Scars are created when skin tissue is damaged.
Inflammatory acne is much more likely to leave scars because it can injure the skin more than smaller or non-inflamed blemishes. Inflamed pimples, nodules or cysts can damage skin tissue beyond repair. Cystic acne can leave severe scarring.
Not all acne scars are alike. Different types of scars arise depending on the amount of damage done to the skin, and how the skin repairs itself from this damage.
Atrophic scars result when there is a loss of skin tissue. These scars types create a pitted or pockmarked look of the skin.
Hypertrophic scars develop when the skin produces excess collagen as the injury heals, creating a raised mass of tissue. Raised scars are less common in acne patients than atrophic scars.
The most common types of scarring caused by acne breakouts include:
The most common type of "scar" for acne patients isn't a true scar at all, but rather a condition called
post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Nearly everyone with acne develops some degree of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
PIH looks like a flat area of discoloration on the skin and, as the name suggests, develops after an inflammatory lesion heals. PIH is the skin's natural response to a wound. Luckily, PIH is not permanent, and will fade away over time. Certain treatments, such as Retin A, azelaic acid, microdermabrasion, and
chemical peels may help fade discolorations more quickly.
You may not be able to completely prevent scarring, especially if you have more severe inflammatory or cystic acne. But you can take steps to limit your chances of developing serious scars:
- Treat acne as soon as it develops.
- Avoid further inflammation of the skin.
- Know if you are prone to scarring.
- See your doctor if you have moderate to severe acne, or if your mild acne is not improving with over-the-counter treatments.
Mom was right, again. You should never pick at or pop a pimple. Doing so is a surefire way to bring about scarring. Squeezing blemishes damages skin tissue, increases inflammation, and can worsen breakouts. Don’t squeeze blemishes, no matter how tempting it may be.
Even with careful treatment, not all acne scarring can be avoided. The good news is that many treatment options are available to help reduce the appearance of acne scars. Depending on the type and severity of the scarring, your doctor may recommend: