If dealing with serious acne was not embarrassing and uncomfortable enough already, many acne sufferers wind up with unsightly scars on their face and back that last years after their acne has healed.
Conventional wisdom states that nothing can be done about scarring and that they fade over time, but I can tell you from experience that there are easily accessible and affordable acne scar treatments available right now for you to use from the comfort of your own home. Below, you will discover what the different kinds of scars are and the best way to get rid of these acne scars fast and without resorting to expensive or painful treatments.
Get Rid of Acne Scars – Table of Contents
Types of Acne Scars
While medical texts may use more specific descriptions, according to www.AcneScarHQ.com, the 3 primary types of scars: Keloid Scars, Hypertrophic Scars, and Atrophic Scars.
- Keloid Scars are the most serious form of scarring. They are also very rare, especially for those with white skin. Many people with bad scarring seem to think they have keloid scars, but they do not. Keloid scars are more than just unsightly scars, they are the result of an abnormality in the healing process in tissue. They may grow over time, long after the initial injury. The exact cause of keloids is unknown, but it is likely to be autoimmune in nature (meaning the result of abnormal immune system function). This is why medical researchers have been unable to isolate the exact cause of keloids – it is likely that there are numerous gene mutations and immune cell abnormalities that could contribute to these types of scars, so one person’s keloids may have a different root cause than the next. Keloid scars are the result from acne are extremely rare.
- Hypertrophic Scars are raised, thick scars. Most serious, thick scars are are hypertrophic, not keloid. Hypertrophic scars are common after surgery or injury. Serious acne may cause hypertrophic scarring, but this is not very common. Picking or popping large pimples can contribute to this type of scarring.
- Atrophic Scars occur when the tissue is removed or has shrunk, often resulting in slight depressions in the skin where the scar is located. Most acne scars are atrophic. Fortunately, these are also the easiest to improve upon!
Note that redness and swelling is common and may persist for some time after bad acne has healed over. A scar is something that is permanent and will not go away on its own. Redness, swelling, and discoloration may persist for a few months before healing normally; a wound still heals for some time after the skin is covered. This may not necessarily lead to a mature scar. A true scar will result in a distinct difference in the appearance of skin, whereas redness or swelling may just be an indicator of swelling that will heal on its own.
Silicone Strips for Acne Scars
Silicone strips are adhesive strips with a thin silicone layer that can be applied to scars. The mechanism of why applying a thin layer of silicone to a scar is so effective, but it is by far the most effective method for reducing the appearance of all types of scars.
Not only do silicone strips reduce the coloring of scars, but they also flatten the scar – raising sunken-in skin from the result of atrophic scars as well as flattening out thick, raised hypertrophic and keloid scars. Silicone strips are also the only proven over-the-counter (i.e. does not require a medical procedure or prescription) method for reducing the appearance of keloid scars.
While there are a lot of brands of silicone strips available, no brand comes close to the quality and effectiveness of Mepiform. You probably have not seen them in the store because Mepiform actually does not market directly to the public. They do not have a flash box or marketing campaign and instead sell directly to hospitals and doctors. These are the preferred brands of hospital burn units, dermatologists, surgeons (both plastic and otherwise) as they are simply far more effective than any other brand out there.
Unfortunately, being medical grade, Mepiform used to have the downside of being too expensive. However, now you can buy them through a medical supply company that sells on Amazon. This is a little-known method for getting your hands on the “good stuff” without getting ripped off by the intense price mark-ups that doctor’s offices use to profit off the uneducated consumer! You can not find these at your local drug store. The Mepiform strips are much better than the over-the-counter strips you see advertised on TV or on the shelves at your local pharmacy.
The strips come in two sizes: a 4″ by 7″ strip (about 10 cm by 18 cm) and a 1.6″ by 12″ strip (4 cm by 30 cm). For acne scarring, you get the most for your money by using the 4″ by 7″ strips and cutting each strip into 1.5″ by 1.5″ pieces. Each square can then be placed over each large scar. For long, surgical scars, you will want to get the 1.6″ by 12″ strip size.
The best prices on these strips can be found on Amazon, available in the sizes below:
- Box of 5 strips, 4″ by 7″ size. This is ideal for acne scars and gives you the most Mepiform strip for your money. You can then use a pair of scissors to cut them into the shape of your acne scars in order to get more out of each strip.
- Box of 5 strips, 1.6″ by 12″ size. This is ideal for long, thin scars (typically from surgery).
- Box of a single 4″ by 7″ strip. This will let you try out the strips if you are skeptical without buying a full box, or if you only have 1-2 small scars.
If you decide to order these, please order them by clicking on one of the links below to head to the Amazon site. Giving full disclosure, ordering the strips through the links above will make a few dollars in commission on the sale. It might not sound like much, but it is what allows us to provide no-BS information on what scar treatments work without having the site littered with ads or other third-party interests.
How to Use Silicone Strips to Get Rid of Acne Scars
It is of utmost importance that you understand exactly how to apply silicone strips to reduce scarring. Failure to follow these instructions will result in the strips not working properly and also will result in wasting strips. Given that these strips are relatively expensive, you will want to follow these procedures in order to get the most out of each strip:
- Before Applying: First, wash the skin around where you want to apply the strip. Next, pat the area dry and shave around the scar as much as possible. Hair will prevent the strips from sticking as well as will make the treatments less effective. You do not want to use a razor as that might irritate the scar. Instead, just use a hair trimmer set on the lowest setting. Next, gently wash the area where you want to apply the strip, pat it dry, and allow the area to air dry for 10-15 minutes before applying the strip.
- Choosing the Right Strip Size: Next, grab your strips and a pair of scissors and cut them to the appropriate size. You want about 1/2″ (or about 1.25 cm) of leeway on all sides of your scar. For example, if your scar is a 1/4″ (.5 cm) across, you will want to cut a strip that is 1.25″ by 1.25″. This provides you with the 1/4″ of strip to cover the scar, then 1/2″ of extra material on all sides. You do not want to just cover the scar. You must cover the skin surrounding the scar in this manner. Save the plastic piece that the strip came on – it will serve a purpose later.
- Applying the Strip: Place the strip directly over top of the scar in question. Press it gently in the center, attaching it to the scar first. Then, smooth out the rest of the strip with your fingers, ensuring there is no air bubbles in the strip. The strip must be firmly attached to the scar and the surrounding tissues to yield optimal results. Keep lightly smoothing over the strip until all air bubbles have been worked out.
- Caring for the Strip: In order for the strip to work, your primary concern is making sure it sticks and you keep the air bubbles out. Regularly smooth over it with your fingers to push out any air bubbles and to press down any of the edges that might start peeling back. If you are using the strips on your body, try to wear loose clothing over the strip in order to protect it. If you have to wear a particular piece of clothing or uniform that is rubbing the strip off, you can gently wrap an ACE bandage over the strip in order to give it a little extra protection. If the strip is near a joint or active area, you will need to regularly smooth it out to get it to stick again with
- Showering: There are two options for showering. First, you can shower with the strip on and just pat it dry when you get out of the shower. This works just fine. However, if you really want to clean the area where the strip was, you can peel the strip off, place it on the plastic piece the strip came on that you saved (as I had mentioned a few bullets up), shower, dry the area, then peel the used strip off the plastic wrap and put it back on. If it is still early in the strip’s life cycle (one strip can last up to 2 weeks), then this works just fine. If the strip is getting old and dirty this may not work and you will likely need a new strip once you remove it. If you are using the strips on your face, you can take them off each night so you can wash your face and remove your make up (if you are wearing make up). You can pat the area dry and re-use the same strip until all the adhesiveness has worn off.
- Wear Your Strips As Much As Possible: Some people who fail to experience improvements with silicone strips make the mistake of only wearing them around the house or when they are sleeping. This is a mistake as silicone strips not only provide the silicone but also apply tension to the scar and the surrounding tissues to help flatten raised scars and elevate depressed scars. When you are active, tension is applied to the skin and scar in an innumerable number of ways, resulting in greater mobilization and challenge to the tissue. If you just wear the strips when you sleep, you are not going to get the full benefit. I understand that some people may not be willing to wear the strips to important meetings or on a date. You can pull them off at any time and put them back on the plastic for later in these situations. You do not have to wear them 24 hours a day, but the more you can wear them, the better they work.
- Removing the Strip: A strip will last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks, depending on its location. A strip in an area that moves a lot like your shoulder will not last as long as a strip on your face or your chest. Each time you change a strip, you will want to wait a day or two before applying a new one to give the skin a chance to breathe. If you wear a strip constantly with no break, the hair follicles in that area may get irritated, so it is a good idea to give them a rest between strips.
The longer you wear the strips, the more effect they have. In my experience, most of the benefit is “used up” after about 3 months of using the strips with some regularity. You can continue to get small improvements from here, but the biggest pay-off in the flattening of scars and removal of discoloration happens during the first few months.
Video Guide Demonstrating How to Use Silicone Strips for Scars
How to Get Rid of Acne Scars With Creams and Gels
One of the most popular ways to attempt to get rid of acne scars fast is through the use of creams and gels. Creams and gels can be a useful supplement to strips, especially on the days when you are giving your skin a rest or if there are times throughout the day when you cannot wear your silicone strips, such as during an important work day or on a date.
Please understand that no cream or gel is going to be as effective as the silicone strips if your scar is depressed (common with acne scars) or raised (common with more serious scarring). As mentioned in the silicone strips section of the this page, the tension a high-quality strip like Mepiform provides is just as important to improving the look and shape of a scar as the silicone itself.
If you have no significant elevation or depression in your acne scars (just discoloration) or simply cannot (or are unwilling) to wear silicone strips around the clock, some creams and gels can be a useful supplement. If you are using both gels or creams along with silicone strips, do not apply the gels or creams within an hour or so of when you plan to use your strip as this may interfere with the adhesiveness of the strip.
- Silicone Gel – Silicone is the primary ingredient of the silicone strips that work so well, so it stands to reason that the same ingredient in a gel would help with scars as well. I recommend Kelo-Cote Advanced Formula Scar Gel. Apply a small amount of gel onto a q-tip and rub it over the scar. A single tube can last for months if you are conservative with the applications. You can get the best price on this product at Amazon by clicking here.
- Mederma – Mederma is the most popular scar reduction gel on the market. I was quite surprised to discover that Mederma’s actual product is a gel that contains onion extract. I am actually testing this product out right now, but cannot comment on its effectiveness.
Medical Procedures for Acne Scar Removal
Traditionally, a surgical procedure known as an excision is the most common method to get rid of acne scars. In this procedure, a surgeon cuts the scar tissue away from the skin and allows the skin to heal again. Usually, stitches or a skin graft are placed over the new wound to promote healing a way that minimizes scarring.
The problem with excision is that often the resulting scars are worse than the original ones! As a result, excision is only typically used on keloid scars, which can grow over time (even after the initial injury) and become painful. However, excision for even these serious scars has begun to fall out of favor given that recent research shows that keloid scars removed from surgery have a 5-year recurrence rate of up to 50%. This means that even if you had surgery to remove a keloid scar, there is a 50% chance it will spontaneously return within 5 years.
In order to reduce the scarring and trauma induced by excision, a more modern surgical approach for scar reduction is subcision. Subcision works by promoting new scar tissue growth underneath the top layer of the scar; therefore pushing the tissue closer to the surface. This works well on most depressed types of scars. Instead of cutting out the scar tissue however, a doctor will insert a needle into the scar at an angle and detach the internal structure of the scar from the base of the pore, allowing the new collagen to fill in the void. This is commonly used to get rid of acne scars and is a much more viable solution than excision for typical atrophic acne scars.
Laser treatments work similarly to subcision and damage the scar tissue deep within the scar. To get rid of the acne scars, lasers cause new collagen to form in the voids caused by the lasers and can effectively raise pitted scars to the level of the skin’s surface.
Injections are sometimes used in conjunction with subcision. After the scar tissue has been disconnected under the surface of the scar, doctors can inject a filler (known as a dermal filler) into the void to raise the scar to surface level. Most commonly, dermal fillers are made up of collagen or silicone. In some cases, the patient’s own body fat can be used as a filler.
Other medical treatments that do not involve cutting the scar can be carried out in a dermatologist’s office. Abrasion techniques (microdermabrasion and dermabrasion) are used to sand down any excess collagen that has caused a scar to be raised above the skin. (Also known as a hypertrophic scar.) Chemical peels work in a similar fashion, but employ acidic chemicals for the purpose of peeling away the top layer of skin.