Experiencing serious acne as a teenager is bad enough. Having acne scars as an adult gives many a reminder they’d prefer to forget. About one-third of those with pimples and pustules end up with acne scars. Is there an acne scar treatment that really works? Yes, several provide good results. Let’s discuss what causes acne scars and consider several treatments that really work.
What causes acne scars?
Many teenagers get acne. For most, it will go away in time. So, why do some develop scarring? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the risk for acne scars increases if you
- Have inflammatory acne, often swollen, reddish and painful
- Delay or fail to treat inflammatory acne
- Squeeze, pick or pop pimples
- Have a close relative with acne scars
Surface acne doesn’t seriously damage your skin. But when acne penetrates deep into your skin, it injures it and the tissue below. In clearing the acne, your body tries to repair this injury. Skin damage stimulates collagen production. Too much or too little collagen can produce a scar.
- Too little collagen results in pits or depressions in your skin
- Too much collagen causes a raised acne scar
Inherited flaws in your DNA may leave you vulnerable to scarring. Everyone has something in their body that doesn’t work right due to genetic imperfections. Some, like hemophilia or cystic fibrosis, can be life-threatening. A tendency to scar is just more visible. And unlike many genetic imperfections, there are effective acne scar treatments. Here’s what I recommend at my practice, STC Plastic Surgery in Inland Empire, California.
Acne Scar Treatment – Mild Scarring
PicoSure is the best treatment available for mild acne scars. It delivers extremely short concentrated bursts of laser energy directly to scar tissue. This breaks up the scar. Your body’s natural healing process begins, removing the damaged tissue and stimulating collagen and elastin production to rebuild your injured skin. The result is a better complexion.
PicoSure treats acne scars on the face, neck, arms, upper torso and back. It has no downtime, a major advantage. People with fairer, otherwise healthy skin are the best candidates for PicoSure. Those with darker skin or active acne may not be good candidates. At least 3 sessions are required to achieve good results.
Treatment for Moderate Acne Scars: Fractional CO2 Laser Resurfacing
Some acne scars are deeper or more pronounced. These often respond well to Fractional CO2 Laser Resurfacing. Acne scars frequently include both raised scarring and pits, like a series of peaks and valleys. Traditional laser resurfacing vaporizes layers of skin in the affected area until it reaches the bottom of moderate acne scars. This stimulates collagen and elastin production. In place of acne scars you will come to see smoother skin.
Fractional CO2 laser accomplishes this by creating a series of tiny holes in your skin to even out scar tissue. Studies have found this just as effective as removing the entire skin layer, but far gentler. Fractional CO2 laser treatment results in about a week of downtime. It may soften rather than eliminate deeper scars. However, fractional CO2 laser can replace moderate acne scars with smoother, fresher-looking skin.
As with PicoSure, those with darker skin or active acne may not be good candidates for fractional CO2 laser resurfacing. There is one acne scar treatment that does work well for those with darker complexions.
Bellafill – FDA approved for moderate acne scars – works for darker complexions
Bellafill is an effective acne scar treatment that works by filling in skin pits and valleys. It is FDA-approved for treating moderate acne scars. Your doctor will inject Bellafill into your acne scars below your skin’s surface, evening out your complexion. Unlike laser treatment, Bellafill doesn’t make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. This means you can use Bellafill in any season.
Bellafill stimulates your collagen and elastin production in a unique way. It contains millions of microscopic balls (microspheres) of PPMA, used in bone cement by orthopedic surgeons. The PPMA is suspended in purified bovine (cattle-based) collagen, which was once many plastic surgeons’ filler of choice. It provides immediate results with just 1-2 days downtime.
Your body will absorb bovine collagen in a few months. But while that’s happening, Bellafill stimulates your own collagen production. The PPMA microspheres provide structure for that collagen, giving you good, lasting results. How long will they last? FDA approval came after observing a year of Bellafill results. But consider – the FDA approved Bellafill to fill even deep nasolabial folds for 5 years. Acne scar results will vary, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a better complexion for 3-5 years before another treatment is required.
African-Americans and others with darker complexions can safely use Bellafill to treat their acne scars. This makes it unique among acne scar treatments. You’ll need to be tested 30 days in advance to make sure you’re not allergic to any Bellafill ingredients. If you’re a good candidate, you can expect substantial improvement after just one treatment.
Renuvion – best for severe acne scar treatment
Some acne scars are severe. In those cases, it’s necessary to remove the top layer of skin. The best, most comfortable way to do this is with Renuvion. Renuvion uses cool helium plasma (electrified gas) to safely liquify the top layer of your skin. It’s the best treatment for deep lines and wrinkles as well as severe acne scars.
Renuvion was originally used for extremely precise surgical procedures. It is far more effective than traditional CO2 laser resurfacing. Like laser, it’s not recommended for darker complexions. Renuvion raises skin temperature to the needed level and then instantly cools it. This kicks your collagen production into high gear. Your doctor will then wipe away the damaged upper layer of skin, leaving a new layer of fresh, healthier skin exposed. New collagen and elastin will help it continue to improve.
Neither Renuvion nor any other available method can reach the bottom of severe acne pits. But Renuvion treatment will provide substantial improvement that should last for years.
Renuvion patients can expect 2 weeks of weeping skin after treatment. Then you can use makeup to cover redness that will last up to a month, resembling a sunburn. After that your skin will appear pink for up to another month. Finally, your coloring will return to normal. Your serious acne scars have been replaced by smoother, more attractive skin.
Which acne scar treatment is right for you?
If you have an olive or darker complexion, Bellafill will often be your best choice. Raised acne scars require resurfacing, so PicoSure, Fractional CO2 Laser or Renuvion will be best, depending on the severity of scarring and the amount of downtime you can handle. An experienced, board-certified facial plastic or plastic surgeon or a cosmetic dermatologist can tell you which method will best treat your acne scars. If you’re looking to treat acne scars in Inland Empire – metro Los Angeles, California, feel free to contact me at STC Plastic Surgery in Ontario for a free consultation.