I have acne scars on my back that look wider and deeper than the ones I’ve seen on peoples’ faces. What treatment options are available to me?
Sadly, acne doesn’t stop at your face. People can develop acne on virtually any area of the body. Other than the face, the back is one of the most common places for acne scars. There are several types of acne scars that can affect an individual on their back. These scars include ice pick scars, which are narrow and deeper than most acne scars, hypertrophic scars, and keloid scars, which are raised scars that are the most prominent of all types. While treatment for acne scarring on the back can be more difficult than the face because the scars are much thicker, there are treatment options that can help reduce their appearance. Laser resurfacing, chemical peels and dermabrasion are the most commonly used techniques for improving the texture and appearance of skin. Although these techniques use different methods, they have a similar end effect on the skin: they destroy and remove the upper layers of skin to allow for skin regrowth. When performed by an experienced physician, laser resurfacing may be slightly more precise than the other two treatments.
Laser resurfacing directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular (acne scarred) skin, precisely removing skin layer by layer. The two types of lasers most commonly used during the treatment are carbon dioxide (CO2) and erbium. Both of these lasers can be fractionated and in many offices, depending on your skin coloring, fractional lasers are the preferred laser treatment. Each laser vaporizes skin cells damaged at the surface-level and burns it to create a new skin surface, reducing acne scars’ appearance. When undergoing laser resurfacing, remember that you’ll have to prepare for how the skin will look immediately after the treatment and through the healing process. Take proper care of your skin after the surgery to help avoid infection.
Following the laser procedure, the treated area will be covered with a petroleum based gel. It’s important to be gentle with your skin as it will be very vulnerable. Starting 24 hours after the treatment, you will need to clean the treated area four to five times a day and apply ointment to prevent scabs from forming. It is normal for some swelling to occur. Putting ice packs on the treated area within the first day or two can ease the swelling and discomfort. Drinking plenty of water will help skin stay hydrated and will ensure proper blood circulation throughout the body. Maintaining a nutritious diet is another essential part of the healing process. Sleeping with an extra pillow or soft blankets at night can help the treated area feel more comfortable. It is also particularly important to protect your skin from the sun during the healing process, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen which screens ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays.
Lastly, the key to seeing acne scars on your back fade following the treatment is patience. For weeks following laser resurfacing, the skin can break out and scar, but then new blood vessels will move into the injured area to provide nourishment to the skin, which is the reason why scars will appear pink. After several months, collagen will start to reform, filling the treated section of the skin. It can take up to a year for the scars to fade after the treatment.
Before choosing a resurfacing treatment for the acne scars on your back, consult with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to choose the best option for your unique case. For further information about acne scar treatments visit our “Acne Scar Treatments” resource library.
Lasers have been our preferred method for reducing the redness or discoloration around the acne scars and in some cases will cause the bed of the scars to thicken, making the depressions look shallower. In general, more than one method is needed to treat severe acne scars on the back or for that matter on the face. Once the laser treatment is completed, we often recommend the injection of a lasting filler. Fat grafting can also be used for this purpose as can temporary fillers, especially for a trial run.