Soft-tissue Fillers for Acne Scars

In soft-tissue filler therapy, a filler is injected directly into acne scars with a very small needle to temporarily improve the skin's appearance.

In 2015, injectable polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) with bovine collagen (commercially known as Bellafill) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the correction of moderate to severe, atrophic, distensible facial acne scars in patients aged 21 or older for up to one year.

While Bellafill is the only FDA approved injectable filler for the long-term correction of acne scars, other fillers such as Juvederm, Radiesse, Belotereo, Retylane or Sculptra may be used. These typically will need to be injected every few months to maintain their effect.

Benefits

Soft-tissue fillers offer a temporary method of plumping and smoothing acne scars that is:

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Minimally invasive

Risks

In the past, the most widely used soft-tissue fillers were based on collagen and sometimes required allergy testing prior to treatment. A newer class of hyaluronic acid fillers is based on a sugar found naturally in human skin. Allergic reaction is extremely rare for these fillers. An ASDS dermatologist will discuss what filler will work best to fulfill personal goals. 

Before (left) and after (right) Bellafill injections for chicken pox scars. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Burgess, MD.

What to expect after the procedure

Patients may experience one or more of the following reactions at the injection sites:

  • Bruising, which may last up to a week
  • Swelling
  • Redness

All soft-tissue fillers are temporary, lasting anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the filler and type of procedure. Some patients require maintenance treatments to achieve the best results. 

Preparing for the procedure

Before the procedure, an ASDS dermatologist will review the patient's medical history. This is the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks and outcomes of the procedure. Patients should tell their doctor if they use of have recently taken:

  • Prescription medicines
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Herbal supplements