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How to Remove Pimple Scars

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 16, 2021

Pimple scars are a nuisance left behind by acne. They aren’t painful, but these scars can harm your self-esteem.

There’s a variety of treatment options to reduce the appearance of your stubborn pimple scars. They depend on your type of scarring and skin. You’ll need specific treatments determined by you and your doctor.

Subcision for Pimple Scars

This procedure is also called a subcutaneous incision. Subcision involves using a surgical probe or needle to separate skin and pimple scar tissue. This treatment causes your skin to raise. It flattens depressed (sunken) scars.

The results of this treatment are almost immediate with slight bruising for 1 to 2 weeks. Follow-ups such as laser treatments can be used to relieve any leftover discoloration from scars.

Laser Resurfacing

This treatment option is good for pimple scars that aren’t very deep. Laser resurfacing removes the uppermost layer of your skin. Your body then produces new skin cells. This diminishes the appearance of widespread pimple scars.

Laser resurfacing is a popular follow-up treatment. It can be helpful for people with darker skin or who have a history of scar-like lesions called keloids.

Punch Techniques

There’s a variety of punch techniques including excision, elevation, and replacement grafting. The type of punch technique you need depends on the type of scar. A punch treatment removes the entire scar from your skin.

Punch techniques are the go-to pimple scar surgery. They are commonly paired with other surface-level treatments to reduce the appearance of large scars.

Injections for Acne Scars

Injections are used for a variety of cosmetic treatments. Steroid injections are the most common and are used for raised pimple scars.

Steroid injections soften and flatten swollen scars. Injection treatments often require multiple visits. More intensive treatment may be required if your scars don’t respond to the injections.

Pimple Scar Fillers

Filler injections involve plumping up depressed pimple scars using collagen, your own body fat, or another filler substance. Results are often temporary. They usually only last 6 to 18 months. There are other permanent options available.

Collagen injections may be recommended if your body has lost its natural collagen. Fillers are also used to treat wrinkles and face lines.

Skin Tightening

This procedure involves using radiofrequency or other energy-based therapy to smooth out pimple scars and tighten your skin. The changes from radiofrequency are subtle. This means you need repeated treatments for long-term effects.

Your skin is more sensitive after skin tightening treatments and requires at-home care. But this type of treatment is affordable, safe for any skin color, and effective on deep pimple scars.

Dermabrasion for Pimple Scars

Dermabrasion is similar to laser resurfacing. Your doctor uses a mechanical instrument to slowly remove the top layer of skin. A smooth layer of new skin replaces the scarred layer as you heal. This procedure is effective against surface pimple scars and typically requires a week of recovery.

There is another treatment called microdermabrasion. It involves a series of treatments with shorter recovery times.

Acne Scar Chemical Peel

Chemical peels are like other resurfacing methods but not as precise as laser or dermabrasion. Chemical peels utilize a chemical solution that causes your skin to blister and peel off. This allows the skin to regrow smoother than before.

Chemical peels are primarily used for surface-level pimple scars. They also help treat sun-damaged skin or even out irregular skin pigments.

Needling for Pimple Scars

Needling is also known as skin needling, microneedling, or collagen induction. This process uses a small instrument to create pin-pricks on the surface of your skin. The needles stimulate collagen production and improve skin texture.

Most people require multiple needling treatments. Laser treatments may be recommended alongside needling for severe pimple scars.

Fractional Laser Therapy

This type of laser treatment works deeper than laser resurfacing. It targets the blood vessels beneath the pimple scar to lighten its color and flatten it if necessary.

Fractional laser therapy doesn’t target your skin’s surface. This means the top layer isn’t damaged. That allows for a shorter healing time with minimal side effects.

Cryosurgery for Acne Scars

This treatment involves freezing your pimple scar tissue. The extreme cold causes the tissue to die and fall off. Cryosurgery may be supplemented with steroid injections to improve treatment results.

Cryosurgery is riskier for people with darker skin. The treatment will often lighten the skin tone of the treated area.

At-Home Pimple Scar Removal

You can’t entirely remove pimple scars at home. But you can make them less noticeable. Medicated creams that contain azelaic acid and hydroxyl acids will make your scars less pronounced. Wearing sunscreen when outside will help reduce the color contrast between your skin and the scars.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology Association: “ACNE SCARS: DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT.”

Brenner Children’s: “Can Acne Scars Be Removed?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Top 3 Ways to Get Rid of Acne Scars.”

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: “Effective Treatments of Atrophic Acne Scars.”

Mayo Clinic: “Acne scars: What's the best treatment?”

Stanford Children’s Health: “Acne Scar Removal.”

TeensHealth: “Can Acne Scars Be Removed?”

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