Though there are two types of acne scars, the most severe (and the most difficult to treat) is depressed scarring. These scars can look like pockmarks, making them difficult to cover with makeup.
Find out how to get rid of acne scars at home, at a dermatologist’s office, or through outpatient surgery.
Types of Acne Scars
Most acne scars can be broken down into two categories: raised and depressed. Raised acne scars feel like hard little bumps. They’re usually dark in color and are covered in tough scar tissue.
Most raised scars are just that — raised. While there is only one type of raised scar, there are several types of depressed scars. So many that dermatologists breakdown depressed scars into their own categories.
Sometimes acne scarring can also appear on the skin as dark spots that aren’t raised or depressed. If your skin tone is darker, you may be more susceptible to this type of scarring.
If you suffer from raised acne scars, count yourself lucky; you’re probably not going to be stuck with these scars for life. These scars should go away on their own — yet, sometimes they take weeks, months, or years to do so.
You can always see a dermatologist or opt for at-home acne scar treatments if your scars don’t fade over time (or don’t fade fast enough).
Known as Keloid and hypertrophic scars, this type of scarring is the result of the overgrowth of skin cells. Keloids are the same size as the acne mark while hypertrophic scars are larger than the original acne spot.
Some acne scars appear as dark spots. These spots are known as hyperpigmentation. It’s what happens when the body starts producing too much melanin, making the spot where the pimple was a little darker.
Depending on your skin type, your pigment may darken in areas where scar tissue is present.
People that suffer from scarring that appears as dark flat spots also don’t need to worry too much about scarring. These scars should fade over time — though sometimes they don’t.
If you can wait for the scar to fade, you can always cover it with concealer in the interim. Yet, there are plenty of creams and topical products on the market that can speed up recovery times.
Depressed Acne Scars
Depressed scars look exactly as their name suggests — depressed from the surface of the skin. These scars look like pits or pockmarks in the skin. They’re trickier to hide with concealers or foundation because most cosmetic products don’t fill in the depression.
The worst part? Depressed scars can worsen as we age and our bodies lose their collagen.
The four types of depressed scars are:
These types of scars can also become more and more apparent after each breakout — adding insult to injury.
The best way to prevent such scarring is to prevent acne breakouts altogether. But if you can’t do so (or already suffer from severe scarring), there’s plenty you can do to treat your scars.
Atrophic scars are flat and thin scars. This is the overarching term for depressed scarring — though it also refers to other types of scars other than acne scarring. You can usually hide mild atrophic scars, though many patients find that it’s better to treat the scars themselves instead of hiding them.
Ice-pick scars are deep and narrow (as though a tiny ice pick has pierced the skin). These acne scars are some of the most difficult to treat, as they penetrate far below the skin’s dermis. They look oval or circular.
Since these scars are so deep and severe, it’s often difficult to treat them at home or with natural remedies. Most patients need to see a dermatologist or get a prescription for an Rx topical cream that contains collagen fillers to see decent results.
Rolling acne scars are characterized by wide depressions with sloping peaks. They give the skin a wavy appearance. Though these scars aren’t raised, they often have the appearance of raised edges. They appear on thicker areas of the skin — such as the cheeks and jaws.
Some people that suffer from rolling acne scars find that the severity of the scars even lessens over time.
While these aren’t as easy to treat as dark spots or raised acne spots, they are much easier to treat than ice-pick scars. You can usually treat these scars with topical treatments.
This atrophic-type of scarring is categorized by broad and defined depressions. Nearly one-third of all patients that suffer from acne scarring experience boxcar scars, making it the most common.
Though they are only a few millimeters wide, they don’t naturally go away like many other types of acne scars. Patients with boxcar scars often find that a combination of treatments works best to reduce the appearance and the depth of the scars.
What Causes Acne Scars?
The causes of acne scars often depend on the type of scarring. With both types of scarring (raised and depressed), scarring is the result of chronic inflammatory acne.
People that pop their pimples (break the skin to allow the pus to train out prematurely) often see scarring because popping a pimple can lead to inflammation, bacterial growth, and infection.
As a result of inflammation, the skin kicks into action and begins producing collagen. Scarring is usually caused by the body producing too much or too little collagen during this process.
Raised scars are the result of the body producing too much collagen. Depressed scars are the result of the body producing too little collagen.
The result? Either raised dark spots or depressed pockmarks.
How to Get Rid of Acne Scars
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to treat the above types of acne scars. Even if your scarring is severe (and even if you still suffer from chronic acne), there are ways to reduce the appearance of scars and get rid of scarring altogether.
Depending on the severity of your scars, you may want to opt for at-home treatments — including natural remedies and Rx skincare regimens — dermatology services, or out-patient surgery.
Most patients try out at-home treatments before heading to a dermatologist. Depending on the severity of your acne scarring, you might want to opt for an all-natural treatment or an Rx skincare regimen.
Natural remedies like face masks may reduce the appearance of scars but generally don't do much to treat the scar itself. If your scars are more severe, you may want to try at-home skincare products or in-office treatments, like microdermabrasion.
Luckily, you don’t need to make a trip to your dermatologist to get treatment for acne scars these days. There are plenty of products on the market that can lighten dark spots and fill in depressions.
Musely has a line of products designed to banish dark spots and increase collagen production. The company’s spot cream was designed to target dark marks and provide spot treatment for discoloration. It contains hydroquinone, a skin-brightening agent. The neck cream with Tretinoin helps to replace lost collagen.
Use these products in conjunction with Musely’s cleanser and sunscreen, and you’ll have a full regiment to protect your skin from the elements while repairing acne scars.
Hello Rory is another skincare company providing prescription creams and serums with Tretinoin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, unclog pores, and diminish dark spots.
Its nightly defense cream contains seven ingredients known to help diminish acne and its subsequent scarring.
If your acne lesions are too deep or raised, you may need to head to a dermatologist. These skin doctors provide a long list of services for brightening and resurfacing, including chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser treatments. Many doctors also recommend microneedling, a procedure that encourages cell turnover via a dermaroller covered in small needles.
These services remove dead skin cells, encouraging the regrowth of new cells.
If you have more severe acne, you might want to turn to out-patient surgery. This cosmetic surgery resurfaces the skin by cutting away the scar tissue or applying a skin graft.
The healing process can take longer than with most of the above methods, so most patients opt for at-home or dermatologist treatments before turning to surgery.