5 Ways to Get Rid of Acne Scars

As if having acne isn’t bad enough, after the blemishes fade, skin can be left with discolored and pitted scars that are hard to hide. They don’t appear from just picking at your face; there’s a lot happening under the skin. “They form because of inflammation in the skin that results from red, irritated acne and picking at your skin,” says Santa Monica, CA, dermatologist Karyn Grossman, MD. “Nothing can totally return your skin to its perfect prior state, but there are treatments that can significantly reduce the look of scars.”

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If your skin is rough from cystic acne, an at-home tool may improve skin texture.

According to Dr. Grossman, scars on the forehead and cheeks can make skin appear uneven. “The two major types of scars are rolling hill (undulations in the skin where the skin is depressed) and ice-pick scars (deep narrow scars).” At-home microdermabrasion tools like Trophy Skin MiniMD Microdermabrasion System ($99), can somewhat help remove the outer layer of skin using light abrasion to smooth out any rough areas. 


If your skin has brown or red discoloration, an acid-based serum can help with the spots. 

Acne can cause scarring and discoloration that may fade naturally, but sometimes extra help is needed. “If the discoloration is red or brown, it’s not technically a scar, but rather prolonged inflammation in the area that may lead to scarring later on,” says Dr. Grossman. Milder at-home treatments, like Cosmedix Clarity Skin Clarifying Serum ($42), which contains salicylic acid to remove dead skin, can also help diminish discoloration.


If your scars are difficult to hide, mask them with full-coverage foundation.

The inflammation and redness associated with acne can lead to dark spots that are difficult to erase. Dr. Grossman explains that some hard-to-cover spots, which are the lingering effects of acne, need the help of makeup to fully conceal them. Formulated with an anti-inflammatory agent and antibacterial tea tree oil, bareMinerals Blemish Remedy Foundation ($28) fully covers discolored skin while also preventing future breakouts from occurring.


If your skin is bumpy and uneven, smooth it out with a weekly glycolic acid peel.

Certain types of acne can lead to noticeable scars and uneven, bumpy skin. “These scars, which are caused by excess tissue production, result in raised tissue where the blemish was,” says New York facial plastic surgeon Lee Ann Klausner, MD. “Pigmentation can be treated with topical agents like hexylresorcinol and hydroquinone.” Used once a week, Natura Bissé Glyco Extreme Peel ($250) works to exfoliate skin for a visibly smoother complexion.


If your skin is indented from picking, plump it up with fillers and/or lasers.

Fillers can temporarily raise the depressed portion of the scars. Occasionally, the skin won’t lift enough with filler, and according to New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD, fractionated lasers (a combination of lasers was used on the patient here) can boost collagen production with less downtime. “The collagen growth can help rejuvenate skin and improve scars.” Microneedling, which involves tiny needles puncturing the skin to promote collagen growth, can also help heal scars.

  • Galit Cohen
    Posted on

    I love the DermalMD Acne Serum. Me and my acne prone teenage son absolutely love dermalmd serum. We apply it after we clean our face in the morning and at night. It goes on very well and is just like a lip gloss applicator with the ball at the end. It has made a huge improvement in the amount of pimples on both of our faces. It doesn't have an oily feel. No strong odor and no burning feel when applying.

  • Posted on

    This is a great topic, and I would like to add a few thoughts to the discussion. First, acne scars, like so-called "cobblestone or rolling hill" scars or "ice pick" scars, are some of the most difficult skin issues we see both in dermatology and plastic surgery. One of the big reasons for this is that they are so deep and extensive within the skin, more often following the full depth of the oil glands and hair follicles that caused them in the first place, penetrating the full thickness of the skin and extending into the fatty layer. This makes them particularly hard to improve with topical treatments from the surface, like microdermabrasion, topical skin care products, and even most lasers and other treatments. The only lasers that have any hope of improving the really severe and deep scars are the so-called "fractionated" lasers, because these fractionate, or divide up the surface area of the skin that they are actually treating, allowing the treated area, or fraction, to be treated essentially full thickness with safety because there are un-treated "islands" of skin between them that allow the skin to heal and avoid full thickness, full surface area burns. Thus, the key to effective treatment of the most severe acne scars is the appropriate level of aggression of the treatment. More superficial, less-aggressive treatments will produce subtler results, which for less severe forms of scarring may be acceptable, but for worse scarring, we'll be disappointed. For particularly severe acne scarring, filler injections may be helpful, but a few disadvantages of these are that they are often tedious, they are not permanent and require "up-dating" yearly or so, and they can be expensive over the long term. A couple of newer things on the acne scar treatment horizon to consider are fat grafting and radiofrequency micro-needling. The first treatment, fat grafting, while usually associated with increasing volumes in the face, is used here mainly because certain components of the fat tissue produce growth factors and other substances which, when injected just beneath the surface of the skin, are proving to reduce the fibrosis of the scar tissue and improve the overall skin tone, texture, and elasticity. We are still working out the exact science behind it all, but it has been used very effectively for awhile now, with minimal risk and downtime, and quite potentially permanent results. The second treatment, radiofrequency micro-needling, is even newer. It involves tiny punctures of the skin just like traditional micro-needling, but it also adds a small electrical charge to the needles which shrinks the scarred dermis and helps stimulate more collagen to fill in areas of deficiency and irregularity. Just like with traditional micro-needling, this also allows certain topical agents, like growth factors and healing serums to be applied topically to the skin immediately after the needling, which improves their penetration. Acne scars have traditionally been frustrating for both patients and physicians, but fortunately, our technology is starting to gain some momentum against them!

  • naturalskinlines
    Posted on

    A really good post... Worth checking it.

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