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How to get rid of acne scars: Which acne scar treatment is right for you?

Anyone who’s ever had acne will tell you it’s not fun.

But for some, the physical and emotion pain of having all sorts of different types of pimples doesn’t end when they heal, because they leave behind acne scars.

Acne scars typically look like little divets or dents in the skin where there’s been a loss of skin tissue, and having them on your face can dent your self confidence too.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to reduce the appearance of acne scars. From the best products for acne scars and microneedling to Fraxel and laser treatment for acne scars, let’s unpack how to get rid of acne scars.

How to get rid of acne scars – summary:

  • There are two types of acne scars.
  • Top skincare products for people with acne scaring are Vitamin C, Retinol or Vitamin A, and sunscreen.
  • Microneedling for acne scars.
  • Fraxel laser for acne scars.
  • Venus Viva (fractional radio-frequency) for acne scars.

Types of acne scars.

Because one type of acne scar wouldn’t be enough to deal with, the powers that be created two different types of acne scars: acne scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

“Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are dark spots where pimples used to be, they can look like your skin is dirty or patchy, and it comes from the infection and inflammation where the skin has tried to protect itself by laying down pigment,” Dermal Distinction’s Dr Giulia D’Anna told Mamamia.

The second type of acne scarring is a textural problem often referred to as ice pick scars, and can look like “little punctures in the skin,” Dr D’Anna said.

“Acne scars form when a sebaceous gland (oil gland) develops an infection large enough that it tears the skin layers apart, so the actual structure of the skin is broken.”

roaccutane side effects
Textural acne scaring can be tricky to cover, but there are heaps of treatment options out there. Image: Getty.
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How to get rid of acne scars.

Starting from the least invasive and expensive, here are some of the treatments you can try for getting rid of acne scars.

Best products for acne scars.

In Dr D'Anna's opinion, targeted skincare should be the start of any acne scaring treatment. Her three must-have products for acne scars are:

  • Vitamin C: "Vitamin C helps to reduce pigmentation and it's the backbone of collagen. If the skin is loaded up with vitamin C, when we ask it to produce more collagen, it can."
  • Retinol or Vitamin A: "These help cells to communicate with one another and increase the skin's cell cycle. When you do have your acne scaring treatment, your skin will already turning over quickly so it can help reduce downtime."
  • Sunscreen: "Any sort of trauma has the ability to create pigment in the skin, and sunscreen will reduce the chance of pigmentation developing. Once the sun hits pigmentation, it will only darken it. Sunscreen (I generally prefer a physical sunscreen) is really important to prevent the darkening of skin, and the breakdown of collagen."

Microneedling for acne scars.

Microneedling (or dermarolling) can be used to treat textural acne scars.

Here's what you need to know about microneedling:

  • Microneedling involves using a dermaroller device that has around 12 tracks of small needles in a cartridge that can be rolled over the skin several times.
  • The whole idea of microneedling is to create micro-traumas to the skin to kick start the production of collagen to repair the damage.
  • Microneedling can improve the texture of your skin over time to be flatter and smoother.
  • The downtime for microneedling is minimal - you'll be red for 24 hours afterwards, and your skin will feel a bit tight and dry for around seven days after the treatment.
  • Microneedling results are permanent.
  • You'll need anywhere from six to 10 professional sessions to see results, depending on the severity of your scaring.
  • Microneedling can cost around $300 per session more more, so it's an expensive investment.
  • You can try microneedling at home, but be very careful and do your research.

You can find out more about microneedling and dermarolling at home over on Leigh Campbell's review here. You can also listen to her advice on acne scaring on the You Beauty podcast below, post continues after audio.

Laser treatment for acne scars

Two of the most effective laser treatments to treat acne scaring are Fraxel, or fractional laser, and fractional radio-frequency, or Venus Viva.

Fraxel laser.

Here's what you need to know about Fraxel:

  • Fraxel is the brand name for fractional laser.
  • Fraxel "uses light energy to create tiny micro-columns in the skin, micro traumas, so collagen will be produced," Dr D'Anna said.
  • Fractional laser leaves a lot of the skin intact, meaning you're not losing healthy skin along with scar tissue.
  • Fraxel is quite painful and requires a topical anesthetic.
  • The downtime for Fraxel can be extreme, you might be really red, hot and swollen for around a week, like you've got sunburn, and you'll experience  flaking and peeling skin.
  • Fraxel isn't suited to people with darker skin tones because pigmentation can be a side effect (darker skin tones are more prone to pigmentation)
  • Fraxel can cost up to $1000 a treatment, and you'll need three to six treatments.

Check out this YouTube Fraxel review for more context, post continues after video.

Mamamia's Leigh Campbell has tried Fraxel in the past and talked about it on the You Beauty podcast above. She confirmed it "hurts like a MOFO" but that it's worth it to treat acne scars.

"They'll put numbing cream on around 30 minutes to an hour beforehand, but Fraxel still really, bloody hurts. The treatment goes for about four minutes. There's no pain afterwards, it's just a bit stingy," Campbell said.

"Underneath, you're left with this beautiful baby soft skin. I did Fraxel for pigmentation, I didn't have scarring. You might need repeated sessions to treat scaring depending on how deep your scars are, but it's really great for acne scaring. It's worth it, but Google before and afters and see what you're getting yourself in for."

Fractional radiofrequency (Venus Viva)

Another alternative to Fraxel Dr D'Anna mentioned is fractional radio-frequency.

"Venus Viva, or fractional radio-frequency, is the world leader in acne scaring and has less downtime than traditional laser treatments," she said.

Venus Viva before and after
Patient one 'before' Venus Viva with Dermal Distinction. Image: Supplied.
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Venus Viva before and after
Patient one 'after' two sessions of Venus Viva with Dermal Distinction. Image: Supplied.
Venus Viva before and after
Patient two 'before' Venus Viva with Dermal Distinction. Image: Supplied.
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Venus Viva before and after
Patient two 'after' one session of Venus Viva with Dermal Distinction. Image: Supplied.

Here's what you need to know about Venus Viva:

  • Venus Viva heats the collagen fibres in the skin with a similar column effect to Fraxel, causing tightening and the stimulation of new collagen.
  • Venus Viva can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin much more, it leads to a greater effect on the scaring and less downtime than traditional laser treatments.
  • Aside from reduced acne scaring, Venus Viva results in rejuvenated and tightened skin and decreased pore size, both of which are a bonus!
  • Downtime for Venus Viva is quite quick, you might have redness for 24 hours, which should be gone within 72 hours.
  • Venus Viva isn't as painful as Fraxel, but you'll still need a topical anesthetic
  • Venus Via is half the cost of Fraxel (around $650 per session) and you'll need three to six treatments to see results.
  • Venus Viva machines aren't available everywhere as the cost of purchasing the technology is expensive.

Which treatment method you chose to address acne scaring is up to you, as is whether you want to do anything about your acne scars at all.

If acne scaring is something that affects your self-esteem, any of the above options can help.

Have you tried any treatments for acne scaring? What worked for you?

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