Medical or conservative treatment is suitable for superficial or shallow acne scars and acne skin blemishes.

Medical Treatment with peels and creams may be tried for superficial acne scars
Superficial Acne Scars: Medical Treatment effective in some.

It is fair to state that the medical or non-surgical treatment of acne scars is far from satisfactory. These conservative types of treatments are limited in their usefulness due to the superficial mode of action of the topical applications.

Acne Scar Medical Treatments

Most superficial acne scars are skin colored, but some of the scars may be brownish or grayish black in color. The aim of medical or non-surgical treatment of acne scars  is twofold: one, to reduce the pigmentation, if any; and, two, to gently abrade the skin to remove the superficial scars and stimulate regeneration of new skin underneath.

Topical Applications Useful in Acne Scars

Most topical applications used to treat superficial acne scars are exfoliants which remove the superficial cells in the skin and cause mild abrasion of the skin to smoothen the surface out.

  • Topical Tretinoin: Topical tretinoin has a dual role to play in acne scars. It acts against normal acne bumps and also straightens out mild superficial acne scars. It loosens the epidermal debris and dead cells and removes them to give the skin a fresh, shiny appearance. By affecting the epidermal cell turnover, tretinoin help prevent blockage of the sebaceous and hair ducts and also plays a role in inhibiting inflammatory response within. Topical tretinoin is not effective in deep and medium depth acne scars.
  • Glycolic Acids, from strengths 20-70%, are used as chemical peels and are useful in superficialacne scars.
  • A combination of mandelic acid and salicylic acid is used as a peel and is useful in some types of superficial acne scars.
  • Tap water iontophoresis with added tretinoin, estrogen and associated electric stimulation of skin (ESS) was found effective in reducing acne bumps and also fading superficial acne scars.
  • Ablation of the scars with sterile needles followed by application of copper peptides improves the appearance of acne scars by stimulating collagen production.
  • Topical steroids under occlusion may be used for short lengths of time for hypertrophic acne scars. These has to be used very carefully as they may initiate fresh attacks of acne bumps.
  • Intralesional steroid injections and silastic gel sheeting are effective to reduce the size of keloidal acne scars.
  • Hydroquinone 2-4%, Kojic acid 4%, Liqorice extract 10-40%, Arbutine 1%, Azelaic acid 15-20% are used in combination with the exfoliants to reduce the pigmentation of the scars. Topical tretinoin is sufficient in most cases to get rid of the pigmentation in acne scars, though.
  • Finally, there are a number of camouflage creams available in the pharmacies which would hide the ugly acne scars and blemishes temporarily. The technique of application for camouflage creams for acne are similar to the camouflage of vitiligo patches, though tackling the depth is an important differentiating factor.

In addition to the above, there are many OTC products and home remedies purported to be effective for acne scars, the claims about the usefulness of most of them are unfounded and unpredictable. Some, like citrus fruit juices, contain alpha hydroxy acids which cause superficial exfoliation; but at the natural strengths, are unable to produce much improvement in acne scars.

Systemic Medications to Treat Acne Scars

Oral medications are not very useful in the treatment of acne scars, but they are effective in preventing scar formation by limiting the severity of acne inflammation. Treatment with oral isotretinoin does help in reducing the depth of acne scars by smoothening out the collagen tissue beneath, but is of little value once the scars are fully formed.

Medical Treatment of Acne Scars: Related Articles

The information given in this article is for educational purpose only so that patients are aware of the options available for diagnosis and treatment of common skin, hair and nail diseases. No diagnosis should be made or treatment undertaken without first consulting your dermatologist. If you do so, the author will not be responsible for any consequences. The images provided are for illustration purpose only and should not be reproduced without the consent of the author.

About the Author of Skin Care Tips from Dermatologist: Dr Hanish Babu, MD
Dr Hanish Babu, MD, Dermatologist, Sharjah and Ajman, UAE
Dr Hanish Babu, MD

Dr Hanish Babu, MD is a dermatologist with more than 3 decades of experience in treating skin and sexually transmitted diseases in UAE and India. He has been practicing in UAE since last 22 years. He is a respected speaker during the Continuing Medical education Programmes for doctors, medical students and paramedical staff and is also a Stress Management Trainer. He organises group therapy sessions for patients with psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo.

He is available for consultation at Cosmolaser Medical Centre in Samnan, Sharjah (06 5678 200) from 9 am – 1 pm and at City Medical Centre, Al Bustan, Ajman (06-7 441 882) from 4.30 pm – 9.30 pm.

Visit his personal website for more details and for educational articles on Skin, hair, nail and sexually transmitted diseases. Click here to Book an Appointment with dermatologist Dr Hanish Babu, MD

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