Acne Scar Removal
Reviewed by Steven H. Dayan, MD
Acne can leave emotional as well as physical scars. The good news is that advances in acne scar removal can help get rid of the physical remnants of your acne.
Acne scars are usually caused by inflammation at a cellular level that causes darkened or lightened pigmented areas, disruption of collagen fibers and an overproduction of scar tissue. If this inflammation alters the collagen structure, a pock mark or other unsightly scar may develop.
Acne Scar Removal – Your Options
There are many options today based on the type and the degree of your acne scarring. Some treatments require at-home follow-up care, and others are strictly in-office procedures. Options include:
Topical medications such as exfoliating tretinoin (the main ingredient in Retin A) and alpha hydroxy acids, the bleaching agent hydroquinone and lightening vitamin C serums.
Injectables to fill in depressions, including fat and collagen as well as products like Artefill, Sculptra, and hyaluronic acid fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm. (Laviv may soon be another available treatment.)
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
Punch Graft. Punch graft treatments are reserved for severe, deep acne scarring such as ice pick type scars. Your surgeon usually removes a small, oval piece of skin that contains the scar. Punch grafts are small pieces of normal skin typically taken from the skin behind the ear to replace scarred skin. They do form scars, but these scars are smoother and less visible than the original acne scars.
Subcision. Subcision is reserved for acne scars which are dented due to scar tissue bands pulling downward on the skin. This procedure involves using a needle to break up the scar from underneath. Sometimes an injectable filler is also needed.
Pressure bandages and massages. These can flatten some scars if used for several months.
Silicone-containing gels, creams and bandages. These products, if used regularly, may reduce scar thickness.
Cryosurgery. Freezing causes blistering of the skin that removes the excess tissue at the scar.
Cortisone (steroid) injections. These injections can reduce inflammation, causing scars to shrink and flatten.
Acne Scar Removal: Are You a Candidate?
If you have active acne, wait before starting an acne scar removal treatment. These treatments can exacerbate your active acne.
Be sure to disclose all of your past and present medications, if applicable, to your physician. For instance, if you were on Accutane to treat your acne within the past year, it may increase your chances of complications.
The best way to determine which treatment is right for your acne scars is to discuss your concerns with a facial plastic surgeon. To help you get started in your search for the right surgeon, All About Facial Rejuvenation offers a directory of highly trained and experienced surgeons who perform a range of beautification procedures. Sorting through all the hype can be a challenge, but our directory can help take the worry out of the process by connecting you with select, trustworthy medical professionals. Click here or to the right to find a surgeon near you.
During your initial consultation, your surgeon can explain the various techniques, as well as their risks, benefits and costs. You should be given pre-treatment information that explains everything you should do and know before your procedure. This may include skin preparation with topicals such as Retin A or hydroquinone.
Acne Scar Removal Cost
Cost depends upon your chosen treatment and the number of treatments needed. Deep ice pick acne scars may require several procedures or a few different types of therapy for optimal results. Even light acne scarring may take more than one chemical peel or several weeks and months of at-home treatments. Make sure to discuss acne scar removal costs with your doctor during your initial appointment. Visit the individual treatment pages highlighted in this section for up-to-date procedure cost information.
About the Reviewer of this Article
Steven H. Dayan, MD, is a facial plastic surgeon based in Chicago, where he founded and serves as a medical director for a skin care center (True Skin Care), a state-accredited educational center for estheticians. He also is founder and medical director for a DeNova Research. Dr. Dayan is board certified in otolaryngology and a member of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He is also a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois, and participates in laboratory and clinical research in minimally invasive medical procedures and plastic surgery. He serves on the editorial board of the Facial Plastic Surgery Journal and has written and published extensively in the field. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Dayan attended the University of Illinois Medical School. He completed a residency at the University of Illinois and a facial plastic surgery fellowship.