Debunking Myths on Acne Scarring

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Debunking Myths on Acne Scarring

Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. While it can be frustrating to deal with, putting up with acne scarring or the scars left behind by active breakouts can be especially challenging. It is a common occurrence, affecting one out of five individuals who have acne. 

Aside from affecting the skin, acne scarring can have negative effects on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. The good news is acne scarring can be treated. If you or somebody you know is suffering from acne scars, it’s crucial to have a deeper understanding of what acne scars are and how they can be best treated. 

It’s also important for you to be aware of the myths and facts surrounding this skin condition. Having the right information will help you find suitable ways to address acne scarring, as well as better cope with the challenges that this condition brings. 

What is Acne Scarring?

To understand how acne scarring happens, you first need to know how acne causes scars.

Acne is a skin condition caused by clogged pores, bacteria, excess sebum production, and inflammation. It has numerous symptoms, such as whiteheads, blackheads, and cystic lesions, and can be triggered or worsened by hormonal changes, diet, and stress, along with certain medications that you may be taking. 

Acne scarring occurs when these existing acne blemishes are inflamed. When this happens, the pore tends to swell, causing the follicle wall to break. Depending on the depth of the break and on what layer of the skin it takes place, a scar can either be considered minor and heal quickly or it can become a deeper scar. The former occurs near the skin’s surface, while the latter usually takes place in the dermis. 

Deeper scars form when there is a deep break in the follicle wall, causing the contents of the blemishes to spread into the surrounding tissue and destroying healthy skin tissue in the process. 

The skin responds to the damage by attempting to repair it, forming new collagen fibers. The resulting acne scars can either be indentations on the skin or raised, which happens when the skin produces excess collagen. 

Who are susceptible to acne scarring?

While it may be impossible to determine who exactly is at risk of developing acne scars, it is possible to determine the factors that increase a person’s risk of developing them.

  • Inflammatory acne

  • Those with inflammatory acne are more likely to be at risk of forming scars once their acne clears up. Inflammatory acne can be described as swollen, reddish, or painful acne that goes deeper into the skin, causing worse damage.

  • Delayed treatment of inflammatory acne

  • Delayed treatment can heighten the risk of acne scarring, particularly when inflammatory acne is concerned. 

  • Increased inflammation

  • Squeezing or picking at your breakouts can increase inflammation which, in turn, increases the likelihood of acne scarring.


    • Genetics 

      If you have relatives who have acne scars, this factor also increases your risk of having them too.

      Keep in mind though that even if an individual has all these risk factors, it’s still not a guarantee that they will develop scars.

      Scarring Types

      There are two main types of acne scars: atrophic and hypertrophic scarring.

      Atrophic or depressed scarring is the result of tissue loss, when the skin didn’t produce enough collagen to repair the damage. This type is commonly found on the face and has three types:

      • Boxcar

      These scars are wide and typically have sharp edges, with the edges going deep into the skin. They can either be shallow or deep and they commonly appear on the lower cheek and jaw areas.

      • Ice pick

      These are wide scars that taper to a point the deeper it goes into the skin, resembling an ice pick. They often appear on areas where there is thinner skin, such as the forehead and upper cheeks. Compared to boxcar scars, these are more difficult to treat.

      • Rolling

      This type takes on a rolling appearance, often having rounded, sloping edges that lend an uneven look to the skin. Similar to boxcar scars, these commonly appear on the lower cheeks and jaw, or areas that have thicker skin.

      Hypertrophic or keloid scars are technically raised tissue mass that are associated with chest or back acne. They are caused by excess collagen that the skin produces during the healing process. Aside from the chest and back, keloid scars can also appear on the shoulders and jaw line.

      Sometimes, when your acne clears, it leaves behind some discoloration or dark spots. These are called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH and are not actually acne scars. These marks will fade on their own.

      Emotional and Psychological Effects

      More than just being a skin condition, acne affects an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being. Those who suffer from acne report feeling dissatisfied with their appearance. Some feel embarrassed by their predicament, while others become self-conscious. Acne is also associated with anxiety, depression, and anger.

      Individuals with acne scarring experience a more aggravated form of these effects, regardless of their sex. One study showed that acne scars can adversely impact many individuals’ quality of life, making patients more self-conscious and also affecting their social activities.

      Myths and Facts

      Numerous myths and facts surround acne and acne scarring. It’s time to dispel some of them:


    • Acne will clear out when you become an adult

    • While your teenage years may be the most common time to have acne, there’s no way of telling if it’ll end when you get older. In fact, some people in their 20s or older can still have acne.

      • Blackheads are caused by dirt-clogged pores

        Blackheads are caused by pores that are clogged with dead skin cells, excess sebum, and bacteria. They turn “black” when these components are exposed to air. 

        • Popping your pimples will get rid of them faster

        The fact is, popping pimples causes bacteria to spread, which can spread the infection. Doing this also increases the risk of acne scars developing.

      • Using more acne scar treatment products will give you better results

      • In this case, more isn’t always better. Not all products or treatments work the same way. Use only the products that’s been recommended by your dermatologist. 

      • Acne scars only appear on the face

      • Acne scars can appear anywhere. While they may be commonly found on the face, these can also be found on the back, chest, shoulders, and chest.

        • Acne scarring is unpreventable and untreatable

        Acne scars are preventable and they aren’t permanent. There are several steps you can observe to minimize the risk of acne scars. Several treatment options to reduce the appearance of scars are also available. 

        Treatment and Prevention

        There are several treatments for acne scarring. However, keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to these treatments. You might only need one type of treatment or you might need to undergo two or three different procedures, depending on the scar type, its severity, and your skin type.

        Home treatment

        Prior to addressing your acne scars using at-home treatment, consult with your dermatologist first.

        There are a wide range of products that you can use at home to treat acne scars. There are acne scar pads that pull double duty by reducing the appearance of scars and brightening your skin at the same time. Using an acne scar moisturizer can help your skin heal and make it look healthy. 

        When treating acne scars at home, try to look for products with alpha hydroxy acids, lactic acid, or retinoids as these can prevent acne, improve the skin’s texture and appearance, and reduce skin discoloration, respectively. 

        Acne scar surgery 

        This entails minor surgery to treat noticeable acne scars, making them look less noticeable. It’s ideal for treating depressed acne scars.

        Soft tissue fillers

        Fillers like collagen or fat can make indented skin plump, making the scars look less noticeable. Still, the results are temporary and warrant repeat treatments to maintain its effects.

        Skin resurfacing procedures

        A skin resurfacing procedure removes layers of skin to prompt the body to create new skin cells and is ideal for flatter scars. Resurfacing procedures include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and dermabrasion. 

        Chemical peel

        Chemical peels use a strong acid to remove your skin’s top layer to minimize the appearance of deeper scars. There are many types of chemical peels, with the mild and medium ones often being used to maintain results. 


        Needling or collagen-induction therapy uses a needle-studded roller to stimulate the body to create more collagen. It is a relatively slow process, with results taking up to nine months.

        Prior to undergoing a treatment, it would be helpful to ask your dermatologist or dermatological surgeon the following questions:

        • Which treatment is the best one for me considering factors like my skin type and scar type?
        • What other options are available to me?
        • How often do I need to receive treatment for my scars?
        • What are the possible side effects or complications of a certain procedure?
        • How can I prepare for the treatment?
        • What results or effects should I expect after a treatment?

        Knowing the answers to these questions will help you prepare for your treatment and these will allow you to be able to manage your expectations as well. 

        Preventing acne scars

        While you can’t prevent acne scars from developing, you can take measures to minimize the risk of their development.

      • Treat acne immediately

      • Taking immediate actions to treat acne will not only lessen your breakouts, but also the risk of acne scars developing. If you’re using over-the-counter products and haven’t seen any improvement, consult with your doctor immediately.

      • Try to reduce inflammation

      • If you’re experiencing inflamed acne, take measures to calm the inflammation like switching to gentler skincare products. Minimizing skin irritation is crucial to prevent acne from turning into acne scars.

      • Avoid picking at blemishes

      • While it may be tempting to squeeze a pimple, keep in mind this can further aggravate the skin, making it more prone to spreading infection and worsening the inflammation. 

        Moreover, avoid picking at scabs as these cover your wounds while they’re healing. Picking at scabs before a wound has fully healed may increase your chances of scarring. 

      • Avoid excessive sun exposure

      • Excessive sun exposure can darken acne scars. Using sunscreen regularly not only protects your skin from damage caused harmful UV rays, but it also reduces the risk of your scars darkening.  

      • Adopt a gentler skin care routine

      • Cleaning your face regularly is an important step to prevent acne. However, excessive scrubbing can worsen acne and with that comes an increased risk of acne scarring. Also, try to switch to products that are gentler on the skin or those that don’t have any harsh chemicals that may irritate your skin.

        Acne scarring can seem to be more debilitating that acne itself but like acne, there are several ways to treat it. Talk to your dermatologist about possible treatment options and get your life back.

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