How to Tackle Acne Scarring (the Right Way)
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Acne, the bane of teenage years, can leave behind a stubborn legacy of scarring that seems to defy even the most ingenious potions and lotions. And, unluckily for some, acne can continue into our adult years, wreaking havoc on our self-esteem and confidence – SIGH.
In the pursuit of smooth skin, many of us have tried it all – from serums to lasers and everything in between. It can be an expensive and time-consuming task to try and rid your skin of the effects of acne, feeling like a constant uphill battle.
But with some TikTok influencers now espousing the benefits of Botox to tackle their acne scarring, we wanted to find out whether injectables are really the answer, and what the experts think are actually the best ways to tackle acne scars.
We asked, injectable specialist Akis Ntonos, nurse practitioner Deidre ‘Dee’ Albanese, board-certified dermatologist Dr William Kwan, and advanced aesthetics expert Dr Sebastian Bejma for their advice on *all* the ways to improve acne scarring.
The types of acne scar
Not all acne scars are created equal, and you may be surprised to know there are actually several types.
When you’re dealing with acne scarring, it may not seem all that important *exactly* what type you’ve got. But actually, identifying your type of scar may make treating them easier.
There are two main types of acne scars; hypertrophic (raised) scars, and atrophic (indented) scars. Under the atrophic camp there are also two main sub sections; ice pick scars and boxcar scars. Meanwhile you may also see hypertrophic scars called rolling scars.
According to the NHS, ice pick scars are, “small, deep holes in the surface of your skin that look like the skin has been punctured with a sharp object,” and boxcar scars are, “round or oval depressions, or craters, in the skin.”
Meanwhile, rolling scars are, “caused by bands of scar tissue that form under the skin, giving the surface of the skin a rolling and uneven appearance.”
What causes acne scars?
According to Ntonos, “The main cause of acne scars is the inflammation that happens during the healing process. The deficit or overproduction of collagen during this time can cause atrophic or hypertrophic scars.
“Many different factors can play a role in this such as genetics, sun exposure, inadequate acne treatment and very often picking or squeezing acne lesions. It is important to manage acne appropriately early on in order to avoid the formation of scarring.”
This means that while not everyone who experiences acne will scar, it’s a pretty common condition if you do.
Bejma says, “I see a lot of patients who are seeking treatment to address acne scarring and it’s important to emphasise the impact this can have both physically and also psychologically, with many people reporting it negatively impacting their confidence, especially during hotter months,” he adds.
There are various types of ways to improve acne scarring but first up, can Botox help?
Can Botox help with acne scars?
Ntonos tells LTG HQ, “Botox can indirectly improve acne scarring. Atrophic scars are often benefited more by this treatment, meaning the ones that are depressed and seem to have a sunken surface.
“Botox has the ability to relax the surrounding skin, which further results in improving the overall appearance of acne scars.”
The Mayo Clinic echoes this, explaining that Botox can reduce skin creasing around a scar by relaxing the surrounding skin.
Overall though the experts agree that while Botox may temporarily help the texture of sunken scars- and offer some further skin benefits- it may not be the most effective treatment.
“Botox isn’t the best treatment for acne scars. Botox is a neurotoxin injection that is primarily used to temporarily relax specific facial muscles in order to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines,” Albanese confirms.
She does say that if you’re concerned about pore size though Botox may help. “It reduces the production of sweat and oil as well as shrink the size of your pores,” she adds.
How long does Botox last to improve scarring?
Botox isn’t a miracle cure for acne scars, but if you’re still considering it Ntonos tells us, “Botox can help improve the appearance of scarring anywhere from 3 months to 6 months. The results of this treatment are temporary and treatment has to be repeated periodically in order to maintain an improved texture in the scarred area.”
How else can you improve acne scars?
The experts agree that there are actually a large number of ways to tackle acne scarring, many of which improve both texture, acne redness and hyperpigmentation.
“Acne scars are caused by damage to the skin’s deeper layers during the inflammatory process of acne.
“To treat acne scars effectively, dermatologists usually use procedures like laser therapy, chemical peels, microneedling (collagen induction therapy), dermal fillers, and other scar revision techniques,” Dr Kwan explains.
The Mayo Clinic echoes this, adding that a good skincare routine, steroid injections, and dermabrasion can also be effective.
Many of these procedures need to be performed in clinic with an experienced professional though, and some higher concentrations of ingredients like retinol– a powerful ally in both tackling acne and its scarring- may need to be prescribed by a doctor.
Both Dr Kwan and Albanese say that derms are your BFF when determining the best course of action for your acne scarring.
“If you have concerns about acne scars, it is best to consult with a board-certified dermatologist who can evaluate your specific situation and recommend the most appropriate treatments for improving the appearance of your acne scars,” Dr Kwan advises.
“Together, you can make acne a thing of the past and reveal your best skin yet!”
Sounds good to us!
How to prevent acne scarring
While treating existing scars, there are a few ways we can also prevent new ones from forming.
- Try not to pick – We know this one hard to do but as Ntonos explains, picking is a big factor in causing scarring. If you find it impossible to avoid, covering up with a pimple patch can help protect a blemish and potentially heal it at the same time.
- Wear SPF – although the last thing you may feel like doing is adding another skincare layer while dealing with acne, Ntonos says that sun exposure can worsen scarring.
- Head to the derm – for particularly painful or hard to treat cysts, a dermatologist may be able to inject them with a steroid, which has been shown to help them heal quicker. Treating an acne breakout quickly helps to reduce the risk of scarring.
- Get great skincare – ingredients like retinol and salicylic acid can both help to unclog pores- potentially reducing the severity and number of breakouts- and can also improve cell turnover, improving skin appearance.
If your acne has been kind enough to leave you with a parting gift in the shape of scarring, we feel for you. Although not the painful lesions that you once had, acne scarring can really cause confidence and self-esteem issues.
Many of us have gone through the painstaking task of getting rid of acne, only to be left disappointed by what has been left behind. Smooth, supple skin without breaks on the surface? Some of us don’t know her, unfortunately.
BUT, there are many things you can do to improve your acne scars – YEY!
While Botox may not be the *best* option when it comes to scarring, it can indirectly improve them by smoothing and plumping the surface of your skin, making hollow scars look more even.
If you are looking for the best course of action to improve the texture and appearance of your skin, your best bet is to visit a dermatologist who can help you come up with the best treatments depending on the type of scarring you have and your lifestyle.
Meet the experts
Dr Sebastian Bejma is known as a trailblazer in Skin Tech and the owner of Bejma Medical Clinic in Leeds. Harnessing 15 years of experience as a doctor, he utilises his impeccable knowledge of innovative technology to revolutionise skincare, anti-ageing, pre-juvenation and rejuvenation.
Akis Ntonos is a dermatology nurse practitioner, injectable specialist, and co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, a premier New York aesthetic and injectable clinic.
Deidre ‘Dee’ Albanese, a nurse practitioner and the founder of Nu Glow Aesthetics.
Dr William Kwan, board-certified dermatologist at Lasky Skin Center in Beverly Hills.