Acne Scars

Let’s be honest, if pimples were the only part of an acne problem, life wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, your acne cycle doesn’t begin and end with them. The scars that certain pimples leave you with can feel like someone is pointing a big, flashing, sign to the spot where it previously existed. However, with today’s technology and treatments, getting rid of those pesky acne scars is easier than ever.

What Are Acne Scars?

Acne scars form as a result of underlying tissue damage caused by an acne breakout. As acne heals, your skin produces collagen (a natural substance that is formed to support your skin) to repair the damage. If the collagen produced is under or over the necessary amount, a scar is likely to form. 

Why Do I Have Acne Scars? 

You’ve probably been told this before, but do not touch, pick, squeeze, or pop your pimples! This causes inflammation of the skin and is one of the main reasons people develop scars once their acne clears up. Other reasons acne scars may appear are:

  • Genetics: If you have a family member who suffers, or has suffered, from acne scars it may increase your chances in developing them. However, the exact extent to which genes play a role in the development of acne scars is unknown and impossible to predict.
  • Type of acne: If your acne is painful or inflammatory, you have a higher risk of scarring. Acne such as cysts and nodules tend to penetrate deeply into the skin. This results in more damage to the underlying tissue, leading to a higher possibility of scar development.
  • Delayed treatment of acne: If your acne can be considered inflammatory, and is left untreated, you carry a greater risk of scarring. 

What Are The Different Types Of Scarring?

Acne scars fall into 2 main categories: Hypertrophic and Atrophic. These categories are based off whether or not the scars are raised or depressed on the skin. 


Hypertrophic acne scars appear as an area of raised tissue on the skin. These scars are produced when the body over produces the collagen necessary to repair the damage that acne has caused to the skin. The most common type of hypertrophic scarring are keloid scars. Keloid acne scars are areas of raised tissue that form while the body recovers from cystic acne. These scars tend to look discolored when compared to your normal skin tone. 

Although keloid and hypertrophic acne scars fall under the same category of scarring, it’s important to know that they are different from each other, as treatment methods for each may vary. Hypertrophic scars can develop anywhere on the body, are rarely more than 4 millimeters above the skin, and are pink or red in color. Keloid scars may form anywhere above the sternum, can grow over time, are raised more than 4 millimeters off the skin, and tend to be more purplish in color. Keloid scars may also come attached with troublesome symptoms, such as pain or itchiness. 


Atrophic scars appear as small depressions or pits in the skin. They occur as a result of your body under producing collagen while attempting to repair the damage that acne has done. There are multiple classifications of atrophic scars:

  • Boxcar: These scars are wide and horseshoe shaped. The severity of a boxcar scar can be determined by how deep it is. The indentation on the skin will have sharp edges. 
  • Ice pick: These scars are narrower and deeper than boxcar scars. They are shaped like a V and can appear as small round holes on the surface of your skin. Ice pick scars are among the most difficult to treat because of how far they extend under the epidermis.
  • Rolling: These scars have smooth edges and may give the skin a wavy texture. If you suffer from multiple rolling scars, they can look like a series of indentations and rises over the skin. 

Treatment Options

Here at the Virginia Eye Institute Aesthetics Center, we offer multiple treatment options for getting rid of acne scars. 

  • Dermal Fillers: Dermal Fillers can fill out the indentations and depressions on your skin that are caused by atrophic acne scars. Fillers are injected under the affected area of skin in order to restore a smooth surface. Dermal fillers are recommended for people who want a quick fix for their rolling or boxcar acne scars.
  • Fractora: Fractora is a fractional skin resurfacing and sub-dermal tissue coagulation device that works to tighten the skin. This device has been shown to improve acne scarring by 50% in recent clinical studies. One of the best features about Fractora is that it can be considered a “lunch-time” procedure, meaning one treatment session will only last around 45 minutes. Fractora may also be used on active cystic acne. Fractora removes acne scars by tightening the collagen that resides under the skin’s surface.
  • C02 Laser Resurfacing: The primary focus of a C02 laser resurfacing device is to make your skin appear healthier and younger. The device we use is called the “Lutronic eC02”. It is an ablative device, meaning that it works to resurface your skin by removing it layer by layer. Because of its precision, we can smooth your skin out without causing serious damage to the dermis. Although it can be considered a lunch-time procedure, the recovery process may take longer than our other skin treatments. However, redness and other unwanted effects should only take around 10 days to fade away.
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL Treatment): An IPL treatment is used to solve a number of skin problems. It works by discharging multiple wavelengths of light at your skin. This allows the light to penetrate the second layer of skin (dermis) without harming the top layer of skin (epidermis). The IPL device we use is InMode’s Lumecca. Clear results with this device can be seen in just one or two sessions. It is a lunch-time procedure and your session will have little to no pain involved.
  • Zo Skin Health: Medical-grade skincare products, like the ZO Medical Therapeutic Solutions products we carry, may be an option for patients suffering from acne scars. Schedule a consultation with our Master Aesthetician for more information.

How Can I Prevent Acne Scars From Forming In The Future?

If you suffer from a history of acne scars, or currently have acne and are trying to prevent scars from forming in the near future, you:

  • Should stay away from the sun. Direct sun exposure can make acne scars worse by darkening them, therefore making them appear more prominent on the skin. If you can’t avoid contact with the sun, wear sunscreen and make sure to consistently reapply it. 
  • Should not irritate your existing acne. This includes picking, touching, and even over-washing your affected areas. Bacteria can spread around the affected area if you are not careful, adding on to your acne. 
  • Should eat a healthy diet. Sometimes acne stems from a diet heavy in refined grains and sugars. If you eat a diet that is heavily dependent on breads and sugary foods, consider cutting down and adding more omega-3 fats into your daily caloric intake. Foods like fish and walnuts are heavy in omega-3. 
If you have any questions about acne scars or how to get rid of them, contact us at 804-287-2022 to learn more.