What causes acne scars?
Understanding what causes acne scars is the first step to prevent and minimise acne scarring.
There is a 10-15% chance of permanent acne scarring in individuals suffering from acne. The risk factors that relate to what causes acne scars is higher when acne is severe, and when there is a delay in seeking medical treatment. Acne scars frequently result from severe cystic acne, long standing superficial acne or even from picking on your own scars.
Determining what causes acne scars will lead to appropriate treatments. When it comes to the treatment of acne scars, establishing the scar type is essential, because specific treatments work best for specific scar types.
What is the Most Common Type of Acne Scars?
Acne is a condition where inflammation and resulting scar tissue can arise from the superficial to the deeper layers of the skin. The most common acne scar type is usually a mixture of ice pick, boxcar and rolling scars. Acne scars are frequently located in the forehead, temples, cheek, nose, jawline and back. The degree of scarring differs among individuals because the factors that contribute to what causes acne scars also differs.
What are Ice Pick Scars?
Ice Pick scars (also known as pitted scars) are narrow and deep, where the opening of the scar is wider than the base of the scar, forming a “V’ Shape. To give you an idea how deep ice pick scars can get, they sometimes reach the fatty layer of the skin. Laser resurfacing for ice pick scars will not yield a good result because of the depth of scarring. Instead, techniques such as TCA CROSS and punch excision allow the scars to resurface over time.
What are Boxcar Scars?
Boxcar scars are wider than icepick scars, have a flat base and almost vertical edges. Boxcar scars do not go as deep as icepick scars, and are common on the temples and cheeks. Resurfacing treatments using Laser and INFINI fractional resurfacing are good treatment options for boxcar scars.
What are Rolling Scars?
Rolling scars are the results of bands of scar tissue pulling the skin downwards to the fatty layer of the skin, giving it an undulating appearance. A variety of methods to release the band of scar tissues include subcision, laser resurfacing, Radio-frequency treatments and dermal fillers.
What are Keloid Scars?
Keloid scars appear as raised scars that are red and can feel itchy and painful. Keloids arise due to abnormal wound healing of the skin due to inflammation from acne. The jawline, chest, shoulders are upper arm are especially prone to keloid formation. There are a variety of treatment options, which include anti-inflammatory injections, botulinum toxin and silicon plaster.
What are Brown Acne Scars?
After your acne has subsided, you may notice that the surrounding area is darkened. This discolouration is due to the inflammatory response, and is more common in darker skinned individuals. These acne blemishes are known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). While many PIH may resolve over time, some stubborn ones do remain. A variety of prescription lightening creams may help speed the process. Laser for PIH removal is another option for more resistant cases. Remember to use a sunblock regularly to protect the skin from further pigmentation.
What are Red Acne Scars?
A common scenario is red acne marks that persist after an outbreak. Similar to PIH, this red discolouration appears in flat patches are due to the inflammatory response. These form of acne blemishes are know as post-inflammatory erythema (PIE), and are more common in individuals with lighter skin tone. While most cases resolve on its own, PIE may be further improved with anti-redness creams and laser treatment for red acne scars.
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What is the Acne Scar grading system?
The acne scar grading system facilitates an easy to understand communication about the severity of acne, and the most appropriate treatment for that degree of acne scarring.
Grade 1: Flat scars that are discolored red, brown or even white. They are readily visible from a distance
Grade 2: Mild scarring that are only visible at a distance less than 50cm, and can be covered by make-up. E.g. mild rolling acne scars
Grade 3: Moderate scarring that is visible at distance more than 50cm, and is not easily covered by make-up or the shadow of a shaved beard. Stretching the skin can flatten the scar. E.g. deeper rolling scars, shallow boxcar scars.
Grade 4: Severe scarring as in Grade 3, and scars cannot be flattened by stretching the skin. E.g. deeper boxcar scars, ice pick scars, keloids.
Knowing Your Scar Type and Scar Grade leads to Better Treatment?
No two individuals are ever completely alike, not even twins. The factors that correspond to what causes acne scar and the resultant skin damage differs greatly. Every individual will have a unique distribution, depth and pattern of scarring. One patient may have predominantly keloids and red acne marks on his chest and back, while another may have a combination of ice pick, boxcar and rolling scars on his face.
An approach that takes into account your skin quality, skin colour and medical history to match the specific treatment to the specific scar type will give the best improvement to your acne scars.
What treatments are available for Acne Scars?
At our clinic, the approach to acne scarring is highly tailored to the individual; no two individual will receive exactly the same treatment protocol. Generally, in the case of mixed acne scarring, our approach would be to first resurface the deep acne scars. Once the initial treatment of deep scars is satisfactory, we resurface the skin to even out the texture, tone and improve collagen remodeling within the skin.
The SCR Program is crated to put together a variety of treatments to improve your acne scars such as Subcision, TCA CROSS chemical peel, punch excision, Pigment Focused Laser, Scarlet Laser (for red acne scars and keloids), anti-inflammatory injections, dermal fillers and resurfacing devices delivered with precision, effectiveness and affordability to give you the best outcome.
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- Cho SB, Lee JH, Choi MJ, Lee KY, Oh SH. Efficacy of the fractional photothermolysis system with dynamic operating mode on acne scars and enlarged facial pores. Dermatol Surg 2009;35:108-14