Dermal Fillers for Acne Scars: A Comprehensive Guide

Sometimes, the battle against acne continues long after your last bad breakout. Even mild forms of acne can result in stubborn scars that seem to never fade, lasting well into your 30s and 40s. One often-overlooked solution is dermal fillers. That’s right–the same fillers used to plump up your lips or smooth out wrinkles can actually reduce the appearance of acne scars. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’re unveiling the secrets to reclaiming your skin’s natural beauty with dermal fillers. Say goodbye to pesky scars and hello to newfound confidence.

Understanding Acne Scarring 

Before diving into dermal fillers, let’s gain a better understanding of acne scarring and why it occurs. Acne scars are the result of inflammatory acne lesions that damage the skin’s collagen fibers. They can manifest in different forms, depending on the nature of your acne and your skin’s unique healing process.

Atrophic scars result from the loss of collagen in the skin, leading to depressions or indentations. Atrophic scars include boxcar, rolling, and icepick scars. These types of acne scar are the best suited for treatment with dermal fillers.

  • Boxcar scars are broad depressions with well-defined edges. They often resemble the scars left by chickenpox. Dermal fillers are effective in elevating the flat base of boxcar scars.
  • Rolling scars create a wave-like texture on the skin’s surface, giving it an uneven appearance. Dermal fillers can help even out these irregularities by filling in the depressed areas.
  • Ice pick scars are deep, narrow, and resemble small puncture marks on the skin. While dermal fillers can improve the appearance of ice pick scars to some extent, they may require additional treatments such as punch excision or TCA cross to achieve the best results.

Hypertrophic and keloid scars differ from the above in that they are raised, thickened scars that form when the skin produces too much collagen during the healing process. This type of scar is better treated with other methods such as corticosteroid injections.

What are Dermal Fillers?

Dermal fillers are injectable gel-like substances that temporarily add volume to the skin. They typically contain hyaluronic acid, a substance that holds many times its weight in water. Some filler brands also contain long-lasting substances that encourage collagen production in the long term.

While fillers are most closely associated with restoring lost volume, enhancing the lips or cheeks, and contouring the face, they’re also powerful tools in the fight against depressed acne scars.

Benefits

  • Immediate results: Soft tissue fillers offer immediate improvement in the appearance of acne scars.
  • Minimal downtime: Unlike some acne scar treatments, there’s minimal downtime associated with filler injections.
  • Non-invasive: Dermal fillers are a quick series of injections, and a numbing agent ensures your comfort throughout the process
  • Long-lasting but temporary: If you’re nervous about getting any kind of aesthetic treatment, rest easy knowing that your fillers are a temporary fix and not a lifetime commitment.

Side effects

Side effects associated with injectable fillers are usually mild and temporary. Possible side effects include:

  • Temporary bruising and swelling: Bruising and swelling are common after dermal filler injections, but they are usually mild and resolve within a few days to a week. 
  • Nodules: Small lumps can develop at the injection site but are usually treatable through massage.
  • Hyperpigmentation: Temporary darkening of the skin can occur at the injection sites.
  • Infection: While rare, there is a risk of infection at the injection site. It’s essential to choose a reputable and experienced provider to minimize this risk.
  • Allergic reactions: In rare cases, individuals may experience allergic reactions to the filler.

How Do Fillers Treat Acne Scars? 

Dermal fillers work in two ways to effectively combat acne scars.

Filling depressions

A fundamental action of dermal fillers is their ability to physically fill in the depressions left by acne scars. This action creates an immediate, noticeable improvement in skin texture and smoothness. 

Boosting collagen production

Some dermal fillers contain long-lasting substances that actively encourage the skin to produce fresh collagen. Over time, the filler gradually improves skin texture and minimizes the appearance of scars.

Which Dermal Fillers Can Treat Acne Scars?

Several types of dermal fillers used to treat acne scars, including:

Hyaluronic acid fillers 

Hyaluronic acid fillers like Juvederm and Restylane are injectable substances that help plump up the skin and improve its texture. Over time–typically 3 to 6 months–the hyaluronic acid is absorbed into the body, meaning you may need to get fillers again.

Radiesse: Calcium hydroxylapatite (CaHa) filler

CaHA filler, currently available under the brand anime Radiesse, is composed of tiny, calcium-based microspheres suspended in a gel-like solution. These microspheres are biocompatible and identical in composition to minerals naturally found in the body.

When the filler is injected into acne scars, it provides immediate volume to lift and smooth the scarred regions, instantly improving their appearance. Over time, the calcium microspheres within the filler serve as a scaffold for the body’s own collagen-producing cells, known as fibroblasts. This scaffold encourages fibroblasts to gather around the microspheres and deposit collagen in the surrounding tissues.

This process, known as neocollagenesis, continues long after the initial injection. As the CaHA filler gradually breaks down and is absorbed by the body, the new collagen remains, improving skin texture and reducing the appearance of acne scars.

Bellafill: Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) filler 

PMMA filler, commonly known by the brand name Bellafill, also combines short-term volumizing with long-term stimulation of collagen production, transforming the appearance of scarred skin.

Bellafill consists of PMMA microspheres suspended in a biocompatible bovine collagen gel. 

When a PMMA filler is injected into the targeted area, it immediately fills in the depressions and indentations created by acne scars. At the same time, the filler gradually promotes neocollagenesis. But unlike CaHa, the microspheres remain in the skin permanently and continue to promote growth of new collagen.

Sculptra: Poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) filler

Sculptra, the only FDA-approved poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) filler, contains the same biodegradable synthetic material used for dissolvable sutures. Like other long-lasting fillers, Sculptra is injected into acne scars and acts as a scaffold, providing immediate volume correction and triggering new collagen production over time. 

Achieving optimal results with Sculptra typically requires a series of treatment sessions spaced several weeks apart. This allows for a gradual, natural-looking transformation. Sculptra’s benefits are long-lasting, with results that can persist for up to two years or more.

The Treatment Process

What’s it like to get fillers for acne scars? Here, we’ll walk you through the whole process.

Consultation

Before undergoing dermal filler injections, it’s crucial to consult with an expert such as a board-certified dermatologist. Choose someone to work with who is specifically familiar with treating acne scars. 

Your dermatologist will carefully assess the type and severity of your acne scars, taking into account factors such as their location on your face, your skin type, and your desired outcome. 

Procedure

During the procedure, your provider will use their expertise to determine the ideal injection sites and depths. The choice of these factors depends on the types of acne scars you have and the specific dermal filler being used.

The procedure is typically quick and relatively painless, thanks to the use of fine-gauge needles or cannulas. Many patients find the discomfort to be minimal and manageable. The number of injections you get depends completely on the size of the area being treated.

Post-Treatment 

One of the most appealing aspects of dermal filler treatments is the minimal downtime involved. After the procedure, you can often resume your daily activities immediately. This convenience makes it an excellent option for individuals with busy schedules.

Your provider will give you specific post-treatment guidelines to ensure the best results and minimize any potential side effects. These guidelines may include:

  • Avoiding intense exercise: It’s advisable to refrain from strenuous exercise for a day or two after treatment to minimize the risk of swelling.
  • Sun protection: Protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure is essential. Wearing sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat is recommended to safeguard your skin as it heals and regenerates.
  • A simplified skin care routine: Use only gentle skin care products recommended by your dermatologist to maintain the health and appearance of your skin.

Results

While you may notice some immediate improvements in the appearance of your acne scars following the procedure, the full effects of dermal fillers may take a few days to become apparent as any swelling subsides. As the filler integrates with your skin and stimulates collagen production, you’ll gradually witness a more refined and rejuvenated complexion.

Alternative Treatment Options 

While dermal fillers are effective for many, there are alternative skin treatments for acne scars, depending on your specific needs and preferences.

Laser Treatments 

Laser treatments use focused light energy to improve skin texture. Traditional ablative laser skin resurfacing physically removes the topmost layer of damaged skin, revealing smoother, scar-free skin. Non-ablative lasers deeply heat the skin to stimulate collagen production and improve texture over time. New hybrid lasers like Halo combine the two technologies to maximize the effects of both.

Microneedling 

Microneedling involves the use of a handheld device tipped with fine needles to create micro-injuries in the skin. This process stimulates collagen production and can improve the appearance of scars over time.

Chemical Peels 

Chemical peels involve applying a chemical solution to the skin’s surface that exfoliates and improves its texture while triggering collagen production. Depending on your level of scarring and how much downtime you’re willing to undergo, you may opt for a single transformative peel or a series of gentler peels to gradually fade scars.

Subcision

Subcision is a procedure that releases the tethered scar tissue causing depressions in the skin. A dermatologist or medical professional uses a small needle or scalpel to break the fibrous bands of scar tissue beneath the skin, allowing the skin to lift and smooth out, ultimately improving the appearance of the scars.

Wrapping Up 

Dermal fillers are a valuable option for individuals looking to address acne scars and regain confidence in their skin. They offer immediate results and can promote long-term collagen production for sustained improvements. However, the choice of treatment should be discussed with a board-certified dermatologist or skin care expert who can tailor a plan to your specific needs.

Remember that results may vary depending on the severity and type of acne scars, as well as your skin’s response to treatment. With the right approach and guidance from a skilled dermatologist, you can take significant steps towards achieving smoother, more radiant skin and leaving acne scars behind.

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