Acne is a common skin condition that can leave behind permanent scars. However, with new innovations in aesthetic medicine, it has become possible to significantly improve the appearance of acne scars using non-invasive methods. In this article, we’ll walk you through the different cosmetic treatment options offered by our recommended doctors that can help you get rid of acne scars and improve the tone and texture of your skin.
What Are Acne Scars?
Acne scars are the result of a skin condition known as acne which produces spots on the skin in the facial area, and in some cases on the back and chest as well. Acne usually develops in one’s teenage years as a result of hormonal changes.
There are many types of acne: the most common is acne vulgaris, which presents as blackheads, whiteheads, and other forms of pimples on the skin; the most serious is cystic acne, which presents as cysts that affect the deeper layers of the skin. The latter is the most likely to leave behind permanent scars.
When the sebaceous glands (which produce an oily substance called sebum) are overly sensitive, they produce too much sebum. This blocks the pores in the skin which causes an accumulation of dead skin cells and results in symptoms of acne.
Acne often disappears after puberty as hormone levels stop fluctuating and in most cases does not leave behind scars. However, in severe cases, scars are left behind in places where the acne spots have erupted.
Types of Acne Scar
1. Atrophic Scars
Atrophic scars appear as indentations on the skin. The indentation is caused by the skin healing itself below the expected layer of skin tissue due to an inability to regenerate new tissue as a result of a deficiency in collagen.
Atrophic scars are usually used as an umbrella term for three types of scars which have an indented appearance, namely ice pick scars, rolling scars, and box scars:
2. Ice Pick Scars
Ice pick scars are the most severe type of acne scars and the most noticeable in appearance. Ice pick scars extend deep into the dermis (below the outer layer of the skin), and are therefore the deepest type of scars. They appear as narrow v-shaped holes on the skin which are around 2mm wide.
3. Rolling Scars
Rolling scars are shallower but wider than ice pick scars, measuring around 4-5 mm. The scars are characterised by sloping edges on either side of the indentations, which gives the skin an uneven appearance. Rolling scars are likely to appear in places where the skin is thicker, such as the lower cheeks and jawline.
4. Boxcar Scars
Boxcar scars vary in depth and have a width somewhere in between ice pick scars and rolling scars. They are characterised by sharp vertical edges that indent the skin, but often present as a round or oval impression on the skin. Similar to rolling scars, boxcar scars tend to appear on thicker areas of skin.
5. Hypertrophic and Keloid Scars
Both hypertrophic and keloid scars are caused by the skin tissue rising above the surface of the skin. However, there are several distinctions between the two:
- Hypertrophic scars only form on the wounded area of the skin, whereas keloid scars spread beyond this area.
- Hypertrophic scars are likely to fade away with time without any treatment, whereas keloid scars will continue to spread.
- Hypertrophic scars are painless, whereas keloid scars can be painful.
- Hypertrophic scars have a lighter pigmentation with a pink to red hue, whereas keloid scars are hyperpigmented with a red to purple hue.
Can Cosmetic Treatments Remove Scars?
While the cosmetic treatments discussed below cannot completely remove acne scars, they will significantly improve their appearance. The below treatments are designed to reduce the visibility of scars so that they blend in with the tone and texture of the rest of the skin.
The type of cosmetic treatment that is most suitable for you will depend on the type of scarring you have. Furthermore, each treatment varies in terms of the level of invasiveness, results, longevity, cost, and downtime.
Types of Acne Scar Treatment
Skin resurfacing treatments are performed using a CO2 (Fractional Carbon Dioxide) laser. Skin resurfacing is a minimally invasive treatment that can repair areas of damaged skin, including in the case of acne scarring.
The CO2 laser is used to create controlled trauma in targeted areas of the skin in order to trigger a healing response. This process stimulates the healthy skin to repair and regenerate the damaged skin surrounding it through the production of collagen.
However, laser skin resurfacing treatments are not suitable for all skin tones. It is usually recommended for those with fair skin, specifically types 1-3 on the Fitzpatrick scale. This is because darker skin tones are more susceptible to hyperpigmentation and can therefore be damaged by the heat from the laser.
EnerJet 2.0 is an advanced technology that uses kinetic energy in order to blast different healing compounds into the skin. The compounds are delivered at a high speed through a tiny entry point in the outer layer of the skin without the use of needles.
The blast creates micro-wounds which triggers a healing response in the skin, which along with the added healing compounds stimulates the production of collagen and the repair and regeneration of damaged skin. The compound can cover 100 times the area of its entry point (around 200 microns), which enables it to remodel and hydrate the deeper layers of skin. Therefore, it is especially suitable for treating deeper acne scars such as ice pick and boxcar scars.
Morpheus8 is an advanced micro-needling technology that uses radio-frequency (RF) energy in order to improve the tone and texture of the skin.
The RF heat creates controlled trauma within the deep layers of the skin, which triggers the body’s natural healing process. This process stimulates the production of collagen and elastin which in turn regenerates and tightens the skin.
Morpheus8 can be used to treat severe cases of acne scarring since the micro-needles can reach the deeper layers of the skin in order to heal and regenerate scar tissue. Furthermore, the micro needles can be varied in depth in order to address different parts of the face.
Chemical peels are a cosmetic treatment that can repair and rejuvenate areas of damaged skin. During the treatment, a chemical solution is applied onto the skin, which causes the damaged skin cells on the surface to peel off and reveal the healthier layer of skin underneath.
However, although the chemical peel is often used to treat skin that is prone to acne, it is not usually recommended as an effective treatment for acne scars.
Cosmetic fillers can be used to treat rolling and boxcar acne scars, as well as some types of ice pick scars. Since these scars are defined by an indentation in the skin due to the loss of volume in the skin tissue, the fillers can be used to add volume to the affected area.
The fillers are made of hyaluronic acid, a hydrating substance that is naturally produced by the body. The substance is injected into the indentations, which instantly produces volume in the area to even out the texture of the skin.
However, whereas most other scar treatments last between 3-5 years, fillers will need to be repeated every 12-18 months.
How Much Does it Cost to Remove Acne Scars?
The exact cost of the treatments discussed above will depend on your individual circumstances and the size of the area being treated. However, below are the typical prices that our selected surgeons charge for each treatment:
|Morpheus8||Starts from £750|
|Skin resurfacing||Starts from £990|
|Fillers||Starts from £450|
|EnerJet 2.0||Starts from £990|
Acne Scars – Before and After
Can scars be removed permanently?
This will depend on the severity and depth of the scar. In general, most scars, including acne scars cannot be permanently removed. However, the cosmetic treatments mentioned above can make acne scars significantly less visible.
Can old scars be removed?
Scars that are several years old can be treated just as effectively with the above mentioned cosmetic treatments. However, the type and number of treatment sessions may vary depending on the severity of the scar.
How do acne scars form?
Acne scars are usually the result of cystic acne, a more severe form of acne defined by the presence of cysts that extends into the deeper layers of the skin. The pus-filled spots produced by cystic acne are more likely to burst and damage the skin, thus leaving behind scars. The scarring can be exacerbated if the skin was further damaged by the picking and squeezing of spots.