Beauty Industry Bulletins

What You Can Do About Acne Scars

Acne is one thing, scars is another. Acne will eventually go away (really, it will). Scars, on the other hand, are a little more difficult to manage. But scar treatment has come a long way, and there are many things you can do about acne scars.

Very good / Alexandra Gordon

What to do first

Acne scars occur when skin tissue is damaged. Making things like pimples and pimples can definitely damage your skin and cause scars. But even if you are very careful with your skin, scars can form.

Serious blemishes, those that are severely inflamed, are more prone to scarring. And in people who are very prone to scarring, even small blemishes can leave scars.

If you’ve noticed any scarring, there are a number of things you can do. First things first – acne needs to be controlled. If you haven’t seen a dermatologist before, do it.

Don’t waste time on over-the-counter products. If acne is scarring your skin, you can get a prescription acne treatment ASAP to minimize the scarring.

If you are already being treated by a dermatologist, follow their instructions carefully and let them know if you have any concerns. Once your skin is pretty clear, it’s time to decide what steps to take next to treat your scars.

Topical retinoids

Topical retinoids are used to clear acne, but they are also prescribed to fade dark spots that acne blemishes leave behind. These dark spots on the skin (usually brown, red, or purple) are very common and almost everyone with acne gets them to some extent.It’s called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is not a real acne scar. In some cases, it will go away on its own without treatment. Topical retinoids help speed the process and work to fade even stubborn spots.

Topical retinoids only work on dark spots. Pitted or pitted scars need more than just topical creams.


Microneedling is a procedure in which a device is used to create small tingling sensations in the skin. This process stimulates healing, which can reduce some acne scars in some people.

Microneedling is usually done in a dermatologist’s office and can be done with or without radio frequency.

There are also home devices that you can use for self-administered microneedling. Remember that with home treatment you can cause serious skin damage that doesn’t correct the scars – and potentially create more scars -. This risk is higher if the device is used incorrectly.

Chemical peels

During this treatment, a doctor applies a chemical to your face to remove the top layer. Chemical peels like trichloroacetic acid (TCA) with crosshatches are good for ice ax scars. Other chemical peels can also be beneficial, especially for hyperpigmentation.

Light chemical peels are also sometimes used to treat severe acne.

Laser treatments

Laser treatments come in two forms: ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers renew the skin’s surface by removing outer layers. Non-ablative lasers create changes in the dermis without damaging the surface of the skin.

Ablative lasers

The most common ablative lasers used to treat acne scars are the carbon dioxide and erbium-YAG lasers. These lasers burn the skin tissue to a certain depth in a controlled manner. The usual result is that the new skin cells are smoother, atrophic scars are reduced in depth, and the overall appearance of the scars is softened.

The skin generally heals within two weeks, but may remain red for a period of time after healing. The redness fades over the course of several weeks to several months.

Non-ablative lasers

Non-ablative lasers tighten the skin and stimulate the formation of new collagen. They are often referred to as midday lasers because they can be done quickly, e.g. B. about an hour at noon. Unlike ablative lasers, there is minimal to no downtime.

These lasers are most beneficial for mild acne scars and pigmentation problems, rather than deep scars. Pulsed dye lasers are a form of non-ablative lasers that are used to improve raised scars and keloids.

Side effects

Hypopigmentation, or the loss of skin color, is a possible side effect of laser treatment, especially on darker skin tones. Your dermatologist can tell you if you are a good candidate for laser treatment.

Punching techniques

Punch techniques including punch excision, punch elevation, and punch grafting are used to treat ice pick scars and other depressive scars. A small punch tool, often called a tiny, round cookie cutter, is used to cut the scar out of the skin. After the scar has been removed, the skin is sutured.

Acne scars with ice ax.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Treatment may leave a small scar, but it is generally less noticeable than the original. The new scar may weaken over time and be more easily restored with resurfacing techniques such as microdermabrasion or laser treatment.

After a scar is removed, a skin graft can be used to fill the gap. The graft is usually taken from the skin behind the ear.

The punch-elevation technique can be used for deep freight car scars whose bases are made of normal-looking skin. During the punch elevation, only the base of the scar is cut out.

The dermatologist then lifts the base to the surface of the skin where it is attached with sutures, Steri-Strips, or skin glue like Dermabond. In contrast to skin grafting, the skin after the punch elevation has the same tone and texture as the surrounding tissue.

Subcutaneous incision

The subcutaneous incision, also known as the subcision, is used to treat rolling acne scars as well as some depressive acne scars. The subcision is a simple surgical procedure performed under local anesthesia.

A needle or a small scalpel is inserted parallel to the surface of the skin. The instrument cuts the bands of tissue that connect the skin to deeper structures. Once these ligaments are loosened, the skin visibly lifts and smooths the appearance of the skin’s surface.


Dermabrasion will be performed by your dermatologist under local anesthesia. A rapidly rotating wire brush scrubs the top layers of skin. After healing, the appearance of the scars is softened and pitted scars are reduced in depth.

Dermabrasion is used to treat depressive scarring in freight cars. This procedure can make ice ax scars appear more noticeable because, while they are narrow at the surface of the skin, they often widen near the base. Dermabrasion, once considered the gold standard in acne scar treatment, is less used in favor of laser resurfacing techniques.

Dermabrasion can cause pigment changes in darker skin tones.


Not to be confused with dermabrasion, microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure that is carried out in day spas as well as in dermatological practices.

In a microdermabrasion treatment, a machine injects ultra-fine aluminum oxide crystals through a tube onto the skin. At the same time, the crystals are sucked off. A number of treatments are required.

Because only the superficial skin cells are removed, microdermabrasion works best with hyperpigmentation. This treatment will not help with scarring or depressed scarring.

Dermal filler

Another treatment option for depressed acne scars is the use of dermal fillers. A filler is injected into the acne scar that lifts the base of the scar so that it lies more evenly against the surface of the skin. The results are not permanent, so the treatment must be repeated after several months.

Substances used as dermal fillers include human and bovine collagen, hyaluronic acid, and fat transferred from the patient’s own body. Your dermatologist will help you decide which filler is best for you.

Steroid treatments

Steroid treatments are widely used for raised hypertrophic and keloid scars. Steroids can be injected directly into the scar tissue, which will shrink or flatten the tissue, soften the scar tissue, and improve the overall look.

Corticosteroid creams and impregnated patches (which are infused with a corticosteroid, applied over the scar, and left for several hours at a time) can also be used to treat hypertrophic scars.

Hypertrophic acne scars.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

frequently asked Questions

How do you know if a pimple is turning into a scar?

If you have cystic or nodular acne, you are more likely to develop scarring. This is because the blemishes form deep under the skin. Picking or squeezing pimples can also cause scarring, so it is best not to burst them in order for them to heal properly.

Can Aloe Vera Get Rid of Acne Scars?

It probably can’t get rid of them, but it can make them easier. A 2018 review found that aloe vera, a component of aloe vera, was effective at reducing hyperpigmentation, including the dark spots left by acne.

A word from Verywell

It is important to be realistic and understand that most scars cannot be completely erased. But many improvements can be made with the right treatment or combination of treatments. Your dermatologist can recommend the most appropriate scar treatment for you.

Lots of people choose not to treat their scars, and that’s fine, too. Remember, the scars are much more obvious to you than to others.

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