Acne scars are leftover marks from previous breakouts. These can become more noticeable with age once your skin starts to lose collagen, the protein fibers that keep skin smooth and supple. Sun exposure can also make them more noticeable.
But that doesn’t mean acne scars are forever. Microdermabrasion is one of several options for scar improvement.
With this procedure, your dermatologist or skin care specialist will use a small handheld device to gently remove the outer layer of your skin (epidermis). This process will reveal the smooth, toned skin underneath.
You can get this treatment from a spa or your dermatologist’s office.
Read on to determine whether microdermabrasion is appropriate for your specific acne scars, how much it may cost, potential side effects, and more.
Microdermabrasion works best for certain types of depressed acne scars, which cause pits in the skin. This treatment only works for depressed acne scars that lie flat against the epidermis. It won’t improve ice pick scars, which are deeper than other acne scars.
Microdermabrasion may also be useful for people dealing with active mild-to-moderate breakouts. In addition to removing dead skin cells that can clog pores, the procedure also reduces excess oil (sebum) from these pores.
If you’re dealing with an active nodular or cystic breakout, talk to your dermatologist about your options. In these cases, microdermabrasion may exacerbate your inflammation. Your dermatologist may recommend another treatment measure or suggest that you hold off on microdermabrasion until the acne clears.
Medical insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic procedures like microdermabrasion. Ask your dermatologist or skin care specialist about the estimated costs up front so you’ll know what your out-of-pocket costs will amount to.
Over-the-counter (OTC) kits are less expensive in the long run, but the results may not be as dramatic. OTC devices aren’t as strong as those used by a dermatologist.
Microdermabrasion is performed at your dermatologist’s office or a spa. Although you don’t necessarily need to prepare for the procedure beforehand, you may want to make sure you’re not wearing any makeup.
Your dermatologist will use either a diamond-tip wand or a delivery device/vacuum combination, the latter of which blows fine crystals onto the skin. Both then vacuum off debris from the skin.
During the procedure, you might feel a slight scratching. The device used may also have a massaging effect on your skin or produce a mild suctioning sensation.
Each session lasts about 30 minutes. You’ll need multiple sessions to achieve the desired effect.
Part of the appeal of microdermabrasion is the lack of side effects associated with this procedure. The abrasive crystals and diamond tip wand aren’t painful, so your dermatologist won’t need to use an anesthetic.
Another bonus is the quick recovery time, which allows you to have microdermabrasion multiple times a month. No downtime is needed, and you can resume your daily activities immediately after each session.
Follow each session with a moisturizer tailored to your skin type. (Your dermatologist may have specific recommendations.) You’ll also need to wear sunscreen every day while undergoing this procedure. Microdermabrasion can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays, leading to burns. This sun sensitivity can also increase your risk for sun-related scarring (age spots).
Side effects aren’t common with this procedure. However, if your skin is sensitive or darker in color, you might develop irritation or hyperpigmentation.
Microdermabrasion isn’t suitable for ice pick scars, or those that extend beyond the middle layers of your skin (dermis). It only targets the epidermis, so it won’t effectively treat any scars that go beyond this top layer of skin.
If you have darker skin, talk to your dermatologist about your options. In some cases, microdermabrasion may lead to hyperpigmentation.
You should also avoid this procedure if you have:
- open wounds
- active cystic or nodular acne
- recently taken, or are currently taking, isotretinoin (Accutane) for acne
- rashes related to irritation, eczema, or rosacea
- active oral herpes simplex (fever blisters or cold sores)
- malignant (cancerous) skin cysts
You may also want to consider other possible treatments available for acne scars.
Depressed scars can also be treated with:
- dermabrasion (similar to microdermabrasion, but considered an invasive procedure that also targets the dermis)
- chemical peels
- laser therapy
Raised scars, on the other hand, are treated with:
Your dermatologist may recommend microdermabrasion or another technique based on your type of acne scars.
In many cases, treatment for depressed acne scars involves at least two different procedures to ensure the best results. For example, if you try microdermabrasion, your dermatologist might also recommend laser therapy.
Talk with your dermatologist
Microdermabrasion is a possible treatment measure for acne scars, but it isn’t for everyone. Talk to your dermatologist to see if this procedure is appropriate for your individual scars and skin tone. They can help you determine the type of scarring you have, answer any questions, and advise you on next steps.
Tea Tree Oil for Acne Scars
Tea tree oil is derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, which is indigenous to Australia. The oil has traditionally been used to treat wounds and other skin ailments.
For this reason, it’s often found in over-the-counter (OTC) cosmetics and other beauty products. This includes scar treatments.
Although tea tree oil has been established as remedy for active acne breakouts, it’s unclear whether it can effectively treat acne scars.
Unlike most pimples, acne scars form deep within the skin. These marks can darken with age and sun exposure. Tea tree oil can possibly combat these effects, but there’s no guarantee.
Read on to find out what the research says, possible side effects, products to consider, and more.
In fact, one 2007 studyTrusted Source found 5 percent tea tree oil gel to be effective in treating mild to moderate cases of acne.
Despite the abundance of studies on acne and other skin concerns, research on tea tree oil in acne scar treatment is lacking.
One 2015 studyTrusted Source established clear benefits in acne treatment, but the results for scarring were inconclusive. Generally speaking, tea tree oil is said to minimize the appearance of raised (hypertrophic) scars, but most acne scars develop below the surface of the skin.
At the very least, using tea tree oil to help manage active acne breakouts may help reduce their severity and risk of scarring.
Though its effects on acne scars aren’t proven, there generally isn’t any harm in trying it out.
Tea tree oil is safe for most users, but it’s important to make sure before youdo a full application.
To do a patch test:
- Apply a small amount of the oil or product to the inside of your elbow.
- Wait 24 hours or more.
- If you don’t experience any irritation or discomfort during this time, the product is likely safe to apply elsewhere.
From there, the way you use the oil will depend on the type of product you purchase.
Pure essential oil forms will need to be diluted with a carrier oil before use. A general rule of thumb is to add at least 1 ounce of carrier oil to every 12 drops of essential oil.
OTC products that contain tea tree oil in them don’t need this extra step — you can simply apply as directed.
In either case, you can get the best results from using tea tree oil as an all-over treatment, applied twice per day.
Topical tea tree oil is considered safeTrusted Source for most users. However, you shouldn’t use tea tree oil if you’ve had reactions to any related products in the past.
Pure essential oils are extremely powerful. You should never use this type of tea tree oil without diluting it with a carrier oil first.
Using undiluted tea tree oil can lead to additional redness, hives, and even rash. The affected area may also be itchy and uncomfortable.
Acne scars can take several weeks, if not months, to fade. Overusing tea tree oil in hopes of fading scars faster will only cause irritation. This may in turn make your scars more noticeable.
The amount of tea tree oil to apply and how often depends on the product you use. Some products containing tea tree oil are intended for daily use, while others might only be used a few times per week.
Concentrations also vary, with pure tea tree oil containing the most active ingredients. OTC beauty products might contain small amounts combined with other ingredients.
Make sure you do a patch test before applying any product to your face or other large area of skin.
Popular tea tree oil products include:
- Essential Oil Labs 100% Tea Tree Oil. Touted as an all-purpose oil, this product help treat dark spots, acne, dry skin, and burns.
- The Body Shop Tea Tree Night Lotion. This nighttime, gel-based lotion helps fade acne scars while also preventing future breakouts.
- Keeva Tea Tree Oil Acne Treatment Cream. With tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and vitamin E, this cream helps reduce acne scars while also treating new pimples.
- The Body Shop Tea Tree Anti-Imperfection Night Mask. Worn and left on overnight, this tea tree oil–infused clay mask purportedly reduces the appearance of scars and blemishes.
The bottom line
Acne scars can be difficult to treat, and you might need a combination of methods in addition to tea tree oil. Your dermatologist can make more precise recommendations based on your overall skin health and tone, as well as the severity of your scars.
Finally, tea tree oil may be out if you have any side effects. Discontinue use if you develop a rash or other sign of an allergic reaction.