The Causes of Acne Scars and How to Remove Them

Acne breakouts might be a temporary issue, but the scars they leave behind can become permanent. While the initial marks pimples leave behind are a normal part of the healing process, they don’t always fade away as they should.

Even worse, they can leave the skin looking irritated and have an uneven texture that can be difficult to cover up. Instead of caking on makeup, people are taking the proper steps to both prevent scarring and remove existing scars. These are the most common causes of acne scars and the best way to eliminate them.

Causes of Acne Scars

All scars are caused by damage to the dermis layer, or second layer of the skin. When it comes to acne breakouts, that damage can be done in several ways when the follicle wall ruptures or when you try to pop a pimple. Since there are numerous kinds of acne, they each require a different method of treatment to lower the risk of a scar.


A pustule is an inflamed blemish that forms when the pores get clogged and eventually become so engorged that the follicle wall ruptures. In reaction to this, the pore swells up and appears red and sore. White blood cells rush to the area, causing pus to form and leaving you with a whitehead or a pustule. While it’s very tempting to pop these kinds of pimples, doing so actually pushes the bacteria deeper into the pore, leaving your skin looking and feeling much worse. This is also a common way of scarring the skin. Instead, use a warm compress to gently drain the blemish, and you’ll be less likely to aggravate the skin.


Milia blemishes differ from pustules as they aren’t inflamed and don’t feel sore. Rather than being filled with puss, milia are filled with sebum, or oils that are trapped under the skin’s surface.  You can tell the difference between the two as a milia will look like a small, hard, white bump. They both start out the same way, but unlike pustules, milia breakouts don’t form from a follicle wall rupture. Popping them isn’t recommended, but doing so won’t push the bacteria deeper into the pore.

Causes of Severe Acne Scars

While most of us have to deal with just a few acne scars in our lifetime, others suffer from severe acne marks that form when something goes wrong during the skin’s healing process. Either the body produces too much collagen, or too little. When too much collagen is produced, raised bumps appear on the skin’s surface in small or large ripples. These are referred to as hypertrophic scars. When not enough collagen is produced, deep pitted marks appear on the skin, almost like pin holes. These are called atrophic scars. Passed on genetically, there are few options for those who are looking to get rid of their acne marks.

Eliminating Acne Scars

The scars and marks left behind by acne can really damage one’s self-image. Applying makeup helps, but most forms of acne scars leave the skin’s texture uneven and bumpy, making it impossible to hide. These are some methods that have been proven to diminish acne scars:

Retinol Creams

For mild acne scarring, retinol creams can do wonders. Especially for those who are younger and still have healthy skin, retinol creams can fix your skin tone and significantly fade acne scars. Often found over the counter, retinol creams are a simple solution to this problem, but aren’t strong enough to get rid of severe acne marks.

Chemical Peels

If you have medium acne scarring, a chemical peel might be a better option. It can be performed on a number of different levels, depending on how severe your acne marks are. Some chemical peels require a few weeks of downtime as they remove more layers of the skin and require more time to heal. Mild chemical peels don’t require more than a few days for the skin to heal itself.

Laser Skin Rejuvenation

For those with severe acne scars, laser skin rejuvenation is one of the only treatment options that has been proven to work. The laser is able to penetrate the deepest layers of the skin without causing damage to the exterior, allowing you to be treated without needing any downtime. By creating microscopic wounds to the skin, laser skin rejuvenation forces the body to form new skin cells, ultimately replacing the damaged ones. Additionally, these treatments encourage collagen growth and offer the skin the opportunity to heal properly. Several treatments are required, depending on the severity of your acne marks and often only take an average of 20 minutes. Most people are able to squeeze in their laser sessions before work or on their lunch breaks since there are few side effects.

Learn about the many other skin benefits of laser skin rejuvenation in this video:

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Paul A. Boulos
Dr. Paul A. Boulos is an excellent and versatile cosmetic surgeon, passionate about his vocation and helping others. Dr. Boulos is an alumni of Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his General Surgery training at Inspira Medical in Southern New Jersey. He studied and learn under Dr. Joseph Castellano, one of the premier breast and body Cosmetic Surgeons in South Florida. He currently works as a Cosmetic Surgeon at Jolie Plastic Surgery in Miami, FL.