Factors That Can Make Scars Worse

What Does an Acne Scar or Any Other Scar Look Like and Can They Be Made Worse?

Even without picking, acne lesions, particularly cysts, can lead to scarring because of the intense, collagen-damaging skin inflammation with which they are associated, according to clinical dermatology research done at Georgetown University Medical Center and at Stanford University.

Acne scars develop in areas where former cystic blemish lesions have been present. Acne scars come in three varieties:

  • Atrophic, which are mostly shallow.
  • Boxcar-shaped.
  • Ice pick-shaped, which are narrow and deeper.

People with deeper skin tones may also notice darkening, or hyperpigmentation, within the scars, while people with lighter skin tones may show redness, or erythema, within the scars.

Are There Other Factors That Can Makes Acne Scars and Other Scars Worse?


Exposing scars to the sun can cause them to darken and slow the healing process. This can happen because ultraviolet rays stimulate melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, leading to further discoloration. The safest way to protect your skin before heading outdoors is to slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that contains the ingredient zinc oxide. Reapply after swimming, sweating, or after more than 2 hours in the sun.

Also, limit your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon wherein the sun is high and ultraviolet rays are the strongest. Wearing protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat, are also recommended.

Picking and Squeezing

Scars, which are made mainly of collagen – the protein fiber normally found in the skin’s second layer – are the body’s way of repairing itself. Acne scars are typically indented because of collagen loss from intense inflammation. Picking leads to further inflammation and injury of the skin, which adds to the skin’s discoloration and scarring. Squeezing or trying to pop a pimple causes pus and bacteria to filter deeper into the skin, resulting in more collagen damage.

Vitamin E

Many people may have heard that applying topical vitamin E to a scar will help it heal faster. But according to a study from researchers at the University of Miami, applying the nutrient directly onto a scar can actually hinder its healing. In the study, vitamin E had no effect or made matters worse in fading acne scars for 90% of the patients, and 33% who used topical vitamin E developed a contact dermatitis.

Luckily, you don’t have to grin and bear the telltale signs of a breakout forever because there are now facial cream treatments for reducing acne scars.