Different Types of Acne
Scars from acne can seem like double punishment - first
you had to deal with the pimples, now you have marks as
It helps to understand the different kinds of acne so you
can figure out what to do about different types of scarring:
Acne lesions or pimples happen when the hair follicles (or
"pores") on the skin become plugged with oil and dead
skin cells. A plugged follicle is the perfect place for bacteria to
grow and create the red bumps and pus-filled red bumps known
Acne comes in different forms:
- mild acne, which refers to the whiteheads or blackheads that
most of us get at various times
- moderately severe acne, which includes red inflamed pimples
and red pimples with white centers called
- severe acne, which causes
- painful, pus-filled cysts or lumps - to appear under the
Most serious scarring is caused by the more severe forms of
acne, with nodules more likely to leave permanent scars than other
types of acne.
The best approach is to get treatment for acne soon after it
appears to prevent further severe acne and more scarring. If you
have nodules, see your doctor or dermatologist for treatment.
Treating Acne Scars
Most of the time, those reddish or brownish acne marks that
are left behind after a pimple eventually fade with no need
for treatment. Picking or squeezing acne can increase the
risk for scarring, though.
Depending on how severe the scars are, a doctor or
dermatologist may suggest a
to help improve the appearance of scarred areas. These milder
treatments can be done right in the office.
If you have serious scarring from previous bouts with acne,
there are some things you can do. One form of treatment is
, which can be done in the doctor's or dermatologist's
office. The laser removes the damaged top layer of skin and
tightens the middle layer, leaving skin smoother. This can take
anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. The doctor will try to
lessen any pain by first numbing the skin with local anesthesia. It
usually takes between 3 and 10 days for the skin to heal
Another method for treating acne scarring is
, which uses a rotating wire brush or spinning diamond instrument
to wear down the surface of the skin. As the skin heals, a new,
smoother layer replaces the abraded skin. It may take a bit longer
for skin to heal using dermabrasion - usually between 10 days and 3
The newest form of treatment for acne scarring is called
fractional laser therapy
. This type of treatment works at a deeper level than laser
resurfacing or dermabrasion, Because fractional laser
therapy doesn't wound the top layer of tissue, healing
time is shorter. Fractional laser therapy is quite costly, and
it's not usually covered by insurance.
Sometimes doctors inject material under the scar to raise it to
the level of normal skin. Finally, in some cases, a doctor may
recommend surgery to remove deeply indented scars.
A person's acne will need to be under control before having
any of these treatments.
One thing you shouldn't do to deal with acne scars is load
up your face with masks or fancy lotions - these won't help and
may irritate your skin further, making the scars red and even more
If you have a red or brownish mark on your face that you got
from a bad zit, it should eventually fade, just like the scars on
your knees from falling off your bike as a kid. However, it may
take 12 months or longer - so your best bet is to avoid these kinds
of marks by not squeezing or popping your zits, no matter how
tempting it may seem.
Eliot N. Mostow, MD, MPH
Date reviewed: April 2007
Originally reviewed by:
Patrice Hyde, MD
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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