Millions of people suffer from acne. It can start as a young teen or as an adult. Whether your breakouts respond to home treatments or you see a dermatologist regularly one of the most feared complications is acne scarring. This can range from one “pock mark” to an entire face. The strange thing is that no one can predict who will develop a scar and who will clear with no lasting skin damage. Sometimes patients with only a few acne break outs with scar with each one, and some people can have extensive acne and heal without a problem. In recent years the options for treating acne scars have expanded with new and exciting technology that can treat even old scars with minimal downtime.
While there are many different type of acne scars, all of the treatments seek to normalize that collagen deep in the skin and produce a smoother surface. The less invasive the procedure, the more times it must be performed with the trade off of minimial “down time”- or time away from work or social activities. Here are 5 new ways that dermatologists can improve even older scars:
Intense Pulsed Light or Vascular Lasers: We use these in the acute phase where a patient had many red spots that may be starting to form into a scar. A few treatments with these light based devices can shut down the red vessels and make skin look more even and decrease the chance of a permanent scar formation.
Fractional Resurfacing- “heating” type or non-ablative. This procedure stimulates new collagen formation by heating tiny columns of tissue without damage to the surface of the skin. After each treatment there is mild redness and swelling which goes away in a few days. The treatment needs to be repeated at least 3 times over the course of several months.
Fractional Resurfacing with CO2 laser- A more intensive treatment that can give a great improvement in the texture of the skin. The laser vaporizes tiny columns of tissue. Healing takes about one week and is accompanied by significant peeling. During this time you must be away from work or social activities. It is usually done once or twice. The results are excellent but take up to 6 months to fully appear as collagen keeps growing in the skin for months after the procedure.
Microneedling is a new alternative for lower cost than laser treatments. By introducing fine needles into the skin new collagen is stimulated. Microneedling is done using a special vibrating pen like device that is fitted with a sterile tip containing tiny needles. A numbing cream is applied for 30 minutes and then removed. After treatment most people will experience redness and mild swelling in a similar way as mild sunburn for 24-48 hours but can resume regular activity almost immediately. There may be minimal pinpoint bleeding and/or bruising. The goal of microneedling is to break down old scar tissue and to stimulate skin cells to produce new collagen. This results in the formation of new tissue layers of elastin and collagen fibers as well as in new capillaries for improved blood supply. In response to the stimulus, the skin plumps and thickens. Microneedling can be used for mild to moderate acne scarring, skin texture and pore size. A series of treatments is required for best results. It can be used safely on skin of color.
Superficial fillers- Newer fillers are being introduced that can be placed high enough in the skin to achieve a smooth look almost instantly for acne scarring. They are best used for someone who desires immediate improvement. Most fillers last at least a year when used in this manner giving patients options of immediate results, little downtime and a once a year visit to the doctor.
There are many new, safe, and exciting ways to give relief to acne sufferers. It is best to consult a physician who is experienced in all of the treatments available as your treatment should be specific to achieve your personal best.