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Dermabrasion or Laser Resurfacing for Acne Scars

author image Brenda Barron
Brenda Barron is a writer, editor and researcher based in Southern California. She has worked as a writer since 2004, with work appearing in online and print publications such as BabyZone, "Cat Fancy" and "ePregnancy." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from California State University, Long Beach.
Dermabrasion or Laser Resurfacing for Acne Scars
Dermabrasion and laser resurfacing can reduce acne scars. Photo Credit face image by Patrizier-Design from Fotolia.com

No matter how severe your acne scars are, you don't have to live with your blemishes. In fact, you can experience a smoother skin texture and a generally improved appearance by undergoing dermabrasion or laser resurfacing. While these treatments can cause side effects and require a significant recovery time, they provide real results for those dealing with unsightly scars.

Acne Scar Types

There are numerous types of acne scars that can show up following breakouts. Slight hyperpigmentation is normal and appears as brown or red spots where blemishes used to be. More severe scars include rolling, boxcar and ice pick scars, says Dermnet NZ . These appear as slight depressions in the skin, deep and defined depressions and very deep but narrow depressions, respectively. All but the ice pick scars can at least somewhat respond to dermabrasion or laser resurfacing.


Dermabrasion is a procedure that involves removing the top layers of skin by using an abrasive instrument. This is performed under anesthesia because it opens the skin. It damages the skin in order to encourage new skin to form more evenly without the imperfections of scars. It's generally effective for treating rolling scars and hyperpigmentation and will lessen the appearance of boxcar scars.

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Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is a treatment that helps stimulate collagen and new skin production. A laser is pointed at the area to be treated and either damages the top layer of skin or internal layers. In any case, a topical anesthetic will usually suffice to get through this outpatient procedure.

Side Effects

Undergoing treatments like dermabrasion or laser resurfacing for acne scars can cause a few unpleasant side effects, such as "permanent uneven changes in skin color, darkening of the skin, scarring, swelling and infection," says the Cleveland Clinic. For instance, hyperpigmentation is common until the skin evens out and completely heals. You may also develop cold sores because laser resurfacing irritates the skin. Dermabrasion can cause pain, scabbing and pinkness. While the pink skin will fade over time, you may notice your skin permanently having a darker hue. You will also be much more sensitive to sunlight. Larger pores, swelling and whiteheads can also pop up after dermabrasion. Both treatments carry a risk of scarring, irritation and keloid scars.


Though your skin may look discolored after dermabrasion or laser resurfacing, you will likely begin to notice an improvement in the texture of your skin. Your pores will get smaller, wrinkles less noticeable and scars less defined. With severe scars, however, repeated treatments may be necessary.

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