Acne Scar Treatment- Dermatology

The pus-filled red blisters of acne may be unsatisfying to look at, however, their sight is not the worst thing they offer. Many times, healed acne leaves life-long facial scars that can disfigure your cheeks and forehead.

The good news is that doctors now offer several treatment options to remove acne scars.

Types of acne scars

The two main types of acne scars are:

  • Hypertrophic scars: These are scars that rise above the normal skin level and they happen due to the overgrowth of fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are a special type of cell that produces collagen and plays a pivotal role in wound healing and regeneration.
  • Atrophic scars: When the skin fails to produce enough fibroblasts, wounds are left unfilled, leading to skin indentations.

Skin discoloration can happen as a consequence of healing acne, however, this is different from scars and will usually fade out with time. Before starting treatment, make sure to visit a dermatologist to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes of scarring. Your doctor will recommend one or more of the following treatments depending on the severity and type of scars you have:

Topical products

Many products are available in the market to treat acne scars, and they usually contain one or more active ingredients that promote proper healing:

Alpha hydroxy acids

By removing dead skin cells and clearing up your pores, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) products are excellent in treating leftover acne scars and making them less noticeable. AHAs promote healing by ablating the outermost layer of the skin, helping it regenerate in a more natural color.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid is an active ingredient in many products marketed for the treatment of acne scars, including peels, ointments, and serums. Researchers have found that a lactic acid peel performed by dermatologists every 2 weeks over 3 months helps lighten scars and make them fade out while improving the texture and overall appearance of the skin.


Products containing retinoids are also an excellent choice in treating acne scars. Retinoids are applied topically to reduce inflammation, lessen scarring, promote cellular regeneration, and lighten the skin (including scar tissue). The latter mechanism, however, can render your skin sensitive to sunlight and might require you to use sunscreen for some time

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a very popular component in acne treatment products and it’s considered one of the most effective ingredients in treating acne scars. Salicylic acid works by exfoliating the outer layer of your skin, allowing new cells to be formed. Moreover, it can reduce inflammation and unclog your pores. Eventually, this makes acne scars become less noticeable, and the surrounding skin will look healthier and more homogeneous.  You may need several weeks to start noticing the difference. Some people are allergic to salicylic acid, so you might want to test a drop on your skin before applying it therapeutically.

Medical procedures

 Your dermatologist might perform simple in-office procedures if topical products don’t deliver satisfying results:


This is a procedure in which a dermatologist or surgeon performs an exfoliating technique by rolling a sharp rotating instrument on your skin to remove the outer layer. The technique is used to treat acne scars, sun damage, and abnormal texture. Your doctor will likely apply a local anesthetic on your skin, so you won’t feel any pain. After the procedure, your skin may be swollen and can ooze clear fluids, which will require some special care. Your doctor will explain thoroughly how you can take care of your skin after the procedure, and you can expect to get back to work in a couple of weeks. Full results may not be apparent until 3 months after the procedure.

Chemical peels

There are numerous chemical peels in the market and they differ mainly in strength, among other things. Chemical peels typically remove the outer layers of the skin, promoting cellular regeneration. Your doctor might use stronger chemical peels at their office to tackle deeper acne scars and try to fade them out.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy has revolutionized dermatology and provided a simple treatment for many skin conditions. Lasers can usually fade scars out by one of two ways: they either ablate and remove the outer skin layer and promote healing, or emit beams that stimulate collagen production and cellular regeneration. Depending on the severity of your acne scars, the duration and frequency of treatment sessions could vary.

Injectable fillers

Doctors can use your own fat, commercial fillers, or collagen fillers to fill out the dented acne scars and produce a flat even skin surface. Dermal fillers clump under the skin, raising up depressed spaces into the normal skin level. The downside is that most fillers last only a year or two before requiring a redo.


In this technique, your dermatologist will use a small needle-like tool to puncture the skin surrounding your acne scars. This stimulates healing and collagen production, which can subsequently improve the scars’ appearance and even them out with the surrounding skin. The treatment is overall safe, however, it might cause some skin inflammation and irritation, and results might take up to 9 months to start showing.

Steroid injections

 Your dermatologist might try to treat hypertrophic and keloid scars by injecting corticosteroids directly into them. Treatment consists of several injections done over a number of weeks.

Minor surgery

If you have a large irregularly-shaped scar that’s resistant to treatment, your doctor might suggest excising it surgically. Naturally, surgical excision would also lead to a scar, however, this new scar will be cosmetically more acceptable, and will have the potential to fade out with time. The procedure is usually done at your doctor’s office and under local anesthesia. Keep in mind that this option is reserved only for specific cases.

Acne scars can cause a lot of distress and may be unpleasant to look at. Today, many treatments are available to fade out scars and make them less noticeable. If you’re looking into dealing with your acne scars, you can discuss the various treatment options with your dermatologist and find out which one is best for your condition and skin type.

To learn more about Acne Scar, please check our blog on 4 TIPS FOR ACNE FREE SKIN.



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About the Author:
Dr. Mersad is a medical doctor, author, and editor based in Germany. He's managed to publish several research papers early in his career. He is passionate about spreading medical knowledge. Thus, he spends a big portion of his time writing educational articles for everyone to learn.