Most people with mild or moderate acne will recover from the condition without serious scarring. In cases of severe acne, however, scarring is almost inevitable. But don't give up hope -- new acne treatments can minimize scarring and existing scars can be removed with a variety of techniques.
Most pimples leave behind a discolored patch of skin. This is not really a scar and will usually clear up by itself within one year. Marks or skin defects that remain longer than one year are considered to be scars and can be treated.
Acne scars can be prevented through a program of active treatment and self-control. One of the worst things you can do to pimples is to pick them. Some people try to squeeze or remove blackheads or whiteheads but this is the worst thing that you can do. Not only will the bacteria which causes acne spread, the skin can be damaged which leads to permanent scarring.
Mild cases of acne can usually be self treated with over-the-counter medications but more severe cases should be treated by a dermatologist. The doctor can prescribe oral medications as well as topical ointments for use on the skin. In some cases, the doctor will also physically remove blackheads or whiteheads and lance and drain pus filled nodules. The dermatologist uses surgical instruments which have been sterilized, so these procedures should never be attempted at home.
Pimples form on the skin because of the presence of bacteria. The bacteria damages and inflames the skin. Once the acne has cleared up, the skin may appear discolored -- this is part of the natural healing process, and the discolorment will disappear after a period of time.
This healing process can be sped up with the use of medications like Retin-A, Renova, and Alpha-Hydroxy Acids. Sunshine can damage the skin and thereby delay the healing process, so sunscreens should always be worn outside.
Above all, avoid picking scabs that may form over old acne lesions. Scabs are a necessary part of the healing process and picking them off unnecessarily exposes the skin which extends the time necessary for scars to heal.
Existing scars left over from acne can be treated in a number of ways. If scars are not too severe, a chemical peel can be applied to the skin. This effectively removes the microscopic top layer of the skin allowing the cells underneath to rejuvenate.
More severe scarring can be treated with lasers or dermabrasion. Lasers remove the damaged layer of skin and tighten the skin underneath to raise the depression caused by the scar. The process can be mildly painful so the dermatologist may use an anesthetic to numb the pain. The healing process after laser treatment takes about 3 to 10 days.
Dermabrasion removes scars by actually scraping away the surface of the skin where the scarring occurs. During the healing process a new layer of skin is formed to replace the scarring. Both dermabrasion and laser treatments can cause the skin to turn red, but this discolorment will disappear after several months.