Acne Scars

Even after an individual has gained control over their acne, they may still have to face the scarring that acne blemishes can leave behind. Scarring occurs when the dermis, which is the innermost layer of skin, becomes damaged. When a person has cystic acne or inflamed pimples and nodules, they are more prone to scarring since these forms of acne significantly damage the skin tissue. While acne scarring can have a detrimental effect on a person’s self-esteem and confidence, there are treatment options available that will help lessen the appearance of acne scars and make them much less noticeable.

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is a procedure that improves the appearance of the skin via brief light pulses. Depending on the severity of the scarring, a patient has the option of an ablative or nonablative laser. The ablative laser uses light energy to damage the epidermis, or the outer layer of skin. It also heats the dermis tissue, and causes collagen fibers to decrease in size. Once the skin tissue becomes damaged, it results in the growth of fresh, healthy skin cells as the tissue begins to repair itself. As a result, the appearance of scarring is minimized.

The nonablative laser does not cause damage to the epidermis or dermis; rather, it destroys collagen and promotes the growth of fresh collagen fibers. The nonablative laser is used for minimal scarring, while the ablative laser is used to treat moderate to severe scarring and produces more dramatic results.


Dermabrasian smoothes skin texture by using a motorized wire brush that damages and scrapes away the cells of the epidermis. As the skin cells work to repair the damaged tissue, collagen production is stimulated. With this procedure, surface scars are removed entirely and deeper scars are significantly reduced.


While microdermabrasian is not as aggressive when compared to dermabrasian, it produces minimal results when treating acne scarring. During this procedure, micro particles are applied to the skin and then removed with a device that is similar to a vacuum. The skin is not damaged during microdermabrasian, as only the surface cells are removed. While this procedure will brighten the skin and improve texture, microdermabrasian will not provide dramatic results when used to treat acne scarring.

Chemical Peel

When a person receives a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to the skin, which removes layers of damaged and scarred skin. Light, medium and deep are the three types of chemical peels that are available, with each providing varying results.

During a light chemical peel, a combination of glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid and maleic acid are applied to the skin for 10 minutes. These are mild acids that will gently exfoliate and remove the outer layer of skin. Since only the surface layer is removed, subtle results are achieved with a light chemical peel.

An application of glycolic acid and trichloroacetic acid are used on the skin during a medium chemical peel. These acids remain on the skin for less than 10 minutes and remove cells from both the epidermis and dermis, resulting in a noticeable reduction in scarring.

A deep peel provides the most dramatic results, as phenol is applied to the skin and left on for up to two hours. Sedation or general anesthesia is usually required to minimize pain and discomfort. In addition to surface skin cells, the deepest skin cells are removed during a deep chemical peel. While a deep chemical peel is the most effective and results in a significant reduction in scars, there is an extensive recovery period.

Tissue Fillers

Dermatologists can also inject collagen or fatty tissue directly into the scar to flatten the scar and stretch the skin. Scarring is reduced as the surface of the skin begins to raise and become smooth. Since this is not a permanent procedure, areas of scarring must receive regular injections.


When other methods of treatment are not effective, surgical removal of deep acne scars is an option. A punch excision is a procedure that surgically removes the scar tissue. During this procedure, skin grafts or sutures are used to repair the skin. As the area begins to heal, scarring gradually fades away.

During a subcision, a needle is placed under the scar tissue to separate it from the skin that is unscarred. Once the fibrous bands that produced the scar are broken up, it becomes softened and much less noticeable.

When a person has noticeable acne scarring on their skin, they can take comfort in knowing that there are numerous options available for reducing the appearance of scars. Since treatment options should be considered on an individual basis, it is best to discuss treatments with a dermatologist who will be able to recommend a treatment that will be the most effective at reducing the appearance of scarring.