Mohs Surgery
Dermatologist Scottsdale AZ
Scottsdale Dermatologist Dr. LaTowsky

Treatment of Acne Scars

Scars are the result of injury to the tissue. In the case of acne, a buildup of bacteria and sebum in the sebaceous follicle causes the injury. The body responds by sending white blood cells and inflammatory molecules to the damaged cells, which can remain at the injury site for weeks to heal the area and prevent infection. The skin attempts to repair these lesions by forming new collagen fibers, but, unfortunately, these “repairs” usually are not as smooth and flawless as the original skin. In severe cases of nodular acne where a larger infection occurs in the deeper layers of skin, tissue can be lost resulting in permanent scarring.
Why treat acne scarring?
Approximately 95% of people who experience acne have some scarring.  Studies on the psychosocial impact of acne have documented dissatisfaction with appearance, embarrassment, self-consciousness and lack of self-confidence, and acne has been associated with feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, less satisfaction with the body and lower self-worth. 

Treating acne scars, therefore, is critical to improved self-esteem and overall quality of life.  Because of the psychosocial impacts, addressing acne scars is a critical part of the acne management process.

What are the types of acne scars?
There are two main types of acne scars:
(1) Hypertrophic or keloid scarring:  These scars are caused when the body produces too much collagen as acne wounds heal, resulting in a mass of raised tissue on the skin's surface.  Hypertrophic scars are raised and lumpy and are generally found on the back and chest but can also appear on the neck and face. Often the result of severe acne (cysts or nodules), they generally stay within the boundary of the original wound and may decrease in size over time.
(2) Atrophic or depressed scarring: Caused by a loss of tissue, there are three types of atrophic scarring:

  • Icepick scars: Deep pits, usually less than 2mm across that extend into the skin, giving the skin an appearance of having been punctured
  • Boxcar scars: Angular scars with sharp vertical edges, that resemble the scars left by chicken pox. They may be shallow or deep and are most often found on the cheeks and temples.
  • Rolling scars: Caused by damage under the surface of the skin, giving the skin a wave-like appearance. These scars tend to be wide and shallow.

Acne scar do’s and don’ts


  • Avoid overexposure to the sun. The excess UV exposure can darken scars, causing them to look more prominent.
  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.


  • Irritate inflamed skin by over-washing or scrubbing scarred areas.  These irritants can further reduce skin elasticity, making the appearance of the scar worse.
  • Pick at scars. Bacteria from unwashed fingers and nails increases the risk of additional cysts forming, leading to the development of a larger scar.
  • Give up on your acne scars. New techniques and technologies are consistently coming out that can dramatically improve both the depth and appearance of acne scars.  Physician-supervised clinical studies may be available, enabling patients to receive treatment at no cost.

What are my treatment options?
Many treatment options are available to diminish the appearance of acne scars. Working with a certified Valley of the Sun Dermatology provider, a personalized treatment plan can be developed to address your individual concerns and desired outcomes. 

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