What happens after acne?

As if suffering from acne was not bad enough, the consequences can cause even greater pain. It takes up to a few weeks for a plugged follicle to emerge as a full blown spot, but when this phase ends, dry scabs are commonly accompanied by visible post acne scars or marks.

The resulting marks depend on the type of acne experienced, the depth of the wound and severity of inflammation. It’s this combination of factors that make the healing period for any breakouts a critical time. Non-inflammatory acne like open and closed comedones, or whiteheads and blackheads, if removed properly, leave the mildest marks, while deep pustules and nodules are likely to create more intense acne scars.

What are acne scars?

An acne scar consists of fibrous tissue that takes the place of normal skin post injury. Heavy inflammation and cysts in acne cause these injuries, and what remains is collagen, but aligned abnormally so that it becomes structurally and functionally inferior than before. Acne scars denote a change in texture, and only sometimes in colour.

Types of Acne Scars

All inflammatory acne like papules, pustules and heavily inflamed cysts and nodules can result in acne scars, which possess different forms: depressed or raised. Depressed acne scars are indented and appear when there is a loss of collagen in the area of injury. These can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Ice-pick acne scars: deep, narrow pits stretched across the skin
  • Rolling acne scars: broad concave depressions with sloped sides
  • Boxcar acne scars: broad depressions with angular, sharp sides
  • Atrophic acne scars: these can be depressed or shallow, flat thin scars

Raised acne scars are thicker than the skin around it, and appear as a result of an overgrowth of collagen in place of the wound. They are either hypertrophic or keloid scars, with hypertrophic scars being the more common result of acne-related injury, and purple-red keloid scars only sometimes caused by acne.

Post Acne Discolouration

When acne wounds don’t leave a textured scar, there can still be a discolouration of skin. This typically takes an average 3 to 24 months to heal on its own. The three different ways that skin can change colour after acne are:

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: darkened brown marks
Post-inflammatory hypopigmentation: lightened white marks
Post-inflammatory erythema: pink or purple marks

Why are acne scars unhealthy?

Apart from its changed appearance, scar tissue doesn’t behave or respond to the environment the way normal skin does. Hair cannot grow on scars, and oil and sweat glands aren’t able to regenerate. Acne scars can often be flaky and dry as well, because it doesn’t absorb moisture the same way as regular skin.

Myths about post acne scars

“You can never remove acne scars, or all acne scars can fade away”

Both extremes are often claimed, yet the truth lies somewhere in between. Acne scars are a treatable condition. Actually, most mild to moderate acne scarring can be healed in full. However, very severe cases of acne scarring that has persisted over time may not completely recover with even the most intense clinical treatment.

“Acne scars cannot be prevented”

You may think that once you’ve had acne, you had better brace yourself for acne scarring. This isn’t true. It’s common knowledge that improper picking of pimples and spreading bacteria can inflict further damage to already wounded skin. But inflammation is the other factor that determines the severity of scars, and can be minimised by eating less high G.I. foods, taking a multivitamin with zinc, and using a sunscreen to protect the skin against UV rays.

“You need cosmetic surgery to remove acne scars”

There are many at-home options for post acne scar treatment. Common ingredients used are acids which encourage skin cell regeneration. Still, not all in-office treatments are invasive either. Laser treatments, dermabrasion and chemical peels are some treatments offered by a dermatologist that require less downtime.

“Popping a pimple is the best way, or completely not allowed”

Contrary to common knowledge, it can be perfectly safe to pop a pimple. In fact, done properly, popping a zit can alleviate pain and stop infection in its tracks, quickening the healing process. It can also decrease the risk of developing acne scars. However, it is important to get an experienced dermatologist or aesthetician to do this for you. Improper squeezing when the acne isn’t ready or close enough to the surface can further increase inflammation, resulting in bleeding and yes, more acne scarring.

Emotional impacts of acne scars

Shame and distress are feelings that often go hand-in-hand with post acne scarring. Teenagers and young adults with acne scars are especially vulnerable, when expectations to socialise and develop relationships are at their peak. Despite the fact that acne-prone skin is more volatile to begin with, and it truly is nobody’s fault that scars occur, this very rarely comforts acne scar sufferers. The right post acne care can transform how a person sees themself and raise confidence levels.

Recommended Products

View More Buy Now