Acne is no fun, especially when it leaves its permanent mark by scarring our skin. Testosterone, that wonderful male hormone that takes us from boyhood to manhood, is responsible for guys getting acne during puberty, which, unfortunately, last much longer than our teen years for some of us.
As thankful as we are to have testosterone serge through our bodies, the downside to this incredible hormone is, it turns more than our libido on. It over-activates oil glands, causing them to secrete excess oil. And, typically, with excess oil comes acne. With acne, often comes the harsh reality of acne scars. If I'm telling your story, don't despair... for there are several available treatments that can reduce or eliminate acne scarring, no matter where it is on your body.
Although some people are more prone to scarring than others, early intervention of problem areas to prevent scarring is always the best approach. Still, regardless of our most diligent efforts, it can happen. Scars often fade with time, since new skin cells are constantly being produced to replace old cells; however, fading usually takes years to happen, and the sad truth is most scars don't disappear on their own. If you've exhausted home remedies and still have visible scars that are adversely affecting your life, consider one of the following treatments.
Scar tissue is mostly dead, damaged skin, which is why scars don't respond well to topical creams, supplements, or medication. More aggressive treatments like dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, laser therapy, chemical peels, and subcision, a surgical option, are best for getting quick, effective results. However, a major disadvantage to any of these treatments is cost. Nevertheless, don't let that keep you from getting professional advice in order to make an informed decision.
Types of Acne Scar Treatments
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion "resurface" the skin through exfoliation; meaning they literally remove scars, lesions, and hyperpigmentation through abrasion or scrubbing the dead skin away. These types of exfoliation are different and much more intense than any exfoliation you can do at home, so please don't try to scrub scars off yourself. Chances are you'll only make them worse.
The difference between dermabrasion and microdermabrasion is the latter is gentler and not as invasive; making it not quite as effective as dermabrasion. However, there's a time and place for microdermabrasion, and because of its gentleness, it is preferred for sensitive areas like the neck. It can also be used on any area that's not sensitive: face, chest, and back. Because it's a rather gentle procedure, it works best on mild scars.
Microdermabrasion is similar to gentle sandblasting. It uses tiny crystals that are sprayed onto the skin to exfoliate imperfections. Multiple sessions are required to get noticeable results, so expect to have at least ten microdermabrasion treatments, since only a fine layer of skin is removed at one time. As a result, microdermabrasion produces very little redness or side effects, so you can get on with your day as soon as the treatment is over. The cost is normally $75.00 to $250.00 per session. It is much cheaper than dermabrasion, which can cost from $1,500.00 to $4,000.00 per treatment, and can be performed in salons and doctors offices.
Dermabrasion is a technique that uses a wire brush or a diamond wheel with rough edges (called a burr or fraise) to remove the upper layers of skin; requiring it to be performed under aesthesia in a hospital. So, on top of treatment costs, hospital expenses need to be added to the price tag. Sometimes, health insurance will cover some of the expense depending on the circumstances. Each dermabrasion treatment improves skin integrity from 20% to 50%, which is why fewer treatments are required than with microdermabrasion. Normally, dermabrasion is performed once, with a yearly maintenance treatment after that. Expect an uncomfortable recovery with dermabrasion, along with quite a few limitations, like no alcohol, shaving, or exercise until healing is well underway. Although severity of scars play a big part in deciding which treatment is best; your wallet may be the determining factor in choosing your best option.
Laser skin resurfacing is a relatively new procedure, and is also known as laser peel, laser vaporization or lasabrasion. The laser shoots short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at scar tissue, which vaporizes damaged skin in a very precise manner – one layer at a time. The laser beam removes the top layer of skin, or epidermis, while it simultaneously heats the underlying skin, or dermis. This action stimulates the growth of collagen fibers, and as the skin heals, new skin forms and the scar is repaired.
There are two different type lasers: CO2 Laser and Erbium Laser. The doctor/surgeon will determine which laser is best; partially determined by skin color. Darker skin tones do better with the Erbium Laser. Depending on which laser is used, expect recovery to be between one and two weeks. Fortunately, minimal side effects occur with lasers because of their preciseness, so redness, swelling and bruising aren't too bad. Expect to feel like your skin is sunburned for a few days, which is the most common side effect, along with some stinging and itching. Five to seven days later, dry skin peels, making way for new skin to emerge. The treated area will probably be a little pink for up to a year, but lightens with time. If subsequent treatments are needed, they can't be done until the lasered skin is completely healed.
Both laser treatments are performed on an out-patient basis, but will require local aesthesia and often sedative medication. There are some limitations while healing, including no smoking, but none seem all that difficult to deal with... unless you're a smoker, that is!
So, how much does this Star Wars treatment cost? According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the national average cost is $2,378.00; however the price varies according to location and individual doctor rates. Health insurance may cover the procedure for scar removal, but not always, so be sure to check with your insurance company before having it done.
Chemical peels have been around since Egyptian times. Also called chemexfoliation or derma peeling, this procedure uses various chemical solutions, which after applied to the skin, cause the top layers of skin to blister and peel off. Once healed, and the new layer of skin surfaces, the scar will be reduced and smoother. Chemical peels are usually reserved for the face, but can also be used on the neck and hands. This procedure works best on mild scars. Both fair-skinned and dark skinned men can have this procedure done, but there is a higher risk for uneven skin tone the darker the skin color.
Chances are, if you've ever seen someone with what looks like a really bad, raw, sunburned face, they've had a chemical peel. As awful as it looks and feels, it's actually considered to be the least invasive type of skin resurfacing procedure, and is today's top choice of skin resurfacing. Depending on the type and depth of the peel, expect your skin to be red and feel like it's badly sunburned, which will peel for three to seven days afterwards. There are some risks involved; with uneven skin pigmentation, scarring, and infection being the most common. Don't stress... scarring can usually be repaired easily, so the research tells me.
The cost runs anywhere from $100 to $900, depending on the strength of the peel, which is determined by the chemical used. Due to it being considered a cosmetic procedure, health insurance doesn't usually cover the expense, unless it's done for health reasons; sometimes this includes scars. Again, speak with the practitioner and your insurance company to see if you're a candidate for coverage.
Subcision, also known as subcutaneous incisionless surgery, is a treatment best used for rolling scars (depressed scars with gentle sloping edges) that leave depressions in the skin. In other words, the really deep kinds of acne scars. Considered a minor procedure, this surgical treatment is performed in the doctor's office under local anesthesia with a special tri-beveled hypodermic needle. The needle is inserted under the scar, and maneuvered in a way that breaks the fibrotic tissue or strands that hold onto the scar, causing it to depress. Once the strands are broken loose, the scar is able to elevate to the surface. Bleeding occurs, which plays a part in the procedure by pooling under the scar, helping it to surface and heal. Once healed, other treatments, like the ones listed above, can be performed to further smooth and remove scar tissue and even out skin color if necessary.
Subcision procedures can range from $150 to $400 per treatment depending upon the severity of your condition and the amount of treatments needed. Usually two or three treatment sessions are required to achieve significant improvement. It is a relatively pain free and successful method of treatment for acne scars. Most skin types can undergo this procedure; however, darker-skinned individuals run the risk of hyperpigmentation.
Patients are able to return to their normal activity that day. Bruising is possible, but should fade within seven days. It's become quite a popular acne scar treatment that's been around since 1995. Again, check with your insurance company about coverage.
Restylane, Juvederm, Perlane, and Radiesse are injectable fillers that can also be used to elevate acne scars. These, too, can be expensive, but should be considered as a viable option.
Dermatologists (skin doctor) and cosmetic surgeons are the type doctors who perform these various procedures. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion do not require the expertise of a doctor, and can be performed in many beauty/skincare salons. Regardless of who does the procedure, be sure to check out their credentials and reputation. Your appearance is on the line, so you don't want to take any chances you might regret.
Home Remedy for Acne Scars
The treatments listed above are great for the fast, effective removal of acne scars, but they are costly and somewhat uncomfortable. If you would rather try a simple, do-it-yourself approach at home, check out this skin renewal recipe. I have not tried it, so I can't honestly say if it works or not, but I think it's worth a shot.
To make acne scars look less visible, lighten them using freshly squeezed lemon juice, or other fresh, sour citrus juice. Simply apply the juice over the scars and let it stand for a few minutes, then wash it off. More home remedies can be found online.
Chances are you've been to a doctor if acne and scars are a serious problem. If you haven't, I recommend seeing one to find out which scar removal options are available in your area. I understand how emotionally scarring acne scars, or any other type scar can be, so instead of resigning yourself to this condition, become proactive and seek treatment. If money's an issue, many practitioners offer payment plans. Hopefully, there is something for everyone.
by Aaron Marino