A Guide to Acne Scars and Treatment Options

We often think that acne only affects teenagers, but nothing could be further from the truth. Acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is a long-term skin disease that causes inflammation of the hair follicles. It occurs when the hair follicles are clogged with sebum, dead skin cells, and debris from the environment.

Although most acne improve over time even if you leave them alone, some severe ones may form cysts that cause more damage to the deeper layers of the skin. Cysts may not heal well and they may leave behind permanent, unsightly scars that can embarrass you.

Based on statistics, acne is a common skin disorder that affects about 60 million people in U.S. alone. It was also found that 25 per cent of people who suffer from acne have permanent acne scars.

If you are one of those who have acne scars on your face because you did not realize the importance of taking care of your skin when you had acne, don’t be discouraged. There are treatments to reduce the appearance of acne.

We speak to Dr. Siew Tuck Wah, Medical Director of Radium Medical Aesthetics who tells us more about the different acne scar treatments in Singapore.

Types of acne scars

Acne scars can be broadly categorized into four different types:

· BOXCAR SCARS These acne scars have sharp, well-defined edges. They are often round or oval in shape.

· ICE PICK SCARS They usually cause the deepest depression on the skin. It is easy to recognize them because they have deep, narrow holes and they look like indentations left by icepick, hence the name ‘ice pick scars’.

· ROLLING SCARS These scars take on the apperance of an orange peel. These scars look uneven and craggy because the fibrous bands of tissue develop between the skin and the subcutaneous layer, pulling the epidermal layer of the skin from within. This is what gives the appearance of peaks and valleys.

· KELOID Unlike the rest of the scars described above, keloid is formed when too much collagen is produced during the healing process.

Why does acne scarring occur?

When the skin produces too much sebum, the pores can sometimes be clogged with bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells if the skin is not cleaned thoroughly. Over time, inflammation occurs when the pores are clogged. If not well-managed, the inflammation may go deep and leave a wound on the face after the acne goes away.

During the healing process, the body reacts by producing collagen to expedite the healing. The new skin that is left behind will never be the same as the surrounding skin, making your skin appear uneven.

The type of acne scarring depends on your skin type. Depressed scars, or atrophic scars occur when tissue is lost and collagen production is insufficient. Hypertrophic scars, on the other hand, adds tissue because of excessive collagen production as your skin heals.

Possible treatment options for acne scars

One of the most superior forms of acne scar treatments is INFINI radiofrequency micro-needling. It is currently one of the most popular acne scar treatments in Singapore.

It uses special micro-needles to administer radiofrequency energy into the targeted areas. By doing so, it produces thermal heat to stimulate new collagen growth in the skin. Over time, when new collagen is produced, it reduces the appearance of the scars by matching the smoothness of the surrounding skin. At the same time, the treatment lifts, firms, and tightens the skin while reducing sebum production.

INFINI treatment can be customized to treat different types of scars. It allows the doctor to control the depth of the needles ranging from 0.5mm to 3.5mm.

The downside of Infini radiofrequency micro-needling is that there is a downtime of about 4 to 5 days. Although some results may be visible after the first treatment, a minimum of three sessions is optimal to see long-lasting results.

Dermal fillers treatment is also a common treatment doctors recommend to treat deep acne scars. Soft dermal fillers can be used to reduce the appearance of the atrophic scars by fill the indentation to smoothen out the surface immediately. Replacing loss volume with dermal fillers is most effective in cases of cystic acne scars.

CO2 skin resurfacing laser is a conventional treatment method for reducing acne scars. It works by carefully ablating the superficial layers of the skin to allow new skin and collagen to grow. CO2 skin resurfacing laser works well for people with superficial scars.

There is some downtime associated with this treatment. One can expect the face to be red and crusty for about 5 days.

Subcision scar treatment is a specialty scar treatment that benefits people with rolling scars and boxcar scars. It is usually carried out by doctors on targeted areas so as to release stubborn scar tissues underneath the skin.

Always seek help from a doctor when in doubt about how to manage acne and acne scars. Always remember that it is more cost-effective and convenient to nip the problem in the bud. Waiting for the skin to become unmanageable makes it expensive and challenging to treat.