Acne is a skin condition that can appear on the face, chest, arms, back, shoulders, and neck. It consists of plugged pores that cause outbreaks of lesions. In most cases, these lesions start to appear during puberty and remain until adulthood. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne affects 40 to 50 million Americans and the cost of treating it exceeds $2.2 billion annually.
Types of Acne Scars
• Macular Scars
These scars appear as flat areas with different pigmentation hues. Take note that macular acne scars may not have indentations.
• Boxcar Scars
Boxcar scars tend to have sharp demarcations or appear rectangular. A recent report states that treatment delivered using fractionated laser devices seems to clear boxcar scars.
• Rolling Scars
These tend to appear as undulating scars on the surface of the skin. Acne may also appear as ice pick, deep pivot, hypertrophic, atrophic, or keloid scars.
Laser Treatment for Acne Scars
For people with acne, available options for getting rid of scars include laser treatment and applying topical medications. However, laser treatment has become popular because it can reduce facial scarring significantly. There are different types of laser treatment that doctors can use to clear acne scars.
This involves the use of pulsating beams of light to remove damaged skin cells. You can think of this procedure as removing the outer layer of skin (epidermis) while at the same time heating the layer of skin underneath (dermis). The aim is to stimulate the dermis to form new skin that is much smoother. Take note that laser resurfacing could be painful and your doctor may use a general anesthetic to help you relax. The entire procedure takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours meaning that you could visit a doctor’s office during lunch break and return to work in the afternoon.
Focal Acne Scar Treatment
Another laser technique that is fast gaining popularity is focal acne scar treatment (F.A.S.T). Unlike ablative lasers that burn or peel off the outer skin layer, this new technique involves sending a beam of laser light underneath the epidermis. This stimulates the dermis to produce new collagen fibers leading to reduced scarring. The beauty of this approach is it takes about 15 minutes. This new technique produces better results than traditional laser treatment techniques. It is also more effective in treating acne scarring among people with dark or sensitive skin.
Fractional Laser Treatment
Instead of treating the entire skin surface, doctors are now using fractional lasers to target specific skins areas. This means that skin areas unaffected by acne do not undergo vaporization. As a result, the skin heals much faster and there are fewer complications associated with laser treatment.
A Word of Caution
After treatment, you may experience swelling, redness, itching, or the sensation one gets after a mild sunburn. In some cases, the skin may blister and start oozing a yellow liquid. The rule of thumb is to avoid scratching or disturbing the skin in any way. Doing so will only lead to scarring and this is not the outcome you want. Within five to seven days, the outer skin layer will peel off on its own.
To date, doctors and researchers do not know the exact causes of acne. Nevertheless, laser treatment for acne scars can remove damaged skin cells as well as stimulate growth of new smoother skin. Before starting treatment, your doctor will evaluate your skin to determine the right treatment approach for you.