skin color, and if active acne needs to be treated as well. Deeper scars that leave indentations or looked punched-out are best treated with energy-based devices. In general, deeper or more severe scars are best treated with lasers that deliver energy deep into the skin to stimulate new collagen formation and reduce the appearance of scars over time.

Other energy-based devices use a combination of radiofrequency energy and microneedling. Radiofrequency energy acts to heat up the deeper layers of skin while microneedling creates tiny punctures in the skin that help to stimulate new collagen.

Other options for treating acne scarring include injections that plump the skin and treating deeper small scars with special acids that help stimulate collagen. While it is difficult to completely remove all scarring, scars can dramatically improve over time with the right intervention.

It is important to see a board-certified dermatologist to figure out which types of treatments are the best, safest options for your skin type and type of scarring present. Multiple (and sometimes a combination of treatments) are needed to achieve optimal results. A board-certified dermatologist has the required acumen and training to evaluate your unique needs and create a custom treatment plan.

Visit to locate a board-certified dermatologist near you.

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