Ice pick scars are types of acne scars that form tiny, deep, and narrow holes in the face. Many people find them quite unsightly and want to know how to treat ice pick scars. Unfortunately, however, no treatment options can erase these scars, but they can help improve their appearance.
Acne is difficult to treat. Things get worse when acne leaves scars on your face. Severe acne can lead to the formation of ice pick scars. In this article, we talk about various treatment options available for ice pick scars. Read on.
In This Article
What Are Ice Pick Scars?
Ice pick scars are the most common types of acne scars.
They usually have a “V” shape and look like someone poked holes in your skin with a sharp object (such as an ice pick). These form tiny and deep holes in your skin. Some of them might even look like enlarged pores.
These scars extend much deeper into your dermis, which is why it is challenging to treat them. How do these scars form? Find out in the next section.
How Do Ice Pick Scars Develop?
Severe acne, such as deep cysts and papules, which damage the skin structure to a great extent can cause ice pick scars.
The development of ice pick scars mainly depends on two factors – first, how your skin is healing, and second, inflammation. We have already understood that if the inflammation extends much deeper into your skin, you are more likely to develop scarring. Also, picking acne before it heals increases your chances of developing scars.
Hence, you should never pick or squeeze acne. Treat it immediately so that it does not leave behind any scars. However, if you still develop ice pick scars, there are several ways to minimize their appearance so that your skin appears smoother.
Popular Treatment Options To Improve The Appearance Of Ice Pick Scars
The treatment options discussed here are performed by dermatologists, who will determine which treatment option is good for your skin and scars. All treatment options have their pros and cons, and you can discuss them with the doctor before undergoing the procedure. The dermatologist may use a single treatment method or a combination of treatments for the best results.
1. Punch Excision
In this method, the ice pick scar is cut out using a circular tool. The wound is then stitched from all sides. A new flat scar forms in place of the ice pick scar. Instead of a deeper scar, this technique will form a less noticeable, much smaller, and linear scar (1).
2. Punch Replacement Grafting Or Punch Grafting
In this method, the ice pick scar is filled with skin taken from any other part of the body. It is similar to skin grafting and is considered the best of all methods to improve the appearance of ice pick scars. You may need multiple replacement grafts (often 20 or more) (1).
3. Punch Elevation
This method is a mixture of punch excision and punch grafting. In this process, the center of the scar is removed and then elevated such that it is just slightly raised and matches the level of the bordering tissue. This makes the scar appear flat. This is mostly used for boxcar scars. However, the doctor may also use this for ice pick scars along with a combination of other techniques (2).
In this process, the dermatologist uses a special abrasive tool to remove the top layer of the scar. The device is moved over your skin to remove the epidermis. As the skin layer is removed, the ice pick scars appear shallow, with a less pitted appearance. Multiple sessions are needed for significant improvement, so you need to go for follow-up sessions.
Like dermabrasion, this is also a skin resurfacing treatment. In this process, the dermatologist uses a small tool with a diamond tip to rub against your skin. This removes the upper layer of your skin, making the scars less visible. Often, this process is used along with punch excision and other scar minimizing treatments.
In this method, a special and tiny tool is used to create multiple small injuries (small holes) in the scar. This is to make the skin produce more collagen to heal the wound. Once the wound heals, the depth of the scar is reduced. You will need multiple sessions to gain maximum benefits from this treatment.
7. Chemical Peel
This method works by removing the topmost layer of the skin. High concentration (as determined by the doctor) of skin acids is used for this purpose. Deep peels give you maximum results. However, they might cause side effects, such as skin irritation and redness. Although at-home chemical peels are available, it is better to get it done under the supervision of a skin care specialist.
8. Laser Resurfacing
In this procedure, different types of lasers are used to remove the skin on and around the scars to promote the growth of new skin cells. The process may involve using non-ablative and ablative lasers. Although both types of lasers promote collagen production, non-ablative lasers have lesser downtime than ablative lasers.
9. TCA CROSS
This is a chemical reconstruction of facial scars. This process uses an acid called trichloroacetic (TCA) acid. This acid is inserted into your scars. The concentration is often high, anywhere between 70% and 100%. The acid damages the epithelial layer of your skin. As the wound heals, your skin produces collagen to cover it. As a result, the depth of your scar decreases.
10. Radiofrequency Therapy
Compared to other methods, this one is new. It involves using high-frequency radio waves to smoothen and tighten your skin. This minimizes the appearance of your scars.
Even though professional treatment methods are the best way to improve these scars, many opt to try home remedies and topical ointments. But do they work?
Do Home Remedies And Other OTC Medicines Work On Ice Pick Scars?
Home remedies do nothing to minimize ice pick scars. Even topical ointments are not as powerful as professional treatments in improving the appearance of these scars and making your skin smoother.
Some homemade remedies involving rosehip seed oil, aloe vera gel, honey, yogurt, and other common ingredients may help improve the overall texture of your skin, but they cannot treat ice pick scars.
Although home remedies and ointments may not diminish the scars, they can help in keeping your skin healthy and preventing possibilities of future breakouts. If you already have acne on your face, a good skin care regimen ensures that you do not develop scars later.
Infographic: Skincare Habits That Help Prevent Acne And Ice Pick Scars
Ice pick scars, though harmless, take away the feel of a smooth glass skin look. While the treatment options can definitely help even out these pits and dents, it is best to prevent acne and scars in the first place. Click on the infographic below to know of certain healthy skincare habits that can help reduce the chances of developing acne and ice pick scars.
Ice pick scars are deep and caused by severe acne. They usually do not go away; however, you may improve their appearance and make them less visible with professional treatments. Scarring often depends on how the skin heals from the acne inflammation. Therefore, if you have severe acne, focus on proper treatment and not picking at the inflammation. This prevents the risk of developing deep scars in the first place. Also, follow a proper skin care routine and consult a doctor to minimize the risk of scarring.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for ice pick scars to go away?
Depending on the scar removal method used, ice pick scars may take anywhere between a few months to a few years to go away.
Can retinol help ice pick scars?
Ice pick scars are stubborn and may require cosmetic procedures to remove. Retinol helps to boost collagen production, so it may help reduce the appearance of these scars.
Can tretinoin get rid of ice pick scars?
Yes. There is some evidence to suggest that tretinoin may help reduce the appearance of ice pick scars (3).
Does Accutane help with ice pick scars?
Accutane is the brand name of an isotretinoin formulation that is not recommended for removing ice pick scars as there is not sufficient evidence to suggest its efficacy and safety.
Does a dermaroller work on ice pick scars?
Yes, a high-quality dermaroller may help reduce ice pick scars. However, it is recommended to get cosmetic procedures such as microneedling done by a dermatologist.
- Deep cysts and papules can lead to ice pick scars.
- Punch excision, punch replacement grafting, punch elevation, dermabrasion, and microdermabrasion are the most popular ice pick scar treatments.
- Do not pick or touch your acne to prevent ice pick scars.
- Effective Treatments of Atrophic Acne Scars. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Efficacy of Punch Elevation Combined with Fractional Carbon Dioxide Laser Resurfacing in Facial Atrophic Acne Scarring: A Randomized Split-face Clinical Study. Indian Journal of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.