What is acne scarring and how can it be treated?

Woman popping a forehead pimple in the mirror
Scars are formed when a pimple penetrates deep into the skin and damages the tissue beneath it. Photo credit: Getty Images

Although acne scarring is normal, it can often impact people's self-confidence.

Scars are formed when a pimple penetrates deep into the skin and damages the tissue beneath it.

Dr Sebastian Bejma, from Dr Bejma Medical Clinic in Leeds, England, has offered a range of tips to help you understand acne scarring.

What is acne?

Acne, which affects around 95 percent of people in the UK aged between 11 and 30, is a common skin condition that can cause spots.

"It can cause different types of spots, including blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, pustules, papules and cysts and also oily skin and pain," the Advanced Aesthetic Doctor explained. "It doesn't just impact the face, it is also common on the back, which is often referred to as 'bacne' and the chest."

Why does it cause scarring?

In some cases, acne spots can scar, particularly if they have been squeezed or picked.

"Acne scarring is a common side-effect of acne," Dr Bejma noted. "Any type of spot can lead to scarring but in most cases it's the nodules and cysts that burst and damage the surrounding skin which result in most severe scarring, either that or when spots are squeezed, popped or picked."

Different types of acne scars

There are a "number of different types" of acne scars, which can appear differently on your skin.

"Atrophic scars are small indents in the skin and occur when the skin doesn't make enough fibroblasts when healing," the skin tech said.

"Hypertrophic scars are raised in appearance and occur when the skin makes too many fibroblasts as the spot heals... (and) keloid scars which are usually thicker than the original spot and often come with hyperpigmentation mean(ing) they look darker."

How to treat acne scars

There are several different ways to go about treating those pesky scars, including using salicylic acid and retinoids - but make sure you do a patch test before using them for the first time.

"Salicylic acid is a compound which helps to clear dirt and debris from the skin, helping to reduce the build-up which can lead to acne. It's also believed that applying it to acne scars can help to reduce redness and swelling, reducing the appearance of scars," the expert explained.

"Retinoids when applied topically can help to reduce some acne scars and speed up cell regeneration."

Radio frequency treatment

If you are looking for an in-clinic procedure to help with scarring, you could try out a radio frequency treatment.

"In-clinic treatments can offer more effective and long-term solutions to addressing acne-scarring," Dr Bejma advised. "Morpheus8 combines RF (radio frequency) energy with Microneedling to improve the skin's complexion and texture.

"It can be used on any areas that can benefit from sub-dermal renewal but the most commonly treated areas include the lower face and neck."

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