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It feels great to see your acne go away. But without proper treatment, unwelcome reminders of your pimples and blackheads may linger in the form of acne scars. A scar is your body’s response to healing a wound, surgical incision or injury to the skin. When you have a skin injury (such as severe acne), skin cells combine with connective tissue cells and multiply to repair the damage. When the injury does not heal properly, the result is a scar – either a dark mark or patch of skin that grows over a wound and is usually thicker or a different color than the rest of your skin. While it might seem odd, acne is technically an injury because when a pimple becomes inflamed, it damages the surrounding skin. Squeezing or picking at a pimple can also cause damage to the skin and increase the chance of a scar. You cannot get rid of acne scars but in some cases there are procedures that can help modify them or soften them.
Since genetics play a factor in whether or not you have acne, if your family has a history of severe, scarring acne then you also have a greater chance of having that acne type. If you have severe inflammatory acne with deep nodules and cysts (more common in men), see a dermatologist so you can treat it aggressively and prevent scarring.
There are three types of acne scars. Atrophic scars occur when not enough connective tissue (fibroblasts) is made during the healing process. These scars usually look like small depressions in the skin and can happen even if you don’t squeeze your pimples. Hypertrophic scars have the opposite problem. When too much connective tissue is created, it leaves a raised scar because the tissue keeps growing even after the wound is filled in. This scar type tends to occur in severe acne cases and typically appears on the back, neck or shoulders. The third type, keloid scars, is the least common but, like hypertrophic scars, is the result of excess connective tissue. The difference is that these scars are thick, fibrous, red-brown nodules, often much larger than the pimple itself. Keloid scars may also create itchiness, redness and or painful sensations at the wound site.
Trying to get rid of acne scars? The best acne scar treatment depends on which type of acne scar you have. Different types of treatments include cortisone injections, cryosurgery, laser treatments, microdermabrasion treatments, and soft tissue fillers. A dermatologist (a skin doctor) can help you choose the right ones.
Over time, minor acne scars will usually blend into the skin and become less noticeable. Also, some dark spots and marks that you may think are scars are actually post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). A dark spot corrector containing hydroquinone can help fade these marks.
The best way to get rid of acne scars is to avoid them in the first place through prevention and by properly treating your acne-prone skin. We recommend a Proactiv® acne treatment system. If acne scars occur in spite of your best efforts, see a dermatologist to find the best acne scar treatment for you.
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