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How-To: Treat Acne Scars

To round out my acne series, I am going to give you some treatment options for healing your skin and reducing scarring once you've got your acne under control. Even mild acne can leave minor scarring, and for those of you who have battled moderate or severe acne, the scarring can be a lot worse.

It is common for acne lesions to leave a red or elevated mark behind once they're healed. This usually goes away within six to 12 months. Severe lesions can leave marks that persist after a year, and these are considered "permanent" scars. Luckily, there are things you can do to help minimize, and in some cases eliminate, this scarring. For treatment suggestions,


  • Wear sunscreen By now you are probably starting to think that I probably drizzle sunscreen on my breakfast toast, since I am so raving mad about it. But the fact is that UV exposure from the sun not only damages skin further, but it also delays the healing process of your skin. That means scars stick around longer and may not heal at all with prologued sun exposure. So always always cover your scars with sunscreen, or better yet, wear a cute hat and stay out of the sun altogether.
  • Try a retinoid: A retinoid is a topical vitamin A treatment, such as Retin-A. When applied to the surface of the skin, Vitamin A speeds up cellular regeneration and helps skin renew itself more effectively, which can help scars heal more quickly and smoothly.
  • AHAs and BHAs: Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids are a more mild skin-rejuvenating option than a retinoid. Both work by sloughing off dead or damaged skin on the surface of your face, encouraging new, fresh skin to appear. The major difference between the two is that beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble, which means they can penetrate deeper into clogged pores to actually clear up sebum. If you are still struggling with breakouts, a beta hydroxy acid might be the way to go. Otherwise, stick with an alpha hydroxy acid since it is significantly less drying.
  • Injectable fillers: Facial fillers like collagen can smooth out deep pitted acne scars, but only temporarily. Still, it is less expensive than surgical removal of scars, and if you only have a couple deep scars, this will smooth them out completely.
  • Surgical removal: It might sound strange that you can eliminate a scar by creating a new one, but in fact, you can. Pitted scars can be removed by what is called a "punch excision." With this procedure, a doctor uses a small tool that resembles a hole puncher, punches out the acne scar, and gently sutures the surrounding skin together. When it heals, the resulting scar usually disappears completely, or is significantly less noticeable than the acne scar.
  • Laser Resurfacing: Laser resurfacing works by essentially burning your top layers of skin down to a certain level, depending on the depth and severity of your scars. The skin then regenerates over the area of the scar, or in some cases, the entire face, and the scar is removed completely. Laser resurfacing can be very painful, so post-treatment skin needs to be cared for with extreme caution, as it is extremely fragile and susceptible to damage. Sunbathing is not an option, and you will probably not be going in public for a couple of weeks while your face heals. The upside is that the effects are permanent, so you don't need to have the process repeated as long as your acne stays away.


Join The Conversation
girlfunkmusic girlfunkmusic 6 years
Well, it's not pleasant, but thank you for answering the question that most of actually want to know - in detail!
cloroxcowgirl cloroxcowgirl 8 years
Good advice. I have some scars on my chin area from cystic acne. I'd really like to minimize them since it's impossible to take a side shot of my face without it looking like the moon!
Coquiteen Coquiteen 8 years
Well what is a good cream or serum for brown acne scars. I have tried alpha hydrox and some other products but no results. Plus I don't want to do lasers or chemical peels...maybe later on in life. Any suggestions?
Jasmin14921509 Jasmin14921509 8 years
I ABSOLUTELY swear by Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Recovery serum (not the concentrated version, only because I haven't tried yet). I use a drop during the day in the morning and then a few drops at night, under my moisturizer. I have gotten my friends into it too (aged 25-27). It not only eases up acne scars to the point where they disappear, but staph infection scars as well. I had a dime sized brown bump on my chin, and generally, my staph infection scars take about 6-9 months to reduce. There is about a 75% reduction in the past two months alone, since I started using the product. It is a little expensive, but if you time it right with a good gift with purchase, the pain of shelling out that much dough is eased a bit. ;)
banana-boat banana-boat 8 years
Online Drugstore - Skin Care and Facial Products - Online Pharmacy. Our Reputable Pharmacy/Drugstore offers a wide range of Reputable designer products including skin care, hair care, fragrances, kids arts and crafts. At unbelievable low prices.
BeChic BeChic 9 years
I just moved to New York City, and am looking for a new dermatologist. Do any of you have recommendations? I'm nervous about just making an appointment with someone I found via Google. Thanks a million!
LettyRN LettyRN 9 years
Fraxel laser treatments worked great for me. I have had acne and acne scars for several years and like everyone else, I tried every product out there. I finally found a good dermatologist who put me on a Tazorac cream and I also used La Roche Posay's purifying cleanser. My skin cleared up within a few months but I still had the issue of scarring. My dermatologist recommended Fraxel treatments. It took me a really long time to decide to do it, mainly because it cost so much. I finally decided to invest in these treatments. Heck, I've spent a fortune on a bunch of other creams and make up, I might as well dish out on this treatment. I am soo glad I did it. I have had great results, I don't have to wear much make up any more! Yay! With fraxel, it only takes 1 week to recover. It was totally worth it.
nals33 nals33 9 years
In the past, I've tried Retin-A and AHA; both made my skin burn. So I stopped using them. My sister's been telling me to look into getting a chemical peel. I'm not sure if it'd have the same results as the laser resurfacing though. My scars are mainly on my cheek bones; that seems to be the area that I break out the most. 2 weeks is a long time..Maybe sometime in the future I could see about getting the laser resurfacing. But at the moment, I only have a week's worth of vacation time accumulated, so I don't think that will be happening. I have been eyeing Murad's Post-Acne Spot Lightning Gel. Maybe I'll get that instead and see how that works.
jennifer8055 jennifer8055 9 years
Hi, I used to have really bad acne right from my teenage years . It was pretty embarassing to go to college with my acne patched face and I was desperate to get rid of it somehow. I took plenty of efforts to keep my face clean all the time and also ate nutritious food and drank lots of water. None of it helped though. I then recently read an article about a lady who got rid of her acne completely using a particular acne product. I tried it and it worked really well. Within 4 weeks my acne was gone completely. Really good stuff. Just thought I would share this with everyone.
hmcmcd hmcmcd 9 years
I have some pitted scaring too, I have tried everything, the creams, serums, at home microderm kits and even professional microderm (6 seesions for $1,000) I would like to try the laser, but there are so many to choose from and it is sooo expensive ($4,000) so I guess I will just suffer with the scars a little longer.
thoroughlymodern thoroughlymodern 9 years
Would the topical vitamin A treatment work (or help) if I've had my scars for years? Thank you Bella and everyone else for your suggestions. I think I'll try the Aveeno stuff or the Clinique toner.
pharm_chick pharm_chick 9 years
i mean, all these suggestions are really good, but is there any like, drug store alternative.. like under 20 bucks? lol till i start making actual moolah these options have got to wait
mshoney18 mshoney18 9 years
I think I'll try the Aveeno too. I thought about microdermabrasion for my pores but I don't want my scars to look any worse.
kcwebgirl kcwebgirl 9 years
i've tried everything under the sun and nothing works. i'll try the aveeno products but i was thinking about microdermabrasion. i'm just concerned that as an african-american, hyperpigmentation is a fact of life. i don't want to make it worse!
leahshae leahshae 9 years
I had horrrible cystic acne in the hollows of my cheeks when I was in high school, and 15 years later I still have scarring. It's not as bad as it used to be but I am still self-conscious about it. I'm planning on microdermabrasion when we have some extra cash laying around (you know, since that's likely to happen) but regualr exfoliation seems to help, as does self-tanner. I just got a at-home glycolic acid peel from Neutrogena - I got it at Walmart for around $20 - and it seems to be fairly effective. I've used it twice and the difference is noticeable, expecially for pore size. Definitely recommend!
tossie tossie 9 years
i learned about mama lotion from makeup alley, and that stuff works incredibly well! they sell it on skincare rx! and you can get 20% off if you use the promotional code mua20!
AG5 AG5 9 years
tokki, where can I get the murad lightening spot gel??
unnamedafterher unnamedafterher 9 years
I'm another medium-tone African American girl and i LOVE aveeno's spot correcting treatment. I had some scarring and hyperpigmentation, and this has really worked. It's about $14 bucks at CVS or wherever. Takes a couple of weeks to see improvement. I now use it after I moisturize and even add a little to my concealer. I'm needing to use concealer less and less since discovering this great little product.
Yukino Yukino 9 years
I'm totally doing the laser once I heal the acne (and sell half of my belongings).
get-real get-real 9 years
I am a medium completion African-American. For my acne scars I had microdermabrasion several time. I saw good results. I wouldn't mind doing it again but it is too costly. Recently I started using Aveeno soy-based products and it worked wonders and it is cheap!!!
Stupidasscat Stupidasscat 9 years
The one cheap thing I use to help make my skin feel smooth and get rid of dead skin is using a face soap (Clinic (?)) and one of those loofah gloves and I use it to wash my face at the most 2 times a week and it has helped lighten my scars.
BeautyXRush BeautyXRush 9 years
Even though I only have like 3 scars due to acne, I'm still probably thinking about getting the laser resurfacing, that is when I find out how much it will cost me. Ive seen results on other people, so I think its a good choice. At the most I think it will cost $1,000. Hopefully only $500 though lol. I have fair skin too, and I don't want to use a chemical peel, my mom had a friend who got them all the time and they actually caused holes to form in her skin.
mischo-beauty mischo-beauty 9 years
See a dermatologist!
KathleenxCouture KathleenxCouture 9 years
Also advo, my dermatologist told me that it's better to get the microderms done by a professional unless you REALLY know what you're doing with the at-home kits otherwise you may do damage to your skin.
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