Fighting and clearing up acne is tough enough, but, for some, the aftermath of the scars that are left behind are an even bigger battle. “Acne scars are more difficult to treat than standard keloid scars and wrinkles,” explains New York dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD. “However, there are in-office options to improve them and, with patience, the results can be significant.”
The severity of your acne scars will determine your best course of action, but one treatment that many doctors turn to are lasers. “My go-to is nonablative resurfacing with an Erbium laser,” Dr. Waldorf says. “Patients require multiple treatment sessions, but appreciate the limited downtime, which is typically two to four days of swelling, redness or a sandpaper feel.” Other options include sublative resurfacing or ablative resurfacing. “The former has similar downtime and efficacy to nonablative resurfacing; the latter has more significant downtime with some oozing, crusting or redness for one to two weeks, depending on the depth of treatment,” says Dr. Waldorf, who adds that if pores are your problem, a lighter, nonablative laser like Clear + Brilliant may be best for you.
If you have more individual, shallow acne scars, getting them injected with filler can help reduce their appearance. “You can fill them with a hyaluronic acid filler like Belotero; another filler, Bellafill, was recently approved for acne scars, but patients need to be aware that unlike other fillers, this one requires an allergy test and has a permanent component,” Dr. Waldorf says.
Prevention + Products
According to Dr. Waldorf, unfortunately, over-the-counter scar gels don’t work that well for acne scars. “Using treatments that reduce acne improve future scar formation. Cleansers with alpha- and betahydroxy acids, using a Clarisonic brush and regular application of topical retinoids are helpful to keep skin quality good and pores minimized,” says Dr. Waldorf. And of course, prevention can help stop scars from forming in the first place. “Do not pick or pop acne pimples or cysts!” she says.
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