Types of Acne Scars That Heal On Their Own (And Those That Don't)

Acne scars are incredibly common but it's not rare to want to get rid of them. In that case, you might be asking yourself: do acne scars eventually go away?

The truth is, some scars will go away on their own, and some won't. It all depends on the severity of your acne, and how long you've had it for.

In this article, you'll learn about the time that acne scars generally take to disappear. We'll also be discussing different types of scars, and what you can do about them. Finally, some scars can worsen with time, we'll discuss why that happens, and possible solutions.

How Long Does It Take For Acne Scars To Heal?

First of all, let's be clear about what we mean when we talk about "acne scars". Generally speaking, a scar is any sign left on the body following an injury like a cut. In the case of acne, scars can look like a lot of different things.

For example, your scars might look like a dark brown or red marks that refuse to go away, even after the initial pimple is gone. These scars are known as hyperpigmentation, and can generally go away on their own after a few weeks or months.

It might be annoying to look like you still have a pimple, long after it's actually gone. But you should actually be happy to see these kinds of scars on your face: they are the fastest to go away on their own!

In fact, dermatologists don't even consider them to be real scars. Rather, they are known as "post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation", or PIH. The timeframe for PIH going away is a little different for everyone. In general, you can expect to see them gone in 2 weeks to 2 months.

If you still have frequent pimples, it could look like your hyperpigmentation scars are never going away. Actually, they are, but others are coming to replace them quickly. With that type of scar, it's easier to see them heal when the original acne is gone as well.

Another type of acne scar involves indents on the skin. These are known by dermatologists as "atrophic scars". They might look like having little holes in your skin, and in some cases can result in very uneven skin texture.

The good news is, these scars will keep on healing a little bit more month after month. The bad news is, after a couple of months, you are unlikely to see more results. Unfortunately, atrophic scars can be permanent.

Finally, the least common type of scar is called a "hypertrophic scar". It's the type of scar that you might get after you burn yourself, or get a big cut in your skin. Unfortunately, some people can also get them as a result of acne. These scars can take years to disappear fully, but they usually disappear on their own.

For a smaller hypertrophic scar resulting from a small pimple, expect to wait around a month before it heals. For a much larger one, it could take upwards of 6 months.

Related Post: Can Exfoliating Make Acne Scars Worse? (Things To Know Plus Tips)

Types Of Acne Scars That Go Away On Their Own

We've already talked a bit about the different types of acne scars. Knowing more about these distinctions can help us to understand how long they take to fade away. It can also help us to find out which scars will go away on their own, and which require some form of intervention.

If you have these types of scars, you're a lucky one! These are the types of scars that fade away on their own:
  • Hyperpigmentation or PIH scars
  • Mild atrophic scars
  • Mild hypertrophic scars
Now, you may be wondering what constitutes a "mild" atrophic or hypertrophic scar. Unfortunately, this is quite hard to tell. Indeed, the measure of the severity of a scar is often how long it takes to fade away on its own!

It will also be related to the severity of your acne. Mild acne is more likely to leave mild scars, but severe acne will leave more serious scars.

Here's how to tell what type of acne you suffer(ed) from:

People with mild acne generally have a few whiteheads or blackheads, and only a few inflamed pimples. If your face is covered in pimples, you probably have a more severe form of acne. Mild acne doesn't tend to leave deep scars.

If you have moderate acne, you'll generally have whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples on more than three different areas of your face. You're suffering from acne constantly, and don't just get a pimple here and there.

Finally, severe acne is characterized by different types of pimples. Have you ever had a pimple that seemed to be coming from deep under your skin? Painful, swollen pimples that refuse to come out for weeks?

These are a sure sign of severe cystic or nodule acne. Unfortunately, these types of pimples leave scars that don't always go away on their own. But again, it depends on the person. Some people can have very severe acne for years and be left with no scars.

Types Of Acne Scars That Are Hard To Get Rid Of

Unfortunately, not all acne scars go away on their own. Some are famously hard to get rid of and can be a nightmare for those who wish to see their gone. If this is you, don't panic. There is a whole range of dermatologic treatment options that can get rid of stubborn acne scars.

But first, let's talk a bit more about the types of scars that are hardest to get rid of. Those include:

  • Deep, narrow scars (also known as ice pick scars)
  • More shallow but large scars (boxcar or rolling scars)

You get it: scars that go deep into the skin and make an indent rarely go away on their own. This is because as new skin cells are born, they don't fill up those holes.

Rather, they follow the outline of the ones left before them. So while new skin cells can lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation, they won't really do anything for atrophic scars.

This is bad news. The good news is, there are a couple of treatment options available for those who want to get rid of them. Those include laser treatment, chemical or physical dermabrasion and dermal fillers.

What To Do If Your Acne Scars Become Worse

Some acne scars go away on their own...but some can actually get worse as you age. This is particularly true of deeper scars or atrophic scars. Hyperpigmentation may also become worse with time, but this is easier to prevent.

These scars might look like small, shallow holes when your skin is young and tight. But as you get older and your skin gets looser, they may become more obvious. In that case, there are a couple of things you can do.

You could either get dermatologic treatment to fill in the scars. Or you could try to prevent skin aging as much as possible by wearing sun protection, moisturizing your skin regularly and using anti-aging serums and creams.

Hyperpigmentation can also get worse, but this is easier to avoid. In general, it will mainly get worse with sun exposure. This is because the sun can break down the collagen in your skin, messing with the healing of your scars.

The solution? Just make sure to wear SPF 30 or up whenever you are going out in the sun. And don't forget to moisturize every day to help your skin build back that collagen too!

If your acne scars get worse, the best thing to do is simply to take better care of your skin. Moisturize more, use quality products, and don't forget SPF. Most importantly though, you should be trying to prevent your acne scars worsening by practicing regular skincare.

Spending just a few more minutes on skincare each day could make a world of difference in the way that your existing acne scars develop.

Related Post: Does Dermarolling Get Rid Of Pitted Acne Scars?: Microneedling Tips

Final Thoughts

Do acne scars eventually go away? Some do, and some don't. Unfortunately, it's hard to predict whether your scars are here to stay...or just here for a visit. But learning to recognize the type of scar that you have, and the type of acne that caused it will definitely tell you a lot about the lifespan of your scars.

And if you find that you have acne scars that are unlikely to go away on their own, don't panic! There are treatment options that can reduce their appearance, if not get rid of them completely.

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