How to Heal Acne Scars

Posted on April 21, 2017
woman popping pimple in front of mirror

There are some scars you wear as badges of honor: the scar you got beating up the school bully, the tattoo of your child”s name on your ankle, the “Mom” tattoo on your upper arm. Conversely, there are other scars that don’t earn bragging rights, such as the ones you get from acne. Those who have left their acne years behind are more likely to want to banish any existing evidence than hold on to unpleasant souvenirs. If you are among those battling with the remains of your acne, read on for a few helpful tips.

Fade Creams

If you have a red or swollen scar, Tina Alster, MD and professor of dermatology at Georgetown University, suggests using a cortisone cream. Cortisone is absorbed by skin cells and reduces inflammation. Creams containing cortisone can be bought without a prescription and are available at most pharmacies.

After the cortisone application, you’ll want to work on lightening dark spots left by the scar. “Hydroquinone, a popular skin lightener, has recently fallen out of favor and is now being omitted from many fading creams due to irritation and carcinogenic concern,” says Alster. Safer alternatives include Kojic acid, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and arbutus.

Filler and Laser Treatments

If your acne scars are not responding to at-home treatments, you may want to call in a professional. Laser skin resurfacing can even out the surface of skin and stimulate collagen formation. The new collagen will act as a building block of skin, and can help to fill in scars from acne.

Filler injections will fill in indentations in the skin left by acne scars. However, because the product reabsorbs into the skin over time, filler treatment needs to be repeated every 4 to 6 months.


Time heals all wounds, and acne scars are no exception. According to Alster, a  few weeks after scarring, new blood vessels will move to the area to nourish the skin. Months later collagen will begin to fill in the injured area. But, keep in mind, patience is key. Ron Moy, MD, says that because cystic acne destroys fat and skin, fading of scars may take up to a year.

Prevention of Scars

If you are currently in the throws of acne, here are a few tips for surviving it scar-free.

Avoid the Sun

Ultraviolet rays can cause the stimulation of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. This can cause scars to darken and slows down the healing process. Protect yourself with a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when its rays are strongest.

Don’t Pick Scars

Scars are made up of collagen, and can become indented due to loss of this protein. Squeezing can damage the collagen and cause bacteria and pus to filter into the skin more deeply, while picking increases inflammation, leading to further discoloration and scarring.

Don’t Use Vitamin E

Although Vitamin E is a much-touted cure all for any and all skin problems, a study from the University of Miami shows that the opposite may be true when it comes to eliminating scars. According to the study, vitamin E increased or had no effect on scarring in 90% of the patients, while 33% developed contact dermatitis from application of the vitamin.

Let us know how you survived acne and what you did to heal the battle scars. We want to know!

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