11 Dermatologist-Approved Products to Get Rid of Acne Scars

11 Dermatologist-Approved Products to Get Rid of Acne Scars featured image
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Active breakouts are frustrating enough, but the scars and marks they can leave behind can make us feel completely helpless. “The good news,” says Saddle Brook, NJ dermatologist Fredric Haberman, MD, “is that many acne scars can be treated. Each and every scar is different, and often a combination of treatment approaches is necessary to achieve maximum improvement.”

For deep scars or those that cover a large surface area, in-office treatments like laser resurfacing, microneedling, fillers, and chemical peels are the doctor-recommended way to go. But, for more superficial scars and hyperpigmentation left behind, topical products can help improve skin texture and tone. “A lot of what people think of as acne scarring is PIH or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation—or erythema (redness)—brown or red spots and not a change in the texture of the skin,” Dr. Haberman explains. “Scars and discoloration occur as a result of injury to the skin, and in the case of acne, the injury is related to excess oil production, inflammation and bacteria. When the skin tries to repair itself after a breakout, it can leave a red, pink, tan, or brown mark behind, depending on the breakout and the individual’s skin type.”

That being said, New York dermatologist Shari Marchbein, MD says prevention is always the best treatment for acne and scarring, and therefore she encourages even those battling mild acne to see a board-certified dermatologist for a comprehensive routine. “This is the quickest way to stop breakouts and prevent further skin injury. Furthermore, it’s important to not pick or pop your breakouts because if you pop a zit, you are adding insult to injury, causing more inflammation, redness and swelling that what would have been there in the first place. This can lead to permanent scarring if overly aggressive. If you have a large painful pimple—we call them cysts—your dermatologist can inject a mild steroid to help shrink it quickly, but make sure you leave your hands off. Lastly, diligent daily sun protection with at least a 30 SPF is key to reduce the appearance of scars and protect the new collagen that is being made during the healing process.”

1 / 9

Differin Gel ($13)

“Adapelene—found in Differin 0.1%—is the only over-the-counter true retinoid. Retinoid is a generic term for any topical product that contains a vitamin A derivative. They are the backbone of any good acne routine and work to increase collagen production as well as the rate of skin cell turnover, so they may improve the appearance of acne scars.”

—Dr. Marchbein

2 / 9

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% ($8)

“For hyperpigmented scars—post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation—I like this formula from The Ordinary. It helps even out skin tone and texture and fade dark marks, and it’s not irritating. Plus, you can’t beat the price point as well.”
—New York dermatologist Lauren Levy, MD

“Many times, patients don’t have true scarring, but rather more discoloration and redness. True acne scars will have a depression in the skin, not just a color change. For over-the-counter help with discoloration, I like The Ordinary Azelaic Acid, which also helps with mild acne.”
—Wilmington, NC dermatologist Kendall Egan, MD

3 / 9

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum ($20)

“This is a great option for those with acne scars, as it not only contains retinol, a known acne-fighting ingredient to help with skin cell turnover and collagen production, which helps improve tone and texture related to acne scars, but also licorice root extract, which can help with hyperpigmentation and discoloration. It also contains niacinamide and ceramides, so it’s soothing and won’t leave the skin feeling irritated or dry.”
—New York dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD

4 / 9

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment ($30)

“Adapalene gel 0.1% is an over-the-counter retinoid and a perfect starter product for acne scars. My favorite version is from La Roche-Posay.”
—Bay Harbor Islands, FL dermatologist Lucy Chen, MD

“I am a fan of this gel to help remodel the collagen and continue to minimize the pores.”
—Sterling, VA dermatologist Brenda Dintiman, MD

5 / 9

SkinCeuticals Retexturizing Activator ($82)

“I like this because it is a biphasic, oil-free serum that is good for acne-prone skin. It has a patented ingredient called HEPES, which exfoliates and improves skin turnover, and it doesn’t dry the skin like a lot of retinoids and can be used during the day. It is a great daytime serum for acne scarring, enlarged pores and improving skin texture.”
—West Islip, NY dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD

6 / 9

Revision Skincare DEJ Night Face Cream ($150) and C+ Correcting Complex 30% ($160)

“If you are looking for significant improvement in acne scars, I recommend in-office treatments. Topical treatments can help a little with acne scars and complement in-office procedures. The first thing I recommend is a retinol, like Revision DEJ Night Cream. It has a time-released retinol that decreases the risk of irritation and dryness. If the acne scars are red in color, a good vitamin C in the morning could also help, and I recommend this one from Revision as well.”
—Norwell, MA Skylar Souyoul, MD

7 / 9

Senté Intensive Bio Complete Serum ($110)

“The solution for acne scarring is to get the body’s own wound healing machinery to heal itself. The best way to turn on this process is with a topical retinol—I like this one from Senté most.”
—Boston dermatologist Dennis Porto, MD

8 / 9

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Defense ($28.50) and Alastin Renewal Retinol .25 ($55)

“You can get retinoids OTC in products labeled retinol or in prescription-strength versions, my favorite being Retin-A (tretinoin generic). Retinoids are scar-remodeling, collagen-boosting, pigment-fading superstars. I don’t know many board-certified dermatologists who don’t use and recommend them daily. For a drugstore option, try Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Defense. For a more cosmetically elegant product, try Alastin Retinol.”
—Greensboro, NC dermatologist Christina Haverstock, MD

9 / 9

SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight ($80)

“For overall texture and tone, I am a fan of Glycolic 10. It is a leave-on treatment to be used overnight, and when combined with a glycolic acid cleanser, it can help brighten the skin and provide some improvement in pigmentation of the scars.”
—Dallas dermatologist Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD

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