We’ve mentioned this before in our 12 Myths About Acne blog post, but it’s not uncommon for adults to struggle with acne. Acne can do some serious damage to your skin cells, and while you can work to repair the skin cells, it’s not always easy to return your skin to exactly how it was before. Deep depressions and scar tissue can remain on your skin even after your acne has healed.
What are acne scars?
Acne scars are a direct result of a deep trauma to the skin related to acne. There are external factors, such as picking at the skin, that can worsen even small acne lesions and result in scarring. These scars manifest as areas of depressed or raised skin and can occur anywhere on the face or body. They change the overall texture of the skin and don’t always improve over time.
Acne scars can also result from the body’s natural attempt at healing itself. The skin pores become clogged with dead skin cells and slowly fill with excess oil, which can allow bacteria to grow. These pores can result in acne lesions (whiteheads or blackheads). When they rupture, the contents that spill into the skin is irritating and can cause inflammation, which presents itself as redness and tenderness. The skin will naturally form new collagen fibers to repair this issue, however, raised acne scars occur when the skin overproduces collagen. However, depressed acne scars result when not enough collagen has been produced.
What causes acne scars?
When the pores become clogged with oil or dead skin cells, your body has an inflammatory reaction which results in acne. When acne is close to the surface of the skin, it often heals with minimal damage to the skin. Acne that affects and damages the deeper layers of the skin more often results in scarring.
What type of acne usually causes scarring?
There are various types of acne, and some are more prone to scarring than others. Whiteheads and blackheads very rarely result in scarring. Inflammatory acne, such as cysts or nodules, is most likely to create long term scarring because that type of acne affects the deeper layers of the skin.
Common Types of Acne Scars
Why do I have acne scars?
If you have acne scars, know that you are not alone. Of people between ages 11 and 30, 80% have acne, and 20% of those with acne have acne scars. So what causes one person to develop acne scars while another person does not? It depends on many factors, many of which are unavoidable:
Acne scarring vs. hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation can also result from acne, however, this discoloration is not a scar in itself. Hyperpigmentation is dark spots that are left behind on the skin when broken blood vessels do not perfectly heal. It often happens when pimples are popped, which leaves a wound that can change the skin’s texture and color. Spots can appear dark brown or red, and are more likely to fade after a few months.
How to prevent acne scars
Acne scars are primarily prevented through the prevention of acne. When you have acne, how you choose to treat it matters when it comes to potential scars.
1. Minimize Excess Oil
Acne results from excess oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, and other impurities that become trapped in the pores. To minimize the build-up, practice these things:
2. Treat Acne in Early Stages
Scarring occurs more often in severe acne, so it’s important to treat breakouts in the early stages. Here are some tips to reduce acne-related inflammation before it worsens:
3. Don’t Pop Your Zits!
If you do get a severe breakout, resist the urge to pop your zits or pick at them. This is a great way to avoid scarring. Any squeezing, popping, or picking at acne will increase your risk of scarring due to:
While it can be frustrating to have acne, stay away from the temptation to pick at it. Acne is short term, while acne scars are long term. If you’d like more tips to prevent scarring, talk with your dermatologist.
How to treat acne scars
Acne scars can affect your self-esteem, confidence, and overall quality of life. The best way to treat active acne lesions is to prevent future scarring. However, if you already have acne scars, there are many effective treatments that can improve skin texture and reduce acne scarring. Here are different types of treatments that may help:
If you’d like to talk with a board-certified dermatologist, like our spectacular Dr. Kristi Hawley, about your acne scars and create a plan that works for you, contact us below.