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Acne Scars: The Best Dermatological Treatment Backed by Recent Research

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Acne has been one of the common insecurities among people aged between 11 to 30 years old. Although it isn’t a severe health threat, its scars have affected many emotionally and socially.

The good news is that recent research has continuously investigated the best way to solve acne scarring. One example of these studies is the study from Rutgers University about microneedling and chemical peels. The researchers compared these two dermatological treatments to see which works best for treating acne scars.

Before diving into the research results, here’s what you need to know about acne.

What’s Acne?

Acne has several symptoms. The most common ones are whiteheads, blackheads, papules (small red, tender bumps), and pimples. Moreover, the most painful ones are nodules (big, solid lumps under the skin) and cystic lesions (pus-filled lumps under the skin).

Acne typically starts during puberty, when teenagers experience a change in hormones. However, other adults can still suffer post-adolescent acne, which happens after age 25. They typically still continue to have acne into their 30s, 40s, and even 50s. Some of them can even get adult-onset acne when they get acne for the first time as adults.

What Causes Acne?

When our hair follicles (the tiny holes in the skin) are clogged with sebum (our body’s natural oil) and dead skin cells, it causes acne. Since too much oil clogs pores resulting in acne, stress also exacerbates acne.

First off, stress doesn’t directly cause acne. It’s just that when we activate our fight-or-flight response, our bodies release cortisol and androgens. These stress hormones can increase our sebum production, which aggravates acne.

Certain bad habits can also cause acne. One example is bad eating habits. While there’s no food proven to cause acne yet, studies have linked overeating sugary, processed products, greasy foods, and dairy products to acne.

Washing your skin too often can make acne worse as well. Specifically, scrubbing your skin too hard (e.g., with washcloths, loofahs, or harsh exfoliants) could strip away all of the good essential oils to make your skin stay healthy. Instead, doing so leaves you with dry, red, flaky, and irritated skin.

Among the common acne-causing habits is picking and popping pimples. Squeezing the pimple pus (the whitish-yellow or yellow thing seen on pimples) deeper into the skin doesn’t only cause increased redness but also allows the bacteria to disperse. Even worse, this behavior is one of the causes of acne scarring.

What Is Acne Scarring?

When acne occurs, an inflammation happens below your skin too. It could result in trauma to skin tissue, leading to scarring. Acne scars may look like pinpricks (atrophic), raised and firm (hypertrophic), and reddish or purplish extending beyond the borders of the original acne (keloidal).

How To Treat Acne And Its Scarring?

Over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments that have salicylic acid or retinol are the go-to for many. However, for those with severe acne, prescription medications containing isotretinoin like accutane, clascoterone (Winlevi), or tretinoin (Retin-A) are recommended.

These medications work by depleting sebum production, reducing the swelling of inflamed acne, and treating bacterial infection. Unfortunately, acne can be very persistent, causing the healing and regeneration of the skin to take some time. When using most OTC and even prescription acne drugs, it’s common to have no results in 1-2 months.

Further, OTC treatments, such as retinol serums, may help acne scarring. They may help in minimizing scarring and hyperpigmentation. Those with severe acne scarring may get in-office procedures like microneedling and chemical peels from registered dermatologists.

Microneedling vs. Chemical Peels

For microneedling, dermatologists puncture tiny needles into the skin to stimulate collagen. In contrast, for chemical peels, as its name suggests, dermatologists apply a chemical solution to the skin, which peels away after some time.

Microneedling works best for more troublesome skin issues, such as hyperpigmentation, sagging skin, and rosacea. Conversely, chemical peels are known for superficial imperfections, like wrinkles and texture issues.

Which Is The Best for Acne Scarring?

The aforementioned study, published by Rutgers University in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, showed that microneedling outperformed chemical peels. The results of the study showed that microneedling is the best for treating acne scarring, especially in deeper skin tones.

On the other hand, the chemical peels were found to discolor darker skin permanently possibly. That’s why the study recommended them to those with lighter skin who can go for stronger peels with no risks of discoloration.

Final Thoughts

No single acne scarring treatment has been found as a failsafe way and the best for everyone yet. The good news is that there are several acne scarring treatments you can choose from nowadays. Depending on your skin type, scar type, and scar severity, one or a combination of those treatments might improve your skin. For best results, seek professional help.