Acne Scarring - When Prevention Is Too Late

By: Rebecca Prescott

The message we hear over and over again is to get your acne treated as early as possible to avoid permanent scars. This, of course, is of little comfort to those who heard this advice too late and are already living with serious acne scarring.

Whether your acne scars require treatment depends very much on the individual, as well as the severity of the scars. Some people are not bothered by their scars and assume that they will fade over time. For others scars can lead to a huge decline in their self-confidence, increased anxiety and depression. It has even been suggested that serious scarring can increase risk of suicide, particularly in men.

Acne scars have such an impact because they are generally found on the face, which is a part of the body that cannot be hidden. Some people with severe acne scarring find it difficult to look someone in the face when they meet them, perhaps because they are scared of seeing that person's reaction to their scars. Even body scars can affect a person's self-confidence, particularly in situations where they are not fully clothed, such as at the beach or swimming pool.

There are several different types of scar, all requiring individual treatment, but these can be broken down into two main categories. Depressed area scars are the more common and are caused by a loss of tissue. A typical depressed area scar would be an ice pick scar that resembles a sharp dent in the skin. The second type of scar is a raised area scar. These are less common, tend to be hereditary, and are caused by over production of collagen as the immune system tries to heal the acne.

Some people believe they have permanent acne scarring when actually what they have is macules or post inflammatory pigmentation. Macules are red areas that are the last stage of an acne lesion and last for up to six months, and post inflammatory pigmentation is a slight skin discoloration where an acne lesion has healed, which lasts up to eighteen months. Your dermatologist will be able to tell you if you have either of these conditions rather than permanent scarring.

So what can be done to treat permanent acne scars? There are now a number of procedures that your dermatologist will consider to treat your scarring. They need to look at each case separately because a treatment that may rid one person of acne scars may make scarring worse for another.

The surgical options available include collagen injections, transfer of fat to fill scars caused by loss of tissue, dermabrasion to remove raised scars, laser treatment, and skin grafts. For most of these treatments to work, you need to be free of active acne, and have only the scars remaining.

If you have active acne and are worried about scarring, consult a dermatologist straight away. If you already have scars don't worry. The wide range of treatments available means that there is almost certainly a way to dramatically reduce their appearance.

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