Acne is a frustrating skin condition and dealing with it doesn’t end when it heals. You would have to deal with the aftermath – acne scars. Many wonder, “How long does it take for acne scars to fade?”.
Unfortunately, acne scars are permanent. They don’t go away on their own unless they’re treated on purpose. And even then, how long it would take to fade them would depend on what treatment or procedure you’re getting. Acne marks are a different situation. They’re not scars and can fade on their own from a few months to a few years.
With the right medical intervention, treatment, and procedure, your acne scars won’t have to stay with you forever. The same goes for acne marks. There are several ways you can help speed up their fading process.
Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about acne scars, including what causes them, their different types, and how long you need to wait until they fade. Then, we’ll give you several methods to get rid of acne scars.
What are Acne Scars?
Acne is an annoying, frustrating, and painful condition to deal with. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) determines acne as being the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting about 50 million Americans annually.
Even if you’ve managed to deal with your breakouts and things are healing up nicely, you are left to deal with a new set of problems – scars and marks your acne left behind.
Acne scars result from the acne, breakouts, and pimples that develop on your skin. The skin’s pores can often be blocked with excess oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria. These pores usually swell and get inflamed. And when they do heal, they can leave behind lesions – they can be either deep or shallow and dark or reddish spots.
Acne scars and marks are a constant reminder of what your skin had to deal with and could cause a myriad of self-esteem issues, especially if they’re on your face.
What Causes Acne Scars?
Here is a more detailed answer on what could cause acne scars:
Healing and repairing
Acne and breakouts can cause deep or shallow lesions that damage the deeper layers of the skin’s tissues. When acne heals, it is your body’s natural healing response to repair damaged skin tissues by producing collagen.
Collagen is a natural protein that gives the skin support and structure. As the skin lesions heal, the body can produce too much or too little collagen. This is what causes the scar to form. It doesn’t look like the rest of your undamaged skin.
Picking and popping pimples
Picking, squeezing, and popping your pimples can cause even more damage to your skin’s tissues. This could also distribute pus and bacteria to the surrounding skin, causing even more damage that your skin needs to heal and repair.
While acne scars aren’t technically genetic, how your skin develops acne and the severity of your breakouts could be linked to your genetics.
If you have family members who are prone to acne breakouts, you are likely to have them too. At the same time, if you have several family members who have acne scars, you are prone to developing them as well.
Severity and type of acne
The more severe the acne or breakout is, the more likely is to leave behind scarring. Severe breakouts, severe acne, and cystic acne are more likely to cause acne scarring.
Types of Acne Scars
In understanding acne scars, it’s important to know that there are different types of acne scars:
- Depressed or atrophic scars
Depressed, pitted, indented, atrophic scars occur when, during the healing process, the skin produced less collagen than needed. Some appear shallow while some are deeper. This type often develops on the face.
There are three kinds under this type of acne scars:
- Boxcar scars
These are typically broad and squarish in shape but with sharply defined edges.
- Rolling scars
Rolling scars are shallow indentations on the skin with soft and sloping edges.
- Ice pick scars
These are small, narrow, and deep skin indentations that often look like an ice-pick wound, hence the name.
- Raised or hypertrophic scars
When the skin heals after inflammation, it can sometimes produce too much collagen. This results in raised or hypertrophic scars. Raised scars are usually found on the chest and back.
- Keloid scars
Keloid acne scars are a type of hypertrophic scar where the skin produces too much collagen and the scar tissue begins building on top of itself. This usually grows larger than the size of the original acne. It’s also more common in people with darker skin tones.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH
While dark spots and hyperpigmentation aren’t technically scars, they often result after acne has healed. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, can appear as brown, white, or red patches.
And unlike atrophic or hypertrophic scars, there are no indentations or raised tissues. Instead, the spot appears darker on the skin where acne used to be.
How Long Does It Take for Acne Scars to Fade?
Acne scars are permanent. They may fade away and look less obvious over time but they don’t go away entirely on their own.
However, with medical intervention and the right treatments, these indented or raised scars can go away. How long it takes for them to do so would depend on the treatment or procedure you’re planning on getting.
Acne marks vs scars
It’s also important to know that there is a huge difference between acne marks and acne scars.
As we’ve mentioned above, acne marks aren’t technically scars, though they appear after acne inflammation heals. Acne marks can lighten and fade away on their own within a few months. There are various treatments available to help speed up this process. They may take a few years to completely fade without treatment.
Acne scars, on the other hand, are permanent. They won’t fade or go away unless treated.
How to Get Rid of Acne Scars
If you find yourself dealing with acne scars, here’s what you can consider to finally get rid of them:
- Salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is a common topical treatment for acne and may also help minimize the appearance of scars. Moreover, it helps clear out excess oil and dirt/debris, and bacteria from your pores. This could help in both reducing breakouts and the appearance of post-acne scars.
Retinoids boost the skin’s cell turnover. This increases collagen production, which in turn, can reduce the appearance of scars. This stimulates new skin growth and will help smooth out damaged skin texture.
- Lactic acid
Another popular topical acne scar treatment is lactic acid. This peels off dead skin cells and reduces the appearance of scars, improving overall skin texture.
- Chemical peel
Chemical peels use chemicals that exfoliate and peel off dead skin cells from the outer layer of the skin. A newer layer of skin replaces the old skin, resulting in a smoother overall skin texture with fewer scars.
Microneedling uses tiny needles to prick the skin and cause micro-wounds. This stimulates the skin’s collagen production. This is a great option for treating depressed acne scars.
Microdermabrasion uses a special handheld device to remove the skin’s topmost layer. Aside from removing dead skin cells, this induces collagen production so smoother, newer skin replaces the older layer of skin.
- Laser resurfacing treatment
Laser resurfacing treatments use pulses of light and heat to boost the skin’s collagen production. The skin creates newer, healthier skin cells to replace the damaged layer.
There are also laser treatments that can help flatten and reduce the discoloration of raised scars and keloids.
- Dermal fillers
Dermal fillers can fill in indented and depressed scars so they reach back to your skin’s surface.
- Radiofrequency treatment
This tightens the skin to make scars look less noticeable. This is a great scar treatment option for pitted and indented scars.
Cryosurgery involves freezing the scars so they die and fall off on their own eventually. It’s a recommended procedure for raised and keloid scars.
This may leave permanent light spots on the skin so it’s generally not recommended for people with dark skin tones.
Subcision is a procedure that uses a special needle to break up scar fibers under the skin. It results in a smoother skin surface.
- Punch grafting
With punch grafting, the scar is removed from the skin and replaced with a skin graft from another part of your body.
How to Prevent Acne Scars
You can prevent further acne scar formation with these tips and hacks below:
- Wear sunscreen every day – even if you don’t go outside or if it isn’t sunny out.
- Avoid too much sun exposure. Wear protective clothing and hats to give yourself extra sun protection.
- Don’t pick, pop, or squeeze your pimples. This will only increase the likelihood of them leaving scars and marks.
- Avoid touching your face, especially with dirty hands. This will transfer dirt and bacteria from your hands to your face.
- Get ahead of acne by starting treatments early.
Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of Americans annually. Even after it heals, it leaves behind acne scars and marks that are just as bad when it comes to affecting people’s self-esteem.
Acne scars are permanent. They may fade away with time and become less noticeable as years go by but they don’t fade away entirely on their own. For anyone who wants to permanently get rid of acne scars, several topical solutions, treatments, and procedures are made available.
And that was our detailed guide on the query, “How long does it take for acne scars to fade?”. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us below with more of your curious questions!