Although acne is generally only a temporary issue, the scars that it leaves can last a long time, and may even be permanent.
Even though scars are unwelcome, they’re a natural part of our skin’s healing process following damage from an injury or wound.
Most wounds which are superficial heal with no scarring, however, when the dermis gets damaged, scars develop on your skin. Knowing the causes of acne scars and how to prevent them can help to restore your confidence and improve the condition of your complexion.
What Causes Acne Scars?
Usually, acne scars are caused when a lesion like a cyst, pustule or papule becomes inflamed. This happens when the pore or follicle becomes swollen with dead skin cells, bacteria and excess oil.
When the pore swells up, the wall of the follicle breaks. When that rupture happens close to the surface of the skin, the resulting lesion will usually be fairly minor and will heal quickly.
However, when the break is deeper under the skin, the lesions which arise will be more serious. Infected material will spill out into the dermis layer, destroying the healthy skin tissues.
Your skin works to repair the damage caused to its dermis layer by forming fresh collagen fibers. Collagen is a fibrous protein which gives your skin its flexibility and strength.
Although these collagen fibers will repair your dermis, the result will never look as flawless and smooth as it did before the damage occurred.
The more inflamed your skin, the greater the chance of scarring occurring. Deep breakouts which take longer to heal increase the chances of scars developing.
Non-inflamed blemishes like whiteheads and blackheads don’t ususally result in scars since lesions like these don’t damage the skin tissue.
Acne Scar Types
When a wound heals, your body will sometimes produce excess collaged. As a result, raised tissue will appear on the surface of your skin.
This is known as keloid or hypertrophic scarring. Usually, acne results in depressed or atrophic scars. These develop if tissue is lost.
Often, acne scarring isn’t really a scar at all. Instead, it is PIH or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This means that skin is temporarily discolored, however over time it will fade and return to its normal shade.
You can speed up the time it takes for the discoloration to fade by using specific treatment medications.
Preventing Acne Scars
It’s impossible to prevent scarring completely, however there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of scars developing from your acne breakouts:
- Treat your acne breakouts immediately. If you can get your acne under controll quickly, breakouts will be kept to a minimum and will be prevented from becoming more severe. As a result, scarring can be prevented.
- Reduce inflammation. Blemishes which are large and inflamed have a greater chance of leaving a scar than blackheads and breakouts which aren’t inflamed. You should always try to calm down inflammation by avoiding doing anything that irritates the skin further. Harsh skincare products and aggressive scrubbing should certainly be avoided.
- Never pop, pick or squeeze pimples. Although it’s tempting, this will only force the infection more deeply into your skin’s dermis layer, spreading it to other tissues and making inflammation worse. This is particularly true in the case of serious, deep blemishes such as cysts and nodules. It will also take longer to heal a popped pimple, and this also increases the chance of a scar becoming permanent. Leave spots to heal on their own and if you have already popped a pimple, work on healing it to minimize the damage.
- Don’t pick scabs. It’s important to avoid picking scabs too. Scabbing forms a natural skin bandage to protect your wound while it heals. If you pick off the scab before the wound is fully repaired, the process of healing will take longer and the chances of a scar are higher.
- Be aware of whether you’re likely to develop a scar. Some people have a greater tendency to scar than others. If you’re more prone to scarring, you should seek help from a dermatologist immediately to discuss your options for acne treatment.
- Visit your doctor. If you’re getting deep, large breakouts or if you’re developing acne cysts, you should make an appointment to see your physician to get professional medical advice. Although small blemishes may scar your skin, it’s these larger breakouts which cause the most damage since they are deeper in the skin, destroying tissue and thus leaving more scarring. Acne products bought over the counter usually aren’t strong enough to help cystic or nodular breakouts, so seeing your doctor is the best option so you can get a prescription for an effective treatment which will reduce your scarring.
Coping With Acne Scars
Although acne scarring can be distressing, it’s important to remember that in many cases, the appearance of scars will reduce over time. Meanwhile, you can take all of the steps mentioned above to limit the possibility of scars occurring in the first place.
After all, prevention is better than cure, so taking action before your problem worsens is always the best idea.