Acne is one of the most common diseases in the world, affecting up to 90% of adolescents, and is colloquially known as breakouts, pimples or zits. Although they may not be life-threatening, acne can result in significant scarring and long-lasting emotional distress.
Post-acne changes to the skin include:
- Post-acne marks: Red or brownish discolouration left behind on the skin after acne heals
- Acne scars: Raised or depressed changes to skin texture
These issues can be improved with the proper treatment. However, prevention is still the key here, and seeking help early from your healthcare provider is paramount to reduce the long-term complications of inflammatory acne.
The duration and number of sessions required for treatment of your acne scars or marks depends on your skin type, various skin issues, adherence to the pre- and post- care routine, as well as your desired skin outcome.
In this article, we share tips on pre & post-treatment care for optimizing skin recovery.
What to do before the acne scar treatment
The most important thing to do before embarking on acne scar treatment is to prevent formation of new scars. This is done with early effective control of inflammatory acne, as well as having good skincare habits. This means, no picking at acne spots when they form.
If your acne has resolved and you are ready to start with scar treatment, do consult your healthcare provider for proper assessment of the types of scars and the appropriate treatment for your scar type.
As a general rule, most treatments for atrophic acne scars aim to rebuild collagen in the skin and may result in some downtime. These treatments include: fractional CO2 lasers, fractional Pico lasers, TCA cross treatment, scar subcision.
1. Stop using topical skincare actives
Similar to any facial treatment, your skin will need to be prepared properly for the procedure. If you are applying topical medication that may affect the sensitivity of your skin, such as Vitamin A derivatives such as Tretinoin (Retin A, Retacnyl), differin; retinols and retinol esters, topical exfoliants such as AHAs, BHAs, PHAs, and skin lightening creams like hydroquinone, you will be required to stop using these creams 3 to 5 days prior to treatment.
Discontinuing the usage of these actives reduces the risk of irritation to the skin during the healing process, thus reducing the risks of complications. Instead, only use products endorsed by your doctor before treatment.
2. Apply sunscreen regularly and avoiding excessive sun exposure
Sunscreen should be an integral part of everyone’s skincare routine, especially in sunny Singapore. Regular application of sunscreen reduces the appearance of post-acne marks, reduces collagen breakdown in the skin, and sun-induced photodamage. If you have had recent intense sun-exposure in the prior two weeks, or are currently sun-burnt, you will have to postpone your acne scar treatment to a later date.
What to do after the acne scar treatment
1. Keep your skin clean and moisturised (especially the treated areas)
After fractional scar treatment, the skin’s integrity is usually compromised, making it vulnerable to bacteria and dirt. It is of utmost importance that the aftercare is done properly to the treated areas of the skin.
It is safe to wash your face a few hours after the acne scar treatment, unless advised otherwise. Be sure to use a mild cleanser without acids and exfoliating particles twice a day. Apply a light moisturiser after cleansing to prevent the skin from drying out and delaying the healing process.
If your doctor has prescribed topical medication after treatment, it is important to follow the instructions for application during the recovery period.
Post-treatment, it is vitally important for sun avoidance. This is to reduce the risk of post-treatment hyperpigmentation, which are dark marks that are formed over the areas of treated skin. Sunscreen should also be applied only 24 hours after treatment.
3. Avoid make-up post treatment
Refrain from wearing makeup for at least 24 hours following the acne scar treatment. Makeup may impede the healing process by entering the wounds on your skin and being a source of infection. In addition, the ingredients within cosmetics have a potential to cause further irritation to the skin.
After 72 hours (3 days), light makeup may be applied to but it is safer to only start your full routine after all the scabs have healed.
4.Applying skincare actives only as advised.
Topical retinoids and exfoliants should be withheld until the initial skin healing process is complete, usually 7 to 10 days post-procedure.
5. Avoid picking at the skin after treatment
Scabs may form after fractional laser treatments. These may remain on the face from 5 to 10 days later. Picking at these scabs will only delay the healing process and increase the risk of infection and scar formation.
Consult an acne scar doctor for the proper acne scar treatment care advice.
Consult an acne scar doctor for the proper acne scar treatment care advice. Your therapist or doctor will provide you with ample information on how you can best prepare your skin for a smooth and successful treatment.
Speak to our doctor for a more complete understanding of pre- and post-treatment care for acne scar treatments.
Acne Scar Treatment FAQs
Can acne scars be permanent?
Depending on the severity or intensity of the inflammation, the lasting impression of acne scarring can vary. While some may fade on their own with time, most acne scars are permanent and may come in the form of ice pick scars, boxcar scars, rolling scars, hyperpigmentation or hypertrophic or keloid scars.
Why do I need to consult a doctor for acne scars?
Professional therapists and dermatologists are able to perform procedures such as extractions or exfoliation as they keep a clean environment and use sanitized tools to remove the acne pus. When we do it at home, there is seldom a guarantee that our hands or fingers are 100% clean, hence we may run the risk of infection or possibly spread the bacteria from the pus to other non-affected areas.
Are acne scar removal treatments effective?
Yes, acne scar removal treatments are recommended for anyone who wants smoother-looking skin. Illumia Medical’s Pico Laser is effective in treating acne, breakouts, acne scars, pigmentation, melasma, liver (age) spots, freckles and tattoo removal.
Are acne scar removal treatments painful?
Depending on the type of treatment you are prescribed, acne scar removal treatments may range in pain intensity. For invasive treatments such as subcision, the procedures may be slightly painful due to the nature of the surgery. Non-ablative treatments like Illumia’s Pico Laser have been reported to have tolerable pressure by satisfied clients.
Am I eligible for an acne scar removal treatment?
Every skin is unique. Our specialists will run a thorough skin analysis for you to better understand your skin type, condition and its needs, and discuss with you on your treatment options to help you achieve your desired results.
How is acne scar treatments different from ointments and topical creams?
Certain scar-removal ointments containing glycolic and salicylic acid can help in gradually reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. With acne scars like ice pick scars or boxcar scars, which are some of the most common types of atrophic scars, these may require professional help.