The Curology Guide to Acne Scars

4 minute read

The Curology Guide to Acne Scars

The last thing you want after going through a breakout is to see unfriendly reminders left behind. But if you’ve got some marks where pimples used to be, don’t worry — that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be scarred for life! Not all post-acne marks are created equal, but there’s a treatment for every kind (some just take more time and patience than others), and even permanent scars can be improved. As always, we’re here to help you through it.

Tips To Prevent Acne Scars

  • Don’t pick or pop your pimples! This commonly contributes to acne scars.
  • Wear sunscreen every day. Sun exposure leads to collagen breakdown.

Is It A Scar Or Hyperpigmentation?

First off, take a deep breath and evaluate the situation. There’s a difference between the red or brown marks that linger after a pimple has run its course and an actual acne scar. Red (aka erythema) and brown (aka hyperpigmentation) marks will go away with time — it can take up to 6 months — but topical treatments like Curology help the process along! Retinoids, azelaic acid, niacinamide, and/or vitamin C can all help fade hyperpigmentation a little faster.

Certain treatments you can get in-office — a pulsed­ dye laser (PDL) such as the V-Beam, or an infrared long-pulsed Nd:YAG laser like Laser Genesis, for example — help speed up the process, too. But it’ll cost you. 🤑

Types Of Acne Scars

  • Atrophic: depressions in the skin; caused by destruction and loss of collagen
  • Rolling: undulating, wide - usually > 4 to 5 mm, shallow depressions
  • Boxcar: U-shaped, crater-like wide depressions that may be shallow or deep, with sharp edges
  • Ice pick: narrow ( < 2mm) deep depressions with steep edges, tapering to an even narrower base
  • Hypertrophic: raised firm scars; increased collagen content. These may be keloidal, extending beyond the margin of the original acne wound

Why You Get Acne Scars

While a pimple is healing, your skin is also laying down new collagen to rebuild itself. A scar may appear as a little pit in the skin’s surface, or a shiny, slightly raised surface. If you pick at a pimple too much, or if the acne pimple is so inflamed that your skin’s collagen is destroyed, and not enough collagen is produced to rebuild the skin, you end up with a depressed (aka atrophic) scar. On the other hand, if the healing response gets a little too enthusiastic, it may result in a raised (aka hypertrophic) scar.

What To Do About Acne Scars

Different acne scars call for different types of treatment. Some scars are more stubborn than others — it may even take a few different kinds of treatments to improve these (which, unfortunately, can be pricey and take a long time). We know it’s a lot to take in, and totally frustrating, but we’re here to help you!

Pro tip! Conceal shiny scars with a matte tinted sunscreen. Physical sunscreens (the ones made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) typically work the best.

There are several types of acne scars, and it can take several different types of treatments to see an improvement — all of which you need to see a cosmetic dermatologist for. For example, fractionated or ablative lasers, microneedling, subcision, fillers, or dermabrasion are potential procedures, depending on your skin.

In-Office Scar Treatments

Here are some examples of treatments that can help smooth scar edges, improve texture, and rebuild collagen. Ask what’s right for you!

  • Microneedling
  • Fractional radiofrequency (microneedling with heat)
  • Minor surgery (such as subcision - cutting the fibers that pull the surface of the skin down in depressed scars; or punch excision - cutting out ice-pick type scars)
  • TCA peel solution
  • Laser (fractional or ablative)
  • Dermabrasion
  • Injectable fillers

Pro tip! Wearing sunscreen also helps with the mark-fading process because it protects the skin from collagen breakdown, and collagen is what rebuilds the post-acne damage.

Each person’s case is unique — when it comes to treating scars, it can take multiple treatments and months to see improvement. Ask what treatment options are right for you, and how much improvement can be expected.

Unfortunately, ridding your skin of acne scars and post-acne marks takes time. We know, it’s easier said than done to “just be patient” — but we hope this guide makes it easier for you. And keep this in mind: Curology is literally made for you! We’re always here to help you through your skin-related challenges, including the aftermath of acne.


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