Your acne has finally resolved, but are you really in the clear? A common but troubling aftereffect of acne is the residual scarring that it can leave behind. The best way to manage acne scars is by proactively preventing acne breakouts, but if you are bothered by existing scars, there are effective acne scar treatments. So, if you're wondering how to fade acne scars and restore clear, blemish-free skin, the following Dermatologist-recommended tips can help.

About Acne

Acne is a skin condition in which skin pores become clogged with oil or dead skin cells. It often begins in puberty but can continue well into adulthood. Acne affects up to 50 million Americans each year and is the most common skin condition in the United States.

Acne blemishes can appear as whiteheads, blackheads, small red bumps, pustules, large nodules under the skin, or painful cystic lesions. Various factors including hormonal changes, excess oil, dead skin cells, bacteria, inflammation, certain medications, diet, stress, genetics, makeup, and hygiene habits can all contribute to acne.

Scratching, rubbing, or picking of active acne lesions will increase the likelihood of developing acne scars. Some types of acne (especially chronic acne, inflammatory acne, and cystic acne) are more likely to scar regardless of how you treat your skin.

Types of Acne Scars

Almost all acne scars are atrophic scars, in which the damage has resulted in a loss of collagen. These include:

  • Ice pick scars: Narrow, deep, scars with a V-shaped cross-section
  • Boxcar scars: Rounded depressions with sharply defined edges
  • Rolling scars: Wide scars creating a superficial shadowing or rolling appearance

A minority of acne scars are associated with increased collagen in the skin. These include:

  • Hypertrophic scars: Raised, pink, firm scars with thick collagen borders, sized the same as the original acne lesion
  • Keloid scars: Reddish purple papules or nodules that extend beyond the borders of the original acne lesion

Individuals of all skin types can develop acne scars, but some skin types are more prone to scarring. Notably, darker skin tones are more likely to develop long-lasting acne scars and to experience hyperpigmentation (darker skin) or hypopigmentation (lighter skin) at the scar site.

How to Treat Acne Scars

A number of Dermatology and at-home treatments can minimize acne scars. Taking a more proactive skin care approach with the help of your Dermatologist can also help you treat acne and reduce your risk of developing acne scars in the future.

Dermatology Treatments for Acne Scars

If you're interested in working with a professional Dermatologist, any of the following treatments can fade acne scars and restore smooth, even skin.

  • Skin peels: A personalized chemical formula applied to the skin can soften or even eliminate acne scars. The treatment causes the outer layers of skin to peel off to reveal the undamaged underlying skin.
  • Dermabrasion/Microdermabrasion: This treatment carefully sands away the outer, damaged skin layers to create a softer, smoother, and more evenly toned skin appearance.
  • Laser treatment: Laser skin resurfacing destroys damaged scar tissue and triggers the body's healing response to generate healthy skin cells in its place.
  • Microneedling: Microneedling uses tiny needles to puncture the skin so that the body generates an active healing response to heal acne scars.
  • Fillers: Your Dermatologist can administer injectable dermal fillers to volumize depressed scars.
  • Surgery: Various surgeries such as subcision and excision can break up or remove acne scar tissue to restore even skin.

At-Home Treatments for Acne Scars

If you want to know how to fade acne scars on your own at home, the following Dermatologist-recommended treatments can help.

  • Topical medication: Prescription gels, lotions, and creams, such as those containing retinoids, azelaic acid, or antibiotics, can prevent active acne and even fade existing scars by enhancing skin cell regeneration.
  • Salicylic acid: This at-home treatment not only helps manage active acne but also reduces swelling and redness, thereby minimizing the appearance of acne scars.
  • Alphahydroxy acids: AHAs can clear out dead and damaged skin cells to reduce the appearance of acne scars and minimize the likelihood of acne breakouts.

Tips and Practices for Preventing Acne Scars

The best way to avoid acne scars is to get treatment for active acne. Adopting four main skin care practices will reduce your likelihood of developing acne.

1. Wash your face: Wash your face at least once per day with a gentle cleanser. Cleanse after exercising and sweating to keep your pores clear so that acne does not appear.

2. Cleanse all over: Do not spot treat only; apply cleanser all over your face and any other acne-prone areas so that future acne is less likely to develop.

3. Avoid picking: Do not pick at, scrub, scratch, or otherwise irritate active acne. This causes further inflammation in the skin and slows the healing process, making scarring more likely.

4. Wear sun protection: Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects your skin from damage due to ultraviolet radiation. Proper sun care helps protect against all forms of skin damage, including acne and acne scars.

For a high-quality facial cleanser to keep your skin fresh and clean, try a product such as EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser. Safe for all skin types and gentle enough for morning and nightly use, this oil-free cleanser removes impurities and restores healthy, even skin. For deeper cleansing, try the EltaMD Deep Pore Facial Cleanser.

Scarring does not have to be a constant reminder of your previous acne! Following these Dermatologist-recommended tips can help you to restore healthy skin balance, reduce active acne, and minimize and prevent acne scars.


  • Brandon Kirsch, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Brandon Kirsch is the President and Chief Executive Officer at, a dermatologist-led online platform providing personalized prescriptions to treat skin conditions. Dr. Kirsch also serves as Chief of Dermatology for the Naples Community Hospital and is the founder of Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida.