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Acne Marks Vs. Acne Scars – What’s the Difference?

6 mins

Radhika Bhatia

Before you meddle with your acne marks or scars, understand acne marks vs acne scars to start the proper treatment for the best results. Here’s all you need to know.

Acne (acne vulgaris) is rightly referred to as the bane of adolescence – a curse that commonly begins in early puberty and can last for even up to a decade. It’s the most common skin condition – and if you suffer from it, you are not alone. 

Acne is treatable, provided you know what you are treating – acne scars or marks. Understanding acne and the difference between acne marks and scars can help you better understand what you suffer from and how to treat it. Here’s a look at acne marks vs acne scars.

Table of Contents:

  • What is acne?
  • When does acne occur?
  • What causes acne?
  • Types of acne
  • What are the permanent damages caused by acne vulgaris?
  • What are acne Marks?
  • Can acne marks be healed?
  • What are acne scars?
  • Can acne scars be healed?
  • How to prevent acne scars
  • Similarities and differences: Acne marks vs acne scars
  • Treatment of acne marks
  • Treatment of acne scars

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin problem. In the United States alone, acne affects close to 50 million people. Approximately 80% of the US population gets diagnosed with this condition at some point in their lives, although it most affects adolescents, and it is worst between ages 11 and 24. Most people get acne – even if it’s just a mild form, between the ages of 11 and 30.

When does acne occur?

Acne occurs when the hair follicles (tiny holes in the skin) get blocked. The sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands near the skin’s surface) are attached to the hair follicles. Excess oil or sebum produced by these glands clog hair follicles, causing bacteria. These bacteria-rich environments are perfect for acne to grow. 

What causes acne?

Anyone anywhere can develop acne at any time.

  • Hormones: Changes in hormones in adults – including menstruation and pregnancy - can trigger overproduction of oil, leading to acne.
  • Skin: Oily skin is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and thrive, and that is why people with oily skin often suffer from acne.
  • Genetics: if you have a parent suffering from adult acne, the chances are that you are prone to developing acne as well.
  • Stress: Stress is known to cause a lot of medical conditions, and acne is one of them. Stress acne consists of pus pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, and red bumps.
  • Medications: Some medications that contain corticosteroids, hormones, and lithium can cause acne.
  • Race: Almost every race on the planet is prone to acne vulgaris; however, studies have found that some forms of acne are less common in African Americans than Caucasians.
  • Other studies have found that clinical acne is more common in Hispanic and African American women than Caucasian, continental, and Asian women.

    One study noted that the Aché foragers of Paraguay and the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea have 0% acne.

  • Food: In adults, consuming foods with high fat, sugar, and dairy content can increase the risk of developing adult acne.

  • Types of acne

    Acne causes a variety of pimples and lesions. Each of these has distinctive features and is named accordingly:

  • Whiteheads: Clogged hair follicles just beneath the skin that cause a white bump
  • Blackheads: Clogged hair follicles that look black on the surface. They reach the skin’s surface and open up.
  • Papules: Small, pink, inflamed lesions that are tender to touch. Appear red on the surface of the skin.
  • Pustules: Papules filled with white or yellow pus and a red base.
  • Nodules: Solid, painful lesions that are lodged deep inside the skin.
  • Severe nodular acne: Also known as cystic acne, these are painful, pus-filled lesions deep in the skin.

  • What are the permanent damages caused by acne vulgaris?

    Untreated acne can lead to both psychological and physical effects. People with severe acne vulgaris often suffer from anxiety and depression because of this skin condition.

    Treating acne can improve the situation, but more importantly, it can have massive psychological advantages like reducing depression and anxiety.

    Acne can cause permanent scars if not treated on time.

    What are acne Marks?

    Acne marks are temporary light or dark brown marks on the skin left by a mild or moderate pimple breakout. They are superficial post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can heal over time. 

    acne marks, acne treatment

    They are not scars, although some marks could lead to severe scarring that changes the skin's texture. An acne mark caused by a severe zit could take 12 months or even longer to completely disappear.

    Can acne marks be healed?

    Yes, acne marks can be healed because they are temporary. They could fade away quickly or take over a year to entirely disappear. However, they are superficial, and therefore temporary, and can be treated easily.

    Acne marks caused by nodules or cystic lesions are usually very dark and present in the deeper layers of skin. They can take much longer than a single monthly epidermal cell-renewal process to disappear.

    What are acne scars?

    Acne scars result from inflamed acne blemishes (pustules, papules, and cysts). When a follicle or a pore gets clogged with bacteria, dead cells, or excess oil, the pore gets inflamed and forms acne. 

    The acne pores swell, and the walls of the pores break down. When you pop a pimple, you can injure the skin and turn that mild breakout into a permanent scar. 

    acne scars, face acne

    Some acne blemishes are shallow and small and can heal quickly. At other times, pimples can break down elastin and collagen in the deeper skin layers. If the contents of the blemishes spill into the surrounding dermis, healthy tissue is destroyed.

    The skin forms new collagen fibers (protein) to repair the damaged dermis. Unfortunately, the skin rarely gets back that flawless look before the injury.

    These scars look like shallow lesions on indentations on the skin. They occur most commonly on the face but can be present anywhere on the body.

    Acne scars are of different types:

  • Ice pick scars are deep and wide, with jagged edges.
  • Boxcar scars are broad and rectangular depressions with defined edges.
  • Rolling scars have rounded and sloping edges that give them their name.

  • Can acne scars be healed?

    The sooner you start treating acne scars, the more chances of complete healing. However, treatment of acne scars is more complicated than preventing acne scars.

    So, the best thing to do is get acne under control with the proper treatment. Quick treatment will also ensure less frequent acne and the prevention of more severe forms from developing.

    How to prevent acne scars

    • Treat acne as soon as it develops
    • Inflammation can cause scars. Reduce any inflammation by not doing anything to aggravate it.
    • Avoid squeezing, popping, or picking at pimples.
    • Leave the scabs alone and let them heal on their own.
    • If your skin is prone to scarring, check with your healthcare provider regarding the treatment of cysts or breakouts.

    Similarities and differences: Acne marks vs acne scars

    Both acne scars and acne marks are caused by acne, and they both can be treated, but the results may vary. That’s where the similarities end. 

    Here’s a look at acne marks vs acne scars:

    Acne scars and acne marks are not the same. While acne marks are dark marks or minor discolorations that disappear with time, acne scars are damaged skin.

    Acne marks can disappear on their own over time, while acne scars do not go away on their own.

    Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can lighten on its own over several months. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that results from inflammatory pimples like nodules and cystic lesions can last for quite a while.

    While acne marks become less prominent and fade away with time, depressed acne scars become more noticeable as the skin loses collagen.

    Acne marks can be treated with creams and over-the-counter medications. Acne scars are more severe. Some scars might not respond to creams and other topical treatments, and skin surgery and resurfacing might be needed to remove deeper scars.

    Dermatologists often use fillers like collagen or the patient’s own fat to fill deep scars and plump up depressed acne scars. The results from fillers last for anywhere between six and 18 months.

    Treatment of acne marks

    Acne marks are relatively easy to treat, and if left alone, they fade away with time. Derma chemical peels can even out pigmentation and reveal new, bright, and smooth skin. Follow this up with a few months of TLC for your skin, and you will notice the marks fade away.

    Arbutin is an extract of the bearberry leaves and stops melanin production.

    Azelaic acid works on both PIH and PIE by inhibiting tyrosinase (the enzyme involved in melanin production) and reducing inflammation.

    Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that hydrates the skin, at the same time reducing wrinkles and fighting acne. It helps acne marks fade away by stopping melamine from leaking into skin cells.

    Retinol is a vitamin A that helps with quick cellular turnover. It helps slough off damaged and dark cells and replaces them with new, brighter cells.

    Retinol Face Cream from Wow Skin Science is a nourishing and repairing cream designed to enhance your skin’s appearance and texture.

    retinol face cream, wow face cream

    Vitamin C not only has fantastic anti-wrinkle properties – but it also fades away dark spots. Vitamin C is also known to brighten the complexion.

    WOW Skin Science Vitamin C Brightening Face Wash with extracts of mulberry and licorice, vitamin C, and lemon and orange essential oils helps fade age spots. The product also evens out and brightens skin tone, and reduces fine lines. Follow it up with Vitamin C Skin Mist Toner for glowing, hydrated, and rejuvenated skin.

    For spot treatment, try WOW Skin Science Vitamin C Serum with 20% potent vitamin C power. Packed in an airless jar to keep away contamination and preserve the antioxidants, the formula has been specially designed to revive uneven and aging skin and give you a youthful glow.

    If your skin is dull, uneven, and lifeless skin to Vitamin C Clay Face Mask. Infused with skin-brightening and impurity-tackling properties, the mask will simultaneously tackle clogged pores, uneven skin tone, and dull, lifeless skin.

    Vitamin C Face Cream is packed with vitamin C, cocoa and Shea butter, and hyaluronic acid. it brightens dark spots, fights signs of aging, holds moisture, and improves hydration. 

    Hydroquinone is the best ingredient for all types of dark spots and pigmentations, and it is known to inhibit the production of melanin effectively.

    Treatment of acne scars

    Medicated creams and creams containing ingredients like hydroxyl acids and azelaic acids can help with acne scars.

    • Sunscreen.
    • Soft tissue fillers
    • Steroid injections
    • Laser resurfacing
    • Dermabrasion
    • Chemical peels
    • Skin needling
    • Surgery
    • Botox

    Acne marks and acne scars are both the result of acne, but they are not the same. While acne marks are more discolored and easier to treat, acne scars damage the dermis and are more challenging to get rid of. 

    Both respond well to over-the-counter topical treatments and creams containing vitamin C, retinol, azelaic acid, niacinamide, or arbutin. Chemical peels, surgery, laser treatment, and Botox are more invasive but effective treatments for acne marks and scars. 

    Understanding acne marks vs acne scars before treatment will ensure you give your skin the treatment it needs.

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    Radhika Bhatia

    I'm a content writer, copywriter, and blogger with a background in marketing, planning, and eCommerce. I specialize in beauty writing, including skincare, cosmetics, wellness, aesthetics, and health. Classically trained and idea-savvy, I love living in the present.

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