Unfortunately scarring is a relatively common and often unpredictable complication of acne, developing in about 1 out of every 5 individuals with the condition. Severity of acne does not necessarily relate to the risk of scarring with acne. Some individuals with mild acne develop scarring, while other individuals with severe acne do not experience this complication.

Deep acne lesions and those that are badly inflamed (red, hot, tender, and swollen) are more likely to scar, but mild lesions can also do so. Thus, it really is not all that clear why some individuals with acne tend to develop scarring.

True scars from acne are not expected to go away on their own over time, but there are different treatments available to reduce their appearance. These treatments are generally available through a dermatologist and are specific to the particular type of scar.

Some examples of treatments or procedures that improve the appearance of acne scars include laser treatments, dermabrasion, corticosteroid injections, and chemical peels. As well, it is very important to minimize the development of new acne lesions so that further scarring does not develop. If you have not already seen a dermatologist, this might be an important next step.

If you are experiencing hyperpigmentation (a darkening or reddening of the skin) from acne, keep in mind that this condition is different from scarring and can fade or may even go away entirely as time passes and with treatment. Patience is important in treating hyperpigmentation as the treatment period tends to be 6 to 12 months.

Treatments include agents that fade the darkened areas of the skin, such as hydroquinone, azelaic acid, and topical retinoids. These agents require a doctor’s prescription. Sun exposure can increase the risk of hyperpigmentation and reduce the effectiveness of treatment, so remember to use a nongreasy, noncomedogenic broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater to prevent further hyperpigmentation.