Treatment for Acne Scars - Surgery, Laser, Dermabrasion, Skin Peels, Dermal Fillers & Steroids

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As there are several different kinds of acne scars and there are several kinds of treatment with which to combat them. Some treatments work better for certain types of scar and the success of each treatment can depend on your skin type, condition and scar type, as well as the skill of your practitioner. It is extremely important that you trust your doctor or dermatologist’s abilities and that you are getting the correct treatment for your type of scarring. The main acne scar treatments are:

Acne Scar Surgery

Acne scar surgery is one of the most commonly prescribed treatments for severe acne scarring. This is because is has a high success rate, can be done in at little as ten minutes and is suitable to treat all types of acne scars. While acne surgery does not completely remove your scars it does minimise them to a point at which they can either heal themselves, disappear with further treatment of laser skin resurfacing or go unnoticed. There are four main kinds of this surgery: punch excision, punch elevation, punch grafting and subcutaneous incision. For more information see the ‘Acne Scar Surgery’ section.

Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser treatment is often used as a follow up to the invasive scar surgery mentioned above, however, it can also be used as a treatment in its own right. The results of laser skin resurfacing can vary considerably and as little research has been done into the area, many professionals are unsure of the technique's benefits and side effects. To minimise discomfort, the area that is to be resurfaced is numbed with a local anaesthetic, or, if you are having extensive laser resurfacing, a general anaesthetic is used. After this a laser is used on the area. This precisely removes scarred skin so that new, scar-free skin can grow, thus improving the skin's appearance. The procedure time can vary depending on how large the scarred area is. A small section can take a few minutes but larger areas can take more than an hour to treat. There are three laser types which are commonly used: CO2 lasers, Er:YAG lasers and fractional lasers. The CO2 and Er:YAG work in the same way although the CO2 is stronger with better results but more side effects. Meanwhile fractional lasers work similarly but target very small areas. They are similar in effectiveness and side effects to Er:YAG lasers.


Dermabrasion is frequently touted as one of the best acne scar reduction treatments available but results of the treatment can be variable depending on your skin and your practitioner. The process works by removing the upper layers of the skin with a type of high-powered, rotating, fine wire brush or diamond fraise. These can come in an assortment of strengths and shapes, which makes them fairly adaptable. These tools essentially ‘sand’ the upper layers of skin away, which can remove some scarring and encourage new, scar-free skin to grow in its place. This kind of treatment has been shown to be effective on ice pick, boxcar and rolling acne scars but is not for use on hypertrophic (raised) scars. It is less effective on very deep or very severe scarring. The risks and side effects are very similar to those of laser skin resurfacing and include the possibility of hyperpigmentation and the possibility of reactivating dormant conditions such as herpes (cold sores) and acne.

Chemical Skin Peeling

Chemical skin peels are a popular treatment for both active acne and acne scarring. To improve the appearance of acne scars the affected area is covered with a specific kind of chemical which basically ‘burns’ away the first few layers of your skin. Over the course of the next week your skin should peel and flake off. This encourages new, fresh, unblemished skin to grow. There are several different types of chemical that can be used and they range in strength and differ in the effect they produce.

The process can significantly improve the appearance of acne scars, especially more superficial scarring. It can reduce the depth and discolouration of your scars. For severe acne scarring other treatments may be more appropriate so please consult your doctor or dermatologist before deciding upon your treatment. For much more information please look for under the article on Chemical Skin Peeling in the Acne Treatments section.

Dermal Fillers

Dermal fillers are a neat way to treat acne scars. They work by injecting one of many different sorts of filler into a scar. This basically ‘plumps up’ the area bringing it in line with the rest of your unscarred skin. This can significantly reduce the visibility of your scar and even disguise it completely in some cases. Of course, this technique only works for depressed scars such as ice pick and boxcar scars. Raised, hypertrophic, keloid scars are definitely not suitable for the treatment and moderate-to-severe acne scarring will almost certainly not be either. Dermal fillers are quick and easy to insert and have little-to-no recovery time. The biggest downside is that they are not permanent as your body breaks down the injected fillers over time. You will need to have the treatment regularly to maintain the effect. This can become seriously expensive over a lifetime.

Steroid Injections

This kind of treatment is only for use with hypertrophic (raised keloid) scars. It is also used more commonly to deal with active acne lesions. The treatment works by injecting cortisone directly into the scar. The introduction of corticosteroids can reduce swelling and promote healing. This can make your scar smaller and less noticeable.

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