Acne scars are one of the most common reasons why patients come to the Advanced Acne Institute. Many times, however, patients think that they have acne scars when in fact they have something else altogether. For example, many patients mistakenly call various forms of skin discoloration “acne scars.”
Acne scars are different from skin discoloration
The reality is that it’s common for patients to develop light or dark skin discoloration after a pimple heals but this form of discoloration should not be called acne scars. The real name for these marks is post inflammatory pigmentary alteration. Sometimes these so called “acne scars” can be very light red or sometimes deeper red. Sometimes the discoloration can be brownish.
Skin discoloration can be more frustrating than true acne scars
Even though they are not true acne scars, the fact is that they can often frustrate acne sufferers far more than real acne scars do. The discoloration is often more visible and obvious than acne scars. Many patients at the Advanced Acne Institute are more frustrated and concerned about the prominent discoloration than they are about actual acne scars. Many of our patients come to the Institute seeking treatment for the stains without realizing that they really need treatment for their acne or for the true acne scars.
Why can’t the discolorations be called “acne scars”
So how do you treat the discoloration associated with acne breakouts? Why can’t they be referred to as acne scars? Well, first of all, true acne scars are permanent marks, bumps or indentations caused by healing of the skin following the inflammation of a breakout. They are formed deep within the skin where the collagen fibers are produced. In the microscope, the collagen fibers are more dense and tightly packed than in normal skin. This makes the skin look different on the surface, often appearing either indented or thickened. These are true acne scars. On the other hand, in contrast to true acne scars, skin discoloration is simply caused by non-permanent changes in the pigmentation of an area on the skin. It can be caused by dilated blood vessels that cause the spot to appear red or it can be caused by changes in the amount of pigment in a particular area. If there is too much pigment in an area, the skin can appear dark whereas too little pigment in an area can leave the skin too light.
Acne scars can also be discolored
One of the reasons that acne scars are so visible is because they are often red in color. This is because they occur in a place where there was a large pimple. Patients often don’t realize that the redness is what really bothers them, not the acne scars. At the Advanced Acne Institute, we carefully explain to our patients that the redness will fade away with time and the acne scars will not look so prominent anymore.
How can acne scars be treated?
The best way to treat acne scars is to prevent them form occurring in the first place. For patients who have a lot of acne scars, the important thing is to heal their acne so no new scars form. Once the acne breakouts are under control, the redness of the acne scars will fade away. This will make the true acne scars much less noticeable. Also, the light and dark discoloration on normal skin areas will fade away with time. At the Advanced Acne Institute, we reassure our patients that the areas of discoloration will go away sooner than they realize once their acne is controlled.