Experiencing severe acne as a teenager or young adult can be frustrating and may sometimes affect self-esteem. While most acne sufferers outgrow the skin eruptions, the scars left from long-term inflammation may remain for a lifetime.

Treatment of acne scars ranges from simple excision or injection with a filler to more complex procedures such as skin resurfacing with a laser or dermabrasion. The best treatment option in each case depends on the specific type and severity of the scar. For example, a deep “ice pick” type of scar is not likely to change with laser therapy but can be easily improved by an excision. A classification system of acne scars using a standardized grading scale (Grade 1 to 4) is useful in selecting the proper treatment for each patient.

Laser treatments are becoming more popular thanks to the development of nonablative and “fractional” laser technologies.

  • Traditional ablative lasers, such as CO2 and erbium lasers, use energy to remove the top layer of skin and have been successful in improving the certain types of acne scars.
  • Newer nonablative lasers attempt to improve the skin structure by targeting collagen to tighten the skin, and leave the upper skin layers intact. This results in less downtime after treatment but the results may not be as effective as with an ablative laser.
  • Fractional lasers may combine the best of both ablative and nonablative technologies by causing only small areas of ablation in the skin resulting in a faster recovery.

When considering treatment for acne scars, lasers may offer one option for significant improvement. A discussion with a Board Certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon can be useful in determining which option in best for you.