Acne affects a lot of people, especially during their younger years. And even those who have recovered from acne often have long-lasting effects such as scarring and pigmentation.
Acne scars can be difficult to live with. They’re often impossible to cover up with makeup and they take ages to fade, sometimes staying on your face forever.
Thankfully, the beauty industry has made some incredible leaps over the last 20 years. We now have technology that can repair and rebuild your skin to virtually erase acne scars, lighten dark spots, and smooth out your texture.
Two of the most common treatments for acne scars are microneedling and laser treatments. Both of them have to be done professionally for the best results, as both can carry some risks and side effects.
When done right, the results are mind-blowing and far beyond anything you could achieve using topical creams and serum.
So, is microneedling or laser treatment better for acne scars? In short, microneedling is easier on the skin and better for deep scars, while laser resurfacing can take longer to recover from, but works really well on shallow scars with dark pigmentation.
In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about each treatment, their effectiveness against acne scars, and which one would work best for you.
Microneedling For Acne Scars
Microneedling is exactly what it sounds like: your dermatologist will use a special roller tool with tiny needles on it to puncture the skin on your face. Because the needles are so small, they don’t create any serious damage, but the microscopic wounds jumpstart your skin’s natural healing process.
This healing process results in many benefits, such as general skin rejuvenation, increased collagen production, reduction of inflammation, and elastin deposition.
The needles range from 1mm to 2.5mm, which means microneedling can reach some deep scar tissue within the skin. All of this helps not only get rid of deep scars but also fade wrinkles and fine lines. As such, microneedling can be used for a lot of different reasons.
A newer microneedling technology entered the scene a few years back and it uses radiofrequency (RF) in addition to the tiny needles to create even more impressive results.
Microneedling is considered very safe. Despite how uncomfortable the idea of stabbing your face with a bunch of little needles sounds, it’s generally pain-free and you can expect your skin to heal within 2-3 days.
Here’s a great video of the microneedling process from U.S. Dermatology Partners.
Pros Of Microneedling:
- Side-effects are not very common or severe
- Quick recovery time of 2-3 days
- Less expensive than laser
- Works equally well on all skin tones
- Fast results are noticeable within a week
- Can be done at home with the right tools
Cons Of Microneedling:
- Results are not permanent
- Results are mild – may take 3-6 sessions to target significant scarring
- Side-effects may include bruising, redness, scabbing, and oozing
- Not effective at fading hyperpigmentation and dark spots
Laser Treatment For Acne Scars
Laser treatment is another common and well-researched technique to deal with acne scarring. Instead of using needles to trigger a healing response from the skin, the laser uses light and heat technology to target specific areas of the skin.
The procedure can feel very hot and sometimes unbearable on the skin, which is one of the biggest downsides of this technology.
The laser treatment causes your skin to increase collagen and elastin production, as well as fade pigmentation. This leads to dramatic improvements in the skin’s texture and tone.
Laser treatments take longer to recover from, but the results are more noticeable after a single session compared to microneedling.
In order to get to the deep layers of the skin, the laser has to get through the epidermis (top layer of the skin) which can cause a lot of pain and takes several weeks to fully heal.
While microneedling can reach as far as 2.5mm into the skin, laser treatments work best on scars up to 1.5mm deep.
Here’s a great laser treatment process video from Olivia Skin and Hair Clinic on YouTube.
Pros Of Laser Treatments:
- Immediate and dramatic results (once the skin heals)
- 1-2 sessions are often enough to significantly reduce acne scars
- More effective than microneedling, especially for scars up to 1.5mm deep
- Very effective at fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation
- Results are often permanent
Cons Of Laser Treatments:
- The procedure can feel very hot and uncomfortable at times
- Longer recovery time of about 2-3 weeks
- Recovery can go through phases of inflammation, redness, peeling, oozing, pigment changes, and a higher risk of skin infection
- Not suitable for all skin tones – works best on fair to light skin tones
- More expensive than microneedling
Microneedling Vs Laser: Which Is Right For You?
If you’re not sure what treatment is best for you, we have some tips that might help guide you. First of all, we always recommend speaking to your dermatologist first.
They can look at your skin and get a good understanding of the depth of your scarring, level of scarring, and your skin’s resilience.
If your scarring is very deep, microneedling might be a great place to start since it can target those deeper scars. Your derm might offer to follow it up with a laser treatment to take care of whatever’s left.
Microneedling will also be the better choice if you have a medium to dark skin tone. Unfortunately, lasers don’t work well on darker skin tones and can cause more harm than good.
We find that in most cases, microneedling is a good starting point for people who have never had any invasive treatments on their faces before. This is because microneedling is considered safer.
You won’t experience too much discomfort during the procedure, and the recovery time is much easier. You are less likely to experience any serious side effects from it, and it’s even safe for sensitive skin.
If you’re going with microneedling, remember to set realistic expectations. The results will be noticeable, but it will probably take you several sessions before your acne scars are gone. And you’ll likely need to get touch-ups every year or so to maintain those results.
However, if you’re not new to skin treatments, and you’ve tried microneedling before, perhaps it’s time to up the ante and try laser treatment. This might also be a good option for people with significant hyperpigmentation. The laser works really well on fading scars and evening out the skin tone.
If you’re willing to spend the extra money for a more permanent result and promise to take really good care of your face for the next 3 weeks, you might be ready for a laser treatment. But keep in mind that it carries a higher risk of infection.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of these two popular treatments, and you’re ready to tackle those scars once and for all!