Severe acne can leave scars. Some will fade with time, but many remain a permanent reminder of previous acne. Various treatments are available, but there are no completely satisfactory answers to managing acne scars.

Laser. If the acne scars are extensive but not too deep, and the acne has burnt out, laser treatment is a possibility. In the UK, it is difficult to obtain laser treatment under the National Health Service, but it is available from private clinics. It is claimed to be particularly effective for flat, ‘tissue-paper’ scars and for pitted ‘ice-pick’ scars, but not as good for thick, lumpy scars. However, there is little evidence that it is effective, and it is costly in private clinics. If you are considering laser treatment, discuss it with your doctor first.

Derma roller. There have been recent reports of successful treatment using a derma roller for some acne scars.

Collagen injections. Some specialist clinics use collagen injections to plump out flat ‘tissue-paper’ scars and pitted ‘ice-pick’ scars.

Liquid nitrogen/steroid injection. Lumpy cysts can sometimes be treated by freezing with liquid nitrogen or injecting with triamcinolone steroid. This approach may flatten scars but will not clear them fully.

Dermabrasion is the ‘planing down’ of the skin using a high-speed wire brush. It used to be a common method of dealing with acne scars but is now seldom used because of the risk of infection.

Silicone sheets or gels. You can buy silicone sheets (‘silicone skin’) or gels from pharmacies. You may have to ask your pharmacist to order them. You apply the sheet to your skin like a face mask. It is claimed that this can help lumpy scars, but its effectiveness is questionable.

Surgery. Deep and disfiguring acne scars can sometimes be cut out by a plastic surgeon. Small pitted scars may be alleviated with surgical techniques.


First published on:
Reviewed and edited by: Fiona Elliott
Last updated: December 2020

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