Seeking Treatment For Decades-Old Acne Scarring? What Are Your Best Options?

For many, acne is a mild and temporary annoyance that surfaces during the early teen years and has mostly abated by the time a driver's license photo is taken. However, for those who suffered from cystic acne as young adults or whose teenage acne outbreaks led to significant permanent scarring, this acne (and its side effects) can become a permanent presence in one's adult life as well. Are there any cosmetic treatments that can reduce the visibility of acne scarring and help your skin regain a more youthful, uniform appearance? Read on to learn more about some of the treatment options available to you, from least to most invasive. 


For fairly light acne scarring (the type that is shallow and most easily viewed at an angle), microdermabrasion may be the answer. This treatment involves the scrubbing or abrading of your top few layers of skin with a high-powered device that can mimic a handheld wood sander. As the crystals on the microdermabrasion device slough away old, dead skin cells, they can also smooth the surface of the newer skin below, ensuring that your acne scars won't continue to replicate as your skin regularly regenerates itself.

In some cases, you may need multiple microdermabrasion sessions to fully treat the deeper layers of skin that contain scarring, while in others you may notice a significant improvement after just a single treatment session. Because this process is relatively painless and inexpensive compared to other more invasive acne treatments, it's often one of the first stops for those looking to tackle mild to moderate acne scarring. Other than some skin sensitivity for the first few days following the microdermabrasion, you shouldn't find yourself dealing with many unwanted side effects. 

Laser skin resurfacing

A slightly more involved (but still outpatient) acne treatment option is laser skin resurfacing. This process is similar to a chemical peel, in which your skin is covered with a photoreactive gel and then exposed to concentrated beams of light that can react with this gel to all but erase the scarring. Laser skin resurfacing can be a good option for moderate acne scarring that can't be completely eliminated with microdermabrasion, and (like microdermabrasion) is performed on an outpatient basis at a cosmetic dermatologist's office. 

After you have a laser resurfacing procedure, you'll want to take extra steps to protect your skin while it's healing -- during this time, it can be especially susceptible to sun damage, so wearing a barrier sunscreen (like zinc oxide) or a hat to guard your face from the sun is key to a successful and scar-free recovery.

Dermal fillers

If your acne scars are too deep to be very affected by removal of the top few layers of skin, injectable fillers may be the next step. Unlike the other two methods, these fillers involve the injection of a collagen-like substance into the scarred area, helping plump the skin and reduce the appearance of any divots or depressions in your skin. Although your body will metabolize and re-absorb this filler material over time, making it less than ideal if you're looking for a permanent option that won't require follow-up treatment, this can be one of the quickest ways to gain relief from significant acne scarring. 


Although you may associate facelifts with wrinkle reduction and other anti-aging effects, facelifts can also be effective in treating certain types of acne scarring. Often, the appearance of acne scarring can worsen with age, as the amount of collagen keeping your skin plump diminishes and causes sagging. Gaining or losing significant weight during your adult years can also exacerbate the appearance of your acne scars. By removing this sagging skin and stretching it taut across your forehead, cheeks, and chin, your plastic surgeon can make your face look both younger and smoother.

Although advances in medical technology permit surgeons to perform this procedure with video-equipped probes rather than sizable incisions, facelift recovery is still a more involved process than recovery from microdermabrasion, resurfacing, or filler injections. You may need to spend the night in the hospital for observation after your surgery, and will need to regularly change any bandages and keep your incisions clean until you've fully healed in a couple of weeks. For more information on how a facelift can help with your acne scarring, contact a medical clinic like My Plastic Surgery Group.