Treating acne and the scars it leaves behind depends on the severity of your acne and the persistence of the scars. Acne is usually categorized into mild, moderate and severe based on the degree of its severity. Doctors may use multiple acne treatments at the same time in order to obtain optimum results and to prevent the acne causing bacteria from becoming resistant to drugs. The treatment may include gels or lotions that you apply on the blemishes or, in some cases, to the entire affected area of skin e.g. back or chest – this is called topical medication. Your doctor may also prescribe oral medication for acne treatment i.e. the ones you ingest by mouth.
Treatments for Mild Acne
Mild acne, characterized by pimples, blackheads or whiteheads, has several simple treatments:
- Gently cleansing the skin using mild soap (e.g. Cetaphil or Dove) and warm water.
- Application of benzoyl peroxide (Triaz or Brevoxyl for instance)
- Application of salicylic acid (Examples are Stridex or Propa pH)
You should seek a doctor only after these treatments have no effect on your acne. The doctor can prescribe creams or lotions that are more effective; antibiotic or exfoliating creams are also worth a shot.
Treatments for Moderate to Severe Acne
More pronounced, persistent acne with deeper blemishes e.g. cysts and nodules, has a greater chance of leaving behind acne scars, which is why your physician may prescribe you with oral antibiotic medicine early on in order to get rid of them. This acne, which comes under the moderate to severe classification, requires multiple therapies simultaneously in order to heal. Here are some of the treatments for it:
- Application of benzoyl peroxide
- Drainage of cysts and large pimples by a physician
- Topical application of prescription antibiotics / retinoids
- Application of azelaic acid
- Prescription oral retinoids (e.g. isotretinoin) / oral antibiotics
Treatments for Acne Scars
1. Laser Resurfacing: This high precision method of removing* acne scars uses brief high energy laser pulses to target damaged areas of the skin and encourage them to develop new skin after shedding off the old one (due to the heating effect of the laser). CO2 or Erbium lasers are the most commonly use varieties of this treatment in which there is little or no bleeding in most cases. The affected skin is covered with ointment or clean dressing post treatment.
2. Dermabrasion: This treatment employs a rough edged diamond wheel or a wire brush to get rid of the top, scarred layers of the skin. Although this is technically injuring the skin, and leads to bleeding, the new skin that takes its place is unblemished and scar free. The skin grows back in around a weeks and the pink / red hue goes away in 6-12 weeks. You are free to use makeup during this period to achieve your usual skin tone. Pain and swelling is infrequent and most people get back to their routines soon after the treatment.
3. Oral Treatments: Severe acne that leads to inflammation is the most common cause of persistent acne scars. Oral treatment using the drug isotretinoin is a potent way to nip the problem in the bud. You need to take one or two daily doses of this drug for about 16 – 20 weeks. Coming in the form of a pill, this drug takes care of excessive oil production, blocked skin pores, inflammation and P. acnes i.e. all four of the factors which lead to acne. It will get rid of chronic acne for several months to several years, and in many cases, one course of this drug will be enough to ensure that the acne doesn’t return. Because this drug may cause birth defects, it is prohibited for use by pregnant women and birth control is mandatory for women who plan to undergo, are currently undergoing or have recently undergone this treatment.
4. Topical Treatments: Topical treatments include bleaching creams, Vitamin E medications, Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid.
- Bleaching creams can help reduce* the visibility of darkened acne scars and acne spots – physicians advise those creams which contain 2% hyroquione. Follow the instructions that come with the cream to prevent damage to healthy tissue.
- Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that aids the skin in fighting free radicals, healing and producing new skin cells. Daily topical application, either from a Vitamin E capsule or an ointment that has it as an ingredient will help your skin heal, and soften and diminish* your scar’s appearance.
- Glycolic and lactic acids are both used in chemical peels because they are compatible with all types of skin and have the ability to rejuvenate the skin by removing* the topmost, injured layer. They get rid of your scars by removing* each successive layer of skin that is scarred until your new skin is free from blemishes.
5. Home Remedies: Ice cubes, honey and lemon juice are three of the simplest and easiest home remedies for dealing with acne scars. Application of ice cubes for five minutes daily, of honey overnight, and of lemon juice for around 20 minutes daily will visibly reduce* your acne scars and may even remove* the damaged tissue.
Prevention Tips for Acne Scar Treatment
You should follow certain preventive steps to ensure that acne scarring doesn’t occur:
- Do not smoke, since smoking empties the oxygen reserves of the skin, causes deposition of toxins and damage from free radicals – all these factors contribute to making the skin more vulnerable to scarring.
- Do not squeeze / extract your pimples by yourself since this can cause additional trauma to your skin making it harder for the skin to heal and increasing* the likelihood of scarring.
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun if you are undergoing prescribed acne treatment.
- Stay clear of buff puffs and abrasive scrubs since they can damage healing skin and erupt fresh pimples leading to the spread of bacteria – both these effects can aggravate scarring.
As is evident, there are many diverse treatments at your disposal for dealing with your acne scar problem. But the most important thing to remember is that no treatment guarantees total removal of acne scars overnight. You must be patient as you undergo treatment, but rest assured that you will be able to deal with even severe acne scars thanks to the treatments available in this day and age.