Can acne and other scars be removed?

Nobody likes scars, especially when they are in a particularly visible area such as the face. I often see patients in the Emergency Rooms of various Plano, Frisco and Allen hospitals with facial injuries. To a man, the first question they ask me is, “Will there be a scar?” Other patients come into the office asking about treatments for old injury scars or acne scars. So, can scars be prevented, and can old scars be removed?

A little about scar science

I’ve written posts before about the science of skin anatomy and aging. But how does skin heal? It turns out that the most important parts of skin healing occur in the layer of skin called the dermis. The dermis is what gives skin its strength and elasticity. It takes about 6 weeks for the dermis to heal completely. The quality of healing is affected by a lot of factors. The type of wound (e.g. sharp cut or crush), presence of infection, quality of the repair, and your genetics all matter.

sun protection prevents scarsSun protection

Scar prevention?

In general, whenever the dermis is cut, it leaves a scar. There are only a few exceptions to this rule. for example, cuts (even deep ones) on the hand or the fingers tend to leave little or no scar. But while scars can’t be prevented, there are a lot of things that can make the scar practically invisible. Scar prevention starts with fixing the cut. First, the wound should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent infection or inflammation. The dermis must be repaired strongly and the tissue lined up precisely. This is where a good surgeon makes the difference. Afterwards, it’s important to prevent the healing cut from getting too dry and getting a scab. An antibiotic ointment or a fragrance-free moisturizer is useful for this. Finally, the healing wound should be protected from the sun, because fresh scars are very sensitive to UV light. Unfortunately there is a bit of genetic luck involved as well – some people tend to get keloid scars even when everything is done perfectly.

Improving old injury scars

Let’s say you have an old scar that you don’t like. Odds are that something about the type of injury, the way it was fixed, or the after-care led to a bad scar. Fortunately, there are a lot of things that can be done to improve bad scars.

Cut them out

If a scar is wide, hollowed out, or lumpy, your best option might be just to cut it out. Whether or not this is a good option depends on the location, shape, and size of the scar. In this procedure, your surgeon will simply cut out the scar, and then repair the skin again, taking all the steps of scar prevention outlined above. This will result in a new scar that has a much better appearance and should be less bothersome to you.

Blend them in

Sometimes, scars are bothersome not because they are large or particularly ugly, but because they are just too visible against the surrounding skin. In these situations, dermabrasion, or lasers may be good options. Dermabrasion involves “abrading” the scar and some of the surrounding skin. This is a bit like sanding down a piece of wood – it blends in a scar’s bumps and lumps, or abnormal texture, and camouflages it. Dermabrasion can be performed by a mechanical device, or with a laser. Lasers can also be used if a scar stands out because of its color. Lasers such as IPL can greatly improve scar color, helping them become less noticeable.

acne scarsAcne scars can be frustrating

Acne scars

Scars caused by acne are different than scars from cuts or injuries. They don’t often appear alone, and they tend to have a hollowed out look. With acne scars, the first step is making sure that your acne has been cleared. If you have a breakout, you might get new scars – and the inflammation can make old scars worse. Once your acne is cleared, you have several options. Hollowed scars can be improved by filling them in – this might mean a temporary filler (like Juvederm or Restylane), or fat cells taken from another part of your body. Discolored scars can be improved by laser treatments like IPL. If you have extensive acne scarring, a full face laser peel can greatly improve all the scars in one fell swoop. The right option for you depends on the type of scarring you have, and what your goals are.

Conclusion

As with everything in medicine, the best cure is prevention. Injured skin will always make a scar. But a good surgeon, and good care of your scar after surgery, can result in beautiful scar that blends in easily with its surroundings. Old scars that are bothersome can be treated – with minor surgery, or noninvasive options like dermabrasion, lasers, or fillers. The best option for you depends on a lot of different factors. You should always plan on discussing your specific goals and desires with your plastic surgeon during your consultation. To learn more about scar removal and other treatments, or to meet Dr. Nagarkar in person, schedule your consultation or call us.