Acne Scars – What causes them?Scars are a part of the skin’s natural healing process. When the skin is damaged, a scar is formed. Generally, only those wounds that damage the dermis – the inner layer of skin – leave scars.
Acne scars are the product of an inflamed lesion. Breakouts are caused when the skin’s pores get blocked due to sebum, dead skin cells and/or bacteria. The wall of the pore or follicle is ruptured, leading to inflammation. When the rupture is small and close to the surface, the pimple is tiny and heals quickly and easily. However, the problem occurs when the breakage in the follicle wall is deeper under the surface of the skin. This can cause severe acne that presents as cysts or highly inflamed papules and nodes. The infected material leaks out of the ruptured follicle wall and injures the surrounding dermis, leading to acne scars.
The severity of an infection or inflammation can be gauged and the level of scarring estimated thereupon. Generally, non-inflammatory acne like blackheads, whiteheads and similar lesions heal quickly and without scarring. The highly infected lesions – papules, pustules, nodules, cysts however, tend to scar deeply.
So how exactly do acne scars form? As ascertained above, acne damages the skin. To repair this damage, the body produces a chemical called collagen, which is a fibrous substance that gives skin its suppleness and elasticity. However, despite the body’s healing attempts, skin that has once been injured can never look as smooth and flawless as it was pre-injury.
Acne typically results in two forms of scarring. The first kind of acne scars are when the body produces too much collagen, which forms a scar like a raised bump of tissue on this skin. This is known as a hypertrophic (keloid) scarring. A more common form of scarring is an atrophic scar – the depressed scar. These scars are a result of the loss of actually tissue, like the ice-pick scars or boxcar scars.
Very often, small discolorations on the skin after a breakout may be mistaken as acne scars. These marks are neither raised nor pitted. They can be seen, but bot felt when running a hand across the skin. These are not acne scars, but rather something called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). These faux acne scars will heal on their own over time, though certain medications are available to hasten the process.
As always, prevention is better than cure. First off, trying to deal with and contain your acne is the best way to avoid scarring. If your acne is very severe, see a certified doctor to deal with the problem.
Squeezing a pimple or picking at inflamed skin is a surefire way of obtaining a repertoire of acne scars. Worrying an inflamed lesion will only push the mixture of sebum and bacteria to other areas, worsening the infection. Also, avoid picking at scabs – they are an in-between stage in the process of healing, and picking a scab off an injury will only serve to delay the healing process – thereby increasing the possibility of scarring. Even lesions that generally don’t scar (think blackheads and whiteheads) might result in marks if squeezed and poked and prodded.
Of course, even the best precautions might not be enough to prevent scarring. In such a situation, don’t hesitate to seek out treatments for the acne scars. Various treatments are available, for mild to severe scarring. Consult a doctor to find out what’s best for you! Laura Wood