The misery isn’t always over when you get rid of acne. You may still have to deal with the aftermath of acne, even after you clear your skin. Sometimes, the acne or pimple leaves behind spot on your face. But that spot on your face can be either an acne scar or a dark mark. So, the pertinent question is how would you know whether it’s dark mark or an acne scar?
Before you search for an effective treatment, you must understand difference between an acne scar & acne mark, and the various types of acne scars.
What Are Dark Marks? (Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation Marks)
Patients often mistake acne dark spots for acne scars, but they’re actually very different. At times, what we think are acne scars are in fact Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH) marks left behind by mild to moderate acne breakouts. They are actually light or dark brown superficial marks on your skin that heal over time. Dark marks left behind by acne occur due to epidermal melanin that shows up as your body heals and eventually fade with time.
What Are Acne Scars?
They occur usually because of inflamed blemishes. When your skin pores get engorged with excess oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, the pores swell resulting into break in the follicle walls. At times the acne scars run deeper because of damage that breaks down the support structure in the skin’s deeper layers – that is, the layer beneath the surface of your skin. So remember not to pick at your zits as it can injure your skin and convert a mild breakout into a permanent scar.
Caution: Moderate to severe acne can break down collagen and elastin in the deeper layers of skin, which can leave an indented scar. So, consult a dermatologist for proper treatment in case of moderate to severe acne.
Acne Marks Vs. Acne Scars
(i) Acne marks are flat, but darker – so more noticeable on bare skin. On the other hand acne scars are indented, but colorless – so not so obvious unless you stare closely at them, have lots of really deep scarring or try to see them under direct light. Acne mark is more of a skin color issue and acne scar is more a skin texture issue.
(ii) As the acne marks are flat, thus can be concealed with makeup. But, you need to make efforts to find a good skin color match. On the other hand acne scars are noticeable under direct lighting. It’s hard to cover up acne scars because it’s difficult to find something that will “fill” them in.
Note: Shallow lesions are usually minor and heal quickly. But if there is a deep break in the walls of a pore, infected material can spill out into surrounding tissue, creating deeper lesions. The skin attempts to repair these lesions by forming new collagen fibers. These repairs usually aren’t as smooth and flawless as the original skin.
(iii) Acne marks are flat red or brown dots left behind by pimples. They tend to give skin a patchy, but flat look. Acne marks fade eventually on their own with time. However, they may take quite long time. It’s better to have acne marks, also called as post-acne hyperpigmentation, than acne scars as they at least respond to treatments and disappear gradually.
On the other hand, acne scars tend to give skin that pitted “orange peel” look. Unfortunately, they are generally more of permanent nature. Topical creams and lotions are not of much use in removing them, so beware of any such false claims. Acne scars don’ fade away completely, but their appearance can be minimized by invasive facial procedure, such as laser treatment or dermabrasion. Treatment with silicone microdroplet injections can also help reduce the appearance of indented scars. The results vary and in fact really aggressive and expensive acne scar treatments do not guarantee results.
(iv) Some people are more prone to hyperpigmentation, especially those who have fair skin. And there are some people who are more prone to acne scarring.
(v) So, consider yourself lucky if what you have are dark marks because with time they fade out, but the acne scars never go away 100%. Moreover, you can take steps to speed up healing of the acne marks and get back to clear, even-toned skin.
However, dark marks can last for somewhat longer time if caused by inflammatory acne (cystic lesions and nodules).
Types of Acne Scars
Let us now understand the types of acne scars. This is necessary for you to find out the acne scar type you have because it will help you to take on the right approach to get rid of them.
Here is a diagram to help you in having a basic understanding of the appearance of different types of acne scars.
(i) Atrophic Or Depressed Scarring. These scars develop when there is a loss of tissue. There are three common types of atrophic scarring as mentioned hereunder:
(a) Ice Pick Scars: These are deeper than they are wide, with jagged edges. They look like deep pits and are of varying sizes. They are the most common form of acne scars.
(b) Boxcar Scars: They are broad, rectangular depressions on your skin with steep, defined edges and are quite similar to chickenpox scars. They normally appear on your face but can occur on other parts as well. They can be shallow or deep.
(c) Rolling scars: They are named like this because they are broad depression with rounded and sloping edges, which make them appear in a wave-like shape.
(ii) Hypertrophic Or Keloid Scarring: These scars are caused when the body produces too much collagen as acne wounds heal. Because of the excess collagen inside them, they end up having a raised surface – resulting in to mass of raised tissues on the skin’s surface.
Tip: You can cut back the probability of scarring by not popping pimples or picking at spots. However, in spite of not doing all that, sometimes your skin may still scar. Whether you will get acne scars or acne marks just depends on your skin. Even though there is no guarantee for never getting a scar from a pimple, you can minimize the chances of that happening by not picking at spots and taking proper care of your skin (Learn here how to take care of acne prone skin)
Well, now you know the difference between scars and marks, and types of acne scars. So what next? We will show you how to get rid of dark acne marks and acne scars in our next post so as to regain a clear, flawless complexion. Stay tune with us.