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What You Need to Know About Your Acne Scars

October 31, 2012
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woman hiding her face with her hands, acne scars

When acne appears on the skin there is actually an infection within below the surface of the skin. The problem with acne is that when pimples, blackheads, whiteheads or zits appear the first reaction is to get rid of them by popping them. Unfortunately popping pimples causes irritation to the pores and surrounding skin. Due to the underlying acne infection the body is already trying to fight the infection and repair the infected site. By popping the pimples the body has to work harder to repair the entire area of skin. Unfortunately, the skin can never fully repair to its original texture, color, or state. A scar forms as a sign of repair. Acne scars are not always visible to the naked eye, however this will depend upon the type of scar formation that occurs, loss of tissue or increased tissue formation.

The most common types of acne scars are depressed scars formed by loss of tissue. There are several different types of these scars including ice-pick scars, depressed fibrotic scars, boxcar scars, and rolling scars. The depressed scar forms when the acne cyst expands with pus, bacteria, oil and dead skin cells. The cyst ruptures causing the bacteria to attack the dermis, at which point the body tries to protect the dermis by flooding it with white blood cells. However, the rupture causes loss of collagen below the surface of the skin, leaving the skin above unsupported causing deep recesses or depressions in the dermis. Ice-pick scars are the most common depression scar which forms on the face. Often formed as result of persistent acne, ice-pick scars are deep, narrow scars characterized by the pits they form within the skin. Boxcar scars are angular with well defined edges normally found on temples or cheeks. Rolling scars are wide and shallow with a wave-like appearance on the skin.

The other type of scar formation is characterized by increased tissue formation. It’s as if the scar forms in reverse. These scars are hypertrophic or keloid scars which are raised above the surface of the skin. With the loss of collagen the body triggers fibroblasts to form, which produce excessive collagen which spill over top the skin. Hypertrophic scars normally remain within the boundary of the original blemish while keloid scars can expand beyond the original pimple site. These scars can feel firm and even itch but overtime they can diminish in size.

There are several acne scar treatments available today. The severity of the scar, the location of the scar and the desired results will all play a role in determining which acne scar treatment is right for you. Cost may also play a role in choosing a treatment plan. Common acne scar treatments available include collagen treatment, laser treatment, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, skin surgery, skin grafting and steroid injections. Treatments may vary depending upon the type of acne scar as well. Consult a dermatologist if you are considering acne scar treatment.