Acne Scar Therapy
Up to 50 million people, mainly between the ages of 11 and 20, will suffer from acne this year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The majority will have no lasting effects from their bout with acne once their pimples finally clear. But many will develop acne scars--the AAD says more than 40 percent of teenage acne sufferers wind up developing scars serious enough to need treatment from a dermatologist.
When the skin's sebaceous glands work too hard and overproduce the oil called sebum, acne can result, according to the Mayo Clinic. Two other factors also contribute: excess shedding of dead skin cells, and proliferation of acne-causing bacteria. When the skin turns over cells too rapidly, the dead skin cells can combine with sebum to plug pores and hair follicles at the skin's surface. Pimples erupt when pores are clogged, and the bacteria causes infection and swelling. Acne eventually clears, but severe cases almost always lead to scarring.
In most cases, acne's severity will determine the degree of scarring; bad cases lead to many scars, while moderate cases may only leave a few scars behind, the AAD says. However, heredity also plays a role, and people whose parents suffered severe acne scars from their teenage bouts with acne are much more likely to develop scars themselves. The AAD categorizes three different types of acne scars: raised scars, depressed scars and skin color changes. Skin color changes caused by acne aren't usually permanent scars and eventually disappear.
You can try to treat acne scars at home, but the over-the-counter treatments available aren't generally effective, according to the AAD. Those patients who want to try an over-the-counter cream or gel should look for one that contains vitamin C, glycolic acid and/or retinol, because these are the most effective ingredients, the AAD says. Over-the-counter products potentially can slightly flatten raised scars and make depressed scars appear a little less deep, but for more effective treatments, patients will need to make an appointment with a dermatologist. the AAD says.
Dermatologists have a full arsenal of treatments they can try on acne scars, the AAD says. Raised scars, for example, can be treated with corticosteroid shots or removed surgically. Skin color changes often respond to prescription bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone, or potentially to creams containing hydroquinone plus tretinoin (best known as Retin-A or Renova). Depressed acne scars can be removed, with new skin grafted in, or they can be treated with a variety of physical procedures, including laser therapy, dermabrasion, and chemical peels. All of these procedures encourage the skin to develop new collagen, which tends to fill out the depressions.
The Mayo Clinic warns that acne scars can seem stubborn, and there is no single treatment that's right for everyone. However, procedures and medications dermatologists offer can improve your complexion and potentially reduce the scars enough so they're no longer noticeable. If you believe acne scars are interfering with your social life or are harming your self-image, the best approach is to visit your doctor or dermatologist to learn about your treatment options.
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