For those suffering from severe acne scarring, new studies offer hope that even the most distressing scars can be significantly improved. Patients now have more options to tackle their scarring challenges thanks to recent advances in laser technology, minimally invasive procedures, and combination treatment approaches.
One critical development is the use of fractionated lasers for acne scars. Traditional ablative lasers vaporize the entire scarred area, which requires extensive healing time. Fractionated lasers penetrate the skin in tiny microscopic columns, targeting and eliminating scar tissue while preserving healthy tissue.
A 2022 study published in Dermatologic Surgery demonstrated that four sessions with a 1550nm fractional erbium glass laser provided significant improvement in patients with severe facial acne scarring. The non-ablative fractional laser allowed faster healing between treatments. Researchers found that the worst pitfall and ice pick-type scarring improved most.
Another recent study examined combining subcision and microneedling for severe atrophic acne scars. Subcision is a technique that uses a needle or probe to break up fibrous bands under the skin that tether scars downward. Follow-up microneedling further stimulates wound healing and collagen growth.
In the 2022 Aesthetic Plastic Surgery study, patients underwent this combined subcision-microneedling treatment every three weeks until the scarring was maximally reduced. On average, four treatment sessions provided over 50% improvement in atrophic scarring, with few side effects observed. Even wide, deep facial scars showed significant correction.
Recent research indicates body contouring devices may also improve different types of acne scarring. A study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology examined using radiofrequency and electromagnetic energy devices Emsculpt and truSculpt flex on back, chest, and shoulders acne scarring.
After four monthly 25-minute treatments, both devices significantly reduced the appearance of hypertrophic, atrophic, and red acne scars for all patients. The technology penetrates tissue to stimulate new collagen production while providing mild skin resurfacing results. These devices could expand treatment options for acne scars in hard-to-treat body areas.
For raised, swollen acne scars, injections of corticosteroids like triamcinolone show promise. A 2022 study in the International Journal of Dermatology investigated triamcinolone injections combined with ablative carbon dioxide laser therapy for severe hypertrophic acne scars. The laser first helps flatten and thin the scar; then, steroid shots help further reduce collagen buildup.
In the study, four laser sessions followed by monthly steroid injections resulted in a 97% scar improvement rating by dermatologists. Patients reported significantly improved skin texture, reduced pain and itching, and increased satisfaction with their scar appearance. Combining intralesional steroids with laser therapy may provide optimal fading for painful, raised acne scars.
While acne scars range in cause and severity, recent advances make clear that options exist even for the most challenging cases. Dermatologists can combine gold-standard treatments like lasers with innovative procedures to meet each patient’s needs through comprehensive scar assessment, custom treatment protocols, and new device technologies.
With a strategic, multi-pronged approach, significant fading is possible even for broad, deep-cratered scars, long rolling scars, severe ice pick marks, keloids, and post-acne dyspigmentation. While patience is required, new research confirms hope for dramatic improvement of acne scarring, regardless of type or extent.