So you used to have acne, and after dozens of treatments and skin care regimens, you finally have clear skin. The only minor blip on your happiness radar could be the scars that so many acne breakouts leave behind. Since scars don’t contain any of the pores or sweat glands of normal skin, they will always look slightly different than the surrounding skin. However, the color and height differences between scars and the natural skin around them can draw additional attention to this sensitive area. Many people know that there are surgical options for removing or reducing scars, but what about less drastic measures? Are there any over-the-counter solutions aimed at reducing or removing scars?
A scar forms when the deep connective tissue layer of the skin, the dermis, is injured. The body responds by making collagen to fill the gap, often overproducing collagen to give the area additional protection. Ideally, once collagen has sealed the wound and the injury has healed, cells in that area produce an enzyme called collagenase that takes apart the excess collagen, leaving a thin, flat layer. Two types of scars are common, depending on the amounts of collagenase produced. Hypertrophic scars are created when there is too little collagenase and the scar has a much thicker layer of collagen than necessary. These scars appear thicker than they should be, often bulging slightly above the normal surface of the skin. The other type of scar is sometimes referred to as an “icepick” or “pock mark” scar, and happens when too much collagen is removed from the area. These scars form a depression below the skin, and are the more common type of acne scar.
The good news about acne scars is that they do fade. Over time, the blood vessels under the scar that make new scars look pink will disappear, and the scar will begin to blend more easily into the surrounding skin. Sometimes, however, a little help is needed to speed the process up, or compensate for the collagen deficit or excess, and this is where acne scar removal creams and gels can help.
Silicone is a popular ingredient in scar removal products, as it has been found to lighten the colouring of the scar, and to flatten hypertrophic scars. Cortisone is thought to reduce inflammation in the skin surrounding the scar, and can also aid in calming scar-related discomfort. Vitamins A and C are also used frequently in topical treatments for scars. Vitamin A is meant to defend against free radical damage that can cause wrinkled scars, but it helps to smooth hypertrophic scars through exfoliation. Vitamin C works its magic deeper in the skin in the dermis layer, stimulating collagen formation to fill in depressed scars. Vitamin E is used in many scar reduction products, however its effectiveness in reducing scars is hotly debated, and it can actually irritate the skin.
It can seem like a long, difficult process to finally acquire clear, acne-free skin, and nothing is more discouraging than discovering some not-so-invisible scars from past breakouts on your newly beautiful skin. Acne scars, while often small, can take up to 2 years to significantly fade, and it can be hard to sit around and wait for them to disappear. Many surgical treatments are expensive and invasive, and can require significant healing time themselves. Fortunately, there are many topical products in the market aimed at reducing the appearance of scars, either through thickening a depressed scar, depressing a raised scar, or lightening a scar itself.
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