What treatments should I consider for facial acne scars?

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By Aanand Geria, MD

Active outbreaks are aggravating enough, but the scars that acne leaves behind may cause even more distress. Before you can begin therapy, you must first eliminate any acne for good, as fresh breakouts can lead to new acne scars.

A scar is not discoloration left behind after a pimple has resolved. The purple, red, or brown markings will vanish on their own after a few months.

Before beginning any acne scar therapy, consult with a dermatologist. They can advise you on the best way to lessen the look of your scars and ensure that the marks on your skin are scars and not another condition.

Self-evaluation questions

Many people find it beneficial to answer the following questions before visiting with a dermatologist in order to get the most out of their trip.

Why should I treat my acne scars?

Treatment is not appropriate for everyone. Some individuals believe that the scars are not as awful as they appear. Others believe that their scars have an impact on their daily lives.

When someone replies “yes” to one or more of the following questions, dermatologists frequently prescribe treatment:

How do I want to be perceived following treatment?

Some treatments might make scars less visible. Others are capable of removing wavy skin texture. Tell your dermatologist what is important to you.

How much free time do I have?

Some therapies may have associated downtime.

How much time will I spend seeking therapy and caring for my skin?

Your response will identify which therapies are most appropriate for you.

Acne scars that are atrophic or depressed

A depressed scar is visible beneath the surrounding skin. They occur when not enough collagen is produced during the healing process of a wound. Atrophic scars are classified into three types:


These are broad, U-shaped scars with sharp edges. They can be both shallow and deep. They react better to skin resurfacing procedures if they are shallower.

Pick an ice cube.

Ice pick scars are tiny, V-shaped scars that can penetrate the skin deeply. They can resemble little round or oval holes, similar to a chickenpox scar. These are the most challenging scars to cure because they can extend well into the skin’s surface.


These are large depressions with rounded edges and an uneven, rolling look.

Acne scars that are hypertrophic or elevated

These scars are most commonly associated with acne on the chest and back. They protrude above the surface of the surrounding skin and are produced by excessive collagen production during healing.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are commonly present in acne-treatment solutions because they assist in exfoliating dead skin and prevent blocked pores. Even better, AHAs can assist in making acne scars less visible.

The gentle acid exfoliates the skin’s surface layer, which aids in the removal of discoloration and rough skin.

Lactic acid

A tiny 2010 research study discovered that lactic acid peels performed by a dermatologist once every two weeks for three months improved the texture, look, and pigmentation of the skin and lightened acne scars.

There are several lactic acid peels, serums, and ointments on the market, but you may also use diluted apple cider vinegar as a toner or spot treatment due to its natural lactic acid. However, apple cider, like other at-home remedies, can be irritating to delicate skin. Before beginning therapy with the product, they should always be tried on a small patch of skin.

If the product is administered to sensitive skin, there is a risk of inflammation and irritation, which can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.


Another acne therapy with scar-smoothing properties is topical retinoids. Retinoids can help minimize discoloration and make scars less visible in addition to speeding up cell regeneration and enhancing skin texture.

They can, however, make your skin sensitive to the sun. When utilizing retinoids, always apply sunscreen on a regular basis.

Over-the-counter retinoid creams and serums are available, but a dermatologist can also prescribe stronger doses. Look for products that have retinol as an active component.


Yes, indeed. It is critical to apply sunscreen on scars every day. Scars can darken as a result of sun exposure, making them more visible.

Chemical peels

These aren’t the type of face masks you’d wear while binge-watching Netflix. A chemical peel uses a powerful acid to remove the top layer of skin in order to decrease underlying scars.

Some chemical peels are gentle enough to employ at home, but a physician can deliver a more powerful remedy with more dramatic effects.

There are many various types of chemical peels, so consult with a dermatologist to see which one is best for you.

Laser resurfacing

Laser resurfacing vaporizes the top layer of skin and stimulates collagen production. This procedure may often yield the best results but also has the most downtime and is riskier for darker skin.


Fillers are used by skincare specialists to fill in acne scars and level out the skin. Collagen, your own fat, or hyaluronic acid can be used. They are injected beneath the skin’s surface to help fill up and smooth up depressed scars. Most fillers last 6 to 18 months before needing to be replaced, although others are permanent.


This latest therapy applies a tiny, portable needle-studded roller or a handheld “pen” to the scars’ surface. The needles pierce the numbed skin resulting in collagen production by the skin when it heals.

There is evidence that microneedling can help lessen the depth of acne scars. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this therapy might take up to 9 months to show results. Overall this is a safe procedure that is suitable for all skin tones.


Corticosteroid can be injected into elevated scars to soften and flatten them. The injections are normally given in a series, with one given every few weeks.


At first glance, it may be absurd to remove a scar and perhaps replace it with a new one, but dermatologists or cosmetic surgeons may remove a large scar while leaving behind a minor scar that will fade with time.


A dermatologist can help raise atrophic scars by releasing the fibers underlying them, bringing them closer to the surface and making them less visible. This is referred to as subcision.

Acne scars can be aggravating, but there are several treatments available to make them less visible. Most scars are permanent, however, a healthcare expert can assist you in locating the appropriate therapy to help decrease the look of your scars.

The most effective technique to cure an acne scar is to avoid it in the first place.

If you have fewer breakouts, you are less prone to acquire acne scars. Picking, popping, or squeezing any outbreak, no matter how enticing, may irritate the skin and damage the underlying tissue, leading to scarring.

Bottom line

Acne scars can be frustrating but you don’t have to let them hold you back. Speak to your dermatologist to discuss all your options.

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