The truth about acne scarring Part 2: management and treatment

If your acne has been treated and you need help treating acne scarring, there are a number options available depending on your individual needs.

If acne is treated correctly early on there is a good chance that there will be little to no scarring once the skin has had time to heal. But scarring is still a possibility, especially if acne has been left a long time without being treated or if the acne is particularly severe. But don’t worry. If your acne has been treated and there are signs of residual scarring, there are a number of effective treatment options available. 

Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Every patient is different and needs a tailored treatment plan

Acne scarring can cause a huge amount of emotional anxiety to patients and it can affect all areas of their lives. This makes it crucial to treat it in a way that is right for you and your skin. The treatment plans that I develop for patients with acne scarring are all bespoke because every patient is totally different. I take a holistic approach to treatment, informed by your skin tone, the types of scar(s) you have, your individual worries and concerns, the reality of what can be achieved, and the costs involved in treatment to make it work for you.

  1. A combination of treatments is usually the best approach 

Depending on the type or types of scar you have, there are a number of treatments available and they’re often used in combination to get the best outcomes. As a medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatologist, I offer all of these in various combinations.

  • Topical treatments: Depending on your skin type, topical treatments containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), salicylic acid and retinoids can all help smoothen out scarring and help remove any residual discolouration. 
  • Resurfacing: A more intensive option is to remove some of the outer layers of the skin through resurfacing procedures, such as chemical peels and laser resurfacing. This encourages the skin to replenish itself naturally and is often best for mild, depressed scars.
  • Fillers: For deeper scars, fillers can be used to plump and smoothen out the skin. Most fillers are temporary and may require repeat treatments. 
  • Injections: Raised scars can be softened and made smoother by carefully injecting them with medicine, such as corticosteroids. Most patients receive a series of injections over a number of months. 
  • Surgery: Minor surgical procedures, such as punch excisions or subcisions, are also an option. These are the most invasive treatments and I usually only recommend these if other treatments haven’t been effective. 
  1. A lot can be achieved but managing expectations is key

It’s important to have realistic expectations when it comes to treating acne scarring. No single therapy can remove acne scars completely. A treatment plan that uses a variety of techniques usually achieves the best outcome. I advise my patients that a good outcome is seeing a 50% improvement of the scarring. This may not sound like much. But in the majority of cases this means the size and visibility of scars has been reduced to the point where they no longer cause the patient distress. And often, over time, they will continue to fade even more. 

As you can see, there are no quick fixes to treating acne scarring, but there are many options available that can be tailored and combined for your individual needs. Although it takes some time and patience, in my experience people are very happy with the results that can be achieved with the right treatment plan.