Skin Care

How Long Does It Take For Acne Scars To Fade?



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For most people suffering from acne, a common question running through their minds is, " How long does it take for acne scars to fade from the skin?" This is because acne takes a physical toll on the skin and can heavily impact one's self-esteem and generally how they feel about their looks and themselves.

We explored the various types of scars that result from scars and also available treatment options. Read on more to learn how long it takes for acne scars to fade and different treatment options to consider to reduce scarring. 

What Causes Acne?

An acne pimple is formed when bacteria, oils, and dead fill and inflame pores, the tiny openings in your skin through which sweat and oil rise to the surface. Approximately 40,0000 cells fall off your skin every hour, but sometimes the dead cells clog up a pore. This results in " whiteheads or blackheads." When the pores become inflamed, they lead to one type of acne.

Acne affects about 80% of people between the ages of 11 and 30, making it the most common skin condition in the world.

Types of Acne

i) Non Inflammatory acne/Mild Acne:

a) Blackheads

These result when a pore is clogged because of sebum and dead skin cells. The top of the pore remains open, despite the rest being clogged. Thus resulting in the defining black color seen on the skin's surface.

b) Whiteheads

Whiteheads are formed when a pore gets clogged by sebum and dead skin cells. The top of the pore closes up, resulting in a small bump protruding from the skin.

ii) Inflammatory Acne

a) Papules

Papules form when the walls surrounding your pores break down from severe inflammation. Thus, resulting in hard, clogged pores that are tender to the touch. Additionally, the skin around the pores is usually pink.

b) Pustules

These form when the walls around your pores break down. The pimples are filled with pus and come out from the skin. They are usually red in color and often have yellow or whiteheads on top.

c) Nodules

Nodules are formed when clogged, swollen pores endure further irritation and become larger. They are deeper underneath the skin. Unlike pustules and papules, they can't be typically treated at home. Instead, they require prescribed medicine to be cleared up because of how deep within the skin they are.

d) Cysts

Cysts result when pores are clogged by a combination of bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells. The clogging can occur deep within the skin.

They are large red or white bumps that tend to be painful to touch. Cystic acne usually results from a severe infection. They are also the most likely to lead to acne scars.

The key question about acne is how long does it take for acne scars to fade.

With acne, the best approach is to get treatment soon after it appears to prevent the acne worse and more acne scars. If dealing with cysts, it's best to consult a doctor or dermatologist for treatment.

The key question is, how long does it take for acne scars to fade. We'll first look at what acne scars are and explore further how you can get rid of acne scars.

What Are Acne Scars?

Acne scars are the marks left behind after breakouts. There are two types of scarring:

Atrophic Scars

Atrophic scars result due to the loss of skin tissue, resulting in depression in the skin. The types of scars in this category include boxcar scars, rolling scars, and ice pick scars.

Hypertrophic Scars

Hypertrophic scars are formed when there's excess collagen production, resulting in a raised scar. Essentially, hypertrophic scars are caused by too much tissue. They can be pink when the acne scar is fresh and fade to match your natural skin color. Additionally, if the acne scar is recent, cortisone can help slow down collagen production, reducing the appearance of a raised scar.

Difference Between Acne Scars & Acne Marks

Oftentimes, when people ask, "how long does it for acne scars to fade?"... There are a few considerations to keep in mind. One is knowing the difference between acne scars and acne marks.

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are quite different.

Acne marks are likely to fade away with time, unlike an acne scar. Marks are characterized by a dark color while laying flat across the surface of the skin.

On the other hand, acne scars are usually colorless and have a sunken-like appearance. Dark marks fade away in about three to six months, while scars will require professional treatment. 

People with lighter skin complexions tend to develop purple /red marks after their acne breakouts. In contrast, acne can leave behind dark spots known as hyperpigmentation, especially in people with darker skin.

Some factors make acne scars and dark marks worse. Except for genetics, lifestyle habits, and spending time in the sun can worsen acne scars. Additionally, picking or squeezing pimples can cause further inflammation leading to more damage.

Types Of Acne Scars

It's essential to know the type of acne you have, as this will aid in finding the right treatment to manage and treat it. It also helps in finding the right solution when seeking the answer to "how long does it take for acne scars to fade."

a) Rolling Scars

This is a loosely defined acne scar resulting from the fibrous tissue coming up between the skin's uppermost layers and the tissue located below the surface. The rolling appearance is formed when the fiber bands pull the upper layers of the skin down. As this happens, way depressions are left across the skin.

b) Boxcar Scars

Characterized by an oval depression on the skin's surface, this acne scar is wider than many of the other typical acne scars. It gives the skin a pitted appearance and develops when inflamed skin causes a reduction in collagen, leading to the loss of rebuilding tissue.

c) Ice Park Scars

These scars get their name due to their resemblance to a long and skinny ice pick. Ice pick scars are caused by inflamed cysts and blemishes or infections. The scar begins to root itself after the surrounding skin tissue is destroyed.

d) Hypertrophic and Keloid Scars

Both acne scars are characterized by their raised appearance and firmness. Both a keloid and hypertrophic scar result due to the production of too much collagen. They are similar in appearance in appearance, but keloids are more severe. Men tend to be most affected by hypertrophic scars, usually caused by deep wounds to the skin's surface.

e) Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

This acne scar is different from the rest as it's a colored flat mark that sits on the skin's surface. It is caused by inflamed acne and results in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is after the inflamed pimples have healed and disappeared. Due to the inflammation, too much melanin is released, and the area begins to darken as a reaction.

Acne Scarring or Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Something else that's often confused a lot when people think about " how long does it take for acne scars to fade "is an acne scar or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Both scars can occur after a breakout, but they are very different, and a different approach is required to treat them.

Acne scars result from too much collagen forming in a particular spot when a wound is healing. As a result, there's a higher chance of having boxcar or rolling scars for someone with cystic acne, especially if picked at before they're ready or too aggressively.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is generally a form of skin pigmentation that occurs due to trauma to the skin. It doesn't damage the following and isn't considered a true form of scarring.

Darker skin tones are more likely to get hyperpigmentation because of the increased melanin levels in the skin. This means that the melanin cells quickly leap into action to produce more melanin to defend and protect against it whenever there is any trauma.

How To Ged Rid Of Acne Scars

Get rid of acne requires special treatment and care; hence it's best handled by a certified dermatologist since it involves more intense procedures than over-the-counter options. The only downside is that treatments, in the long run, can be expensive and put a dent in your finances. However, knowing which ones to opt for can help you to start finding a solution to treat your acne scars.

a) Steroid Injections

A steroid shot is ideal for reducing inflammation immediately and helping thick scars like keloids appear softer and flatter. It's the perfect treatment option to get when you feel a stress pimple coming up, or you have raised scars. However, it doesn't do much with clearing skin texture.

2. Dermal Fillers

Certain acne scars can be filled with a substance like hyaluronic acid that lifts the depressed areas. This makes the surface of the skin more even and can get off the shadows. Most derma fillers are temporary solutions except for Bellafill. It's the first and only dermal filler to be FDA-approved and is designed for permanently correcting moderate to severely dented acne scars. The dermal filler contains two ingredients to help with acne scarring. It has 20% polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), which helps your body make more protein to allow itself to heal, and 80% is collagen. The treatment takes about 20-30 minutes, and while you may need a touchup a couple of months later, some people just need a single treatment.

3. Scar Filler

Scar Fillers are also a temporary solution. It's a great choice if looking to deal with scarring. Most scar fillers can be applied like makeup, and they come off easily when ready to remove them. They are a type of dermal fillers.

4. Laser Treatment

Laser treatments involve collagen remodeling, which doesn't eliminate acne scars but can improve them by 39% or more. This treatment option helps reduce the redness associated with acne marks and scars. The results differ significantly based on how many professional treatments you've done and how much social downtime you're willing to accent as part of the recovery process.

There's also the option of erbium laser resurfacing, which is more aggressive. It involves a minimal burning of surrounding tissues and has fewer side effects like less swelling and redness, but it won't work for those with darker skin tones.

5. Punch Excisions

This treatment is ideal for those with icepick scars that aren't as wide as boxcar or rolling scars. It comes in three forms:

The treatment options are not advisable for a darker complexion prone to hyperpigmentation.

  • Punch Excision (for mild acne scars)

The scar is removed surgically, and the skin is sealed to achieve a smooth texture.

  • Punch Elevation (to treat boxcar scars)

The scar is removed surgically, leaving the sides. The base is reattached to the sides, giving it a smooth appearance.

  • Punch Grafting (for deep ice pick scars)

The wound is plugged with a sample of skin taken from another part of the body, usually the back of the ear.

6. Mix & Match Treatments

Acne scars vary; hence when it comes to treatment options, there's no one size fits all. There's the likelihood that your dermatologist might opt to mix and match various treatments, thus personalizing the treatment. For instance, one Dermatologist stated that he uses a combination of derma fillers to lift depressed scars. Then he performs a few punch excisions to surgically remove any deep scars that may remain. There's also the option of topical treatments for acne breakouts that help prevent scarring and treat acne.

7. Peels

A chemical could be a wise option when looking to reduce scarring if your scars aren't severe. Clinical treatment with a low pH acid can make a big difference in dealing with less obvious scarring.

Additionally, at-home peels have greatly improved. There are plenty of great options that work on renewing the skin surface and reducing the depth and intensity of acne scarring. When treating acne scars at home, choosing a product that offers a gentle chemical exfoliation is essential.

8. MicroNeedling

The treatment is best performed by a professional as it involves using tiny needles to create micro-punctures in the skin, which kick-starts cellular renewal, resulting in greater collagen and elastin production.

At-home or natural remedies

Though the only question that might be running in your mind is " how long does it take for acne scars to fade" but before trying any home remedy to treat acne scars, it would be advisable to check in with a dermatologist/doctor. They can help determine if you actually have scars and not another condition and go ahead to recommend the most effective treatment.

When searching for the best over counter products that can reduce scarring, it's key to look for the following ingredients: Chemical peels have been shown to improve acne scarring and hyperpigmentation by encouraging skin cell turnover.

  • Hydroquinone
  • Azelaic acid
  • Alpha-hydroxy acids, such as citric acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid
  • Salicylic acid
  • Retinoids

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