Acne Scar Medications
Although the vast majority of teenagers get at least a handful of pimples, not everyone develops acne scars as a result, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Unfortunately for those who do, acne scars can be difficult to treat and in severe cases even can reduce self-esteem. Although physical procedures generally are more effective in treating very deep or widespread acne scars, certain medications may reduce the scars' appearance.
Acne results from three interrelated skin issues, according to the Mayo Clinic. Due to hormonal fluctuations that are common in the teen years but that can occur at anytime, skin might produce too much sebum. At the same time, the skin's cells may die off and turn over too quickly, leading to an excess of dead skin cells. These two substances can combine to clog pores, leading to whiteheads or blackheads. This environment is perfect for bacteria to grow, causing inflammation and infection in and below pimples. Infected acne is more likely to produce scars.
Most acne scars resemble pits or saucer-shaped depressions in the skin, according to the AAD, although raised acne scars called keloids also can form. In addition, sometimes acne leaves behind red or purple-colored spots when it clears. These spots aren't really scars, and they will fade eventually, but they can be just as psychologically damaging as actual scars. Acne scar medications, both over-the-counter and prescription types, treat each of these types of scars, although they will have the greatest impact on colored spots left over from acne.
According to the AAD, over-the-counter acne scar medications have the potential to flatten raised scars somewhat, fade colored spots, and improve the appearance of pitted scars, as long as they are not very deep. Shallow pitted scars often respond to treatment with over-the-counter products that contain the ingredients vitamin C, retinol or glycolic acid. Skin spots, meanwhile, often fade when the patient applies creams containing up to 2 percent hydroquinone. Patients with raised acne scars can get some relief from the pain and itching of these types of scars by using a silicone gel, also available over the counter.
Patients with moderate to severe acne scars may choose to turn to a dermatologist for help, and several medications available only by prescription can reduce acne scarring. Tretinoin, a medication well-known by the brand names Retin-A and Renova, potentially can improve both raised and depressed acne scars. A combination cream containing tretinoin, hydroquinone, and a corticosteroid potentially can help fade colored spots, the AAD says.
Acne scars are notoriously difficult to treat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dermatologists design an individual treatment plan for every patient based on the scar's severity and skin type. Often, dermatologists recommend a combination of different scar treatments, such as medication and laser treatment or microdermabrasion, to achieve the best results possible.
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