Removing Acne Scars ...By Studying Tattoos

by Michael Breen, MD (and Staff)

tattoo removal

Millions of people bothered by acne scars worldwide finally have a safe effective treatment... and they can thank tattoo wearers!

“Until now we’ve never had an effective treatment for acne scarring,” says Dr. Anil Shah, a Chicago plastic surgeon. “Treatments like chemical peels and lasers can produce hyperpigmentation or keloids. That’s especially true among patients with darker pigmentation including patients of diverse backgrounds such as African Americans, Middle Eastern Patients, Indians, and Asians.”

But Dr. Shah is one of the nation’s only doctors combining two new treatments that remove those scars while minimizing these side-effects.

And the first treatment was discovered in tattoo parlors. Tattoo artists noticed the skin beneath their work often became unusually smooth. At first dermatologists credited tattoo pigments but researchers found the real cause were the thousands of tiny tattoo stabs. The needle stabs penetrated the dermis, caused inflammation, and attracted platelets which released growth factors stimulating collagen.

Now inventors have developed the medical equivalent of the tattoo gun: it’s called the Medical Roll-CIT (for Collagen Induction Therapy). The device is a hand-held roller covered with hundreds of micro-needles. Once a patient is anaesthetized, Dr. Shah slowly rolls device across the patient’s face. The result is hundreds of thousands of small wounds each extending 1.5 mm (6/100ths of an inch) under the skin.

Dr. Shah says, “Those tiny wounds attract platelets and growth factors without severely injuring the epidermis and dermis. Collagen fills up the ‘valleys’ of acne scars. In addition we have patients apply vitamin A after the procedure. It seeps into the dermis and causes even more collagen production.”

The Medical Roll-CIT produces almost no post-operative pain and patients are largely healed just five days later.

Dr. Shah combines the roller treatment with another that works differently for other types of acne scars. He treats those scars with a very strong (100%) concentration of tricholoracetic acid (TCA). The key is he doesn’t do a peel: he focally applies TCA with a sharp applicator that’s pressed directly on the scar’s crater. The result once again is a tiny injury that stimulates collagen but doesn’t cause side effects. Applying 100% TCA is quick, requires no anesthesia, and has minimal downtime. The treatment is repeated about once a month for 3-6 months.

Dr. Shah says, “Each of these new treatments is effective by itself. But when we combine the two, the results have been incredible. I don't know of another physician who combines both modalities. Many of my patients with darker complexions have been told all their lives that nothing could be done for them. Now we can finally help them.”

And they owe it all to tattoo industry which lead the way.


Dr. Shah and Dr. Michael Breen are practicing plastic surgeons in Chicago, IL.

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Removing Acne Scars ...By Studying Tattoos