Oh acne, the confidence-sucking mammoth of skin issues. It plagues the best of us. And, just when we finally think it's gone, a new problem — the dreaded acne scar — rears its ugly little head (or just lingers around so we never forget). They tend to turn up after that pesky pimple has finally subsided and can hang around for months before fading. Some even require more advanced treatment for relief.
So, we turned to board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Ted Lain and Dr. Julia Tzu to give us the inside scoop on acne scars. "Acne scarring develops when recurrent inflammation from deeper cystic lesions damages the collagen in your skin," explains Dr. Tzu. "Normal healthy tissue is then replaced by thinned-out scar tissue, which can manifest itself as depressions along the contour of the skin."
Not all acne scars are created equal. In fact, there are three specific kinds: Pitted or "ice pick" scars (these are deep, but small in diameter), boxcar scars (these tend to be rectangular), and rolling scars (these resemble hills and valleys). The longevity of an acne scar can also vary depending on your skin type. "For people with darker skin tones like Indian, African American, and Asian people, the skin produces more pigment," says Dr. Lain. "When their skin gets inflamed, the natural response of their skin is to produce more pigment."
Age also plays a factor. "When the diminishing collagen and subcutaneous fat levels of our body can no longer help provide the structural support it used to in our earlier years, acne scars can become more pronounced," Dr. Tzu adds. There is some good news, however. Many people believe that the red marks (scientifically known as post-inflammatory redness) are acne scars when they really aren't. Dr. Lain is quick to point out that "if the acne bump is gone but the persistent redness stayed, it may not be an acne scar, it's just redness and it will get better," he says.