Acne Scars: A Complete Guide to Getting Smooth Skin Again

Whether you are an adolescent in high school, have oily skin, hormonal fluctuations, or are just stressed out - we’ve all had acne at some point in our lives. Those awful scars that refuse to disappear are the worst of all.

But instead of spending time and money hiding them, this article tells you how to get rid of them, so you don’t have to shy away.

*Disclaimer – Don’t opt for any medical procedures listed below without first consulting your dermatologist about their efficacy and safety.

Acne Scars: Types, Causes, and Preventative Measures

Before we dive into the options for getting rid of acne scars, here’s a crash course on the types of acne and the best ways to keep them at bay. Firstly, never ignore even the smallest breakout or pimple. Treat them with care and caution. Don’t touch, poke or pop them because the infection will spread to other areas.

There are different kinds of acne, that may require specific treatment. Depressed/atrophic scars are sunken below the surrounding skin and they include boxcar, ice pick, and rolling scars. Hypertrophic scars are raised above the skin and occur mainly on the chest and back. These scars happen due to too little or too much collagen production during the healing process respectively.

Follow Anti-Acne Routine

An anti-acne routine, no matter where or what kind of acne occurs, comprises healthy eating habits, exercise, and keeping your face and body clean. Eat plenty of fiber-filled fruit and vegetables and guzzle down plenty of water to flush out toxins, and avoid fatty, processed foods. Exercise gets the blood flowing to blood capillaries, flushes out toxins, and carries away waste.

Skincare & Medication

In terms of skincare, wash your face and body without scrubbing too hard. Use cleansers, toners, and moisturizers that have either anti-acne medications or acne-fighting ingredients. For example, use retinoids like Retin-A for atrophic scars to smooth over scarring, salicylic acid to bring down inflammation and clear the pores, over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide-based medications that are FDA-approved to treat acne vulgaris, and lactic acid toners/ ointments to lighten pigmentation and improve skin texture. AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids exfoliate dead skin to make scars less visible. Other OTC options include products with azelaic acid, hydroxyl acids, or hydroquinone as per your dermatologist’s recommendation. AHAs, retinoids, and lactic acid can be harsh on the skin and dry it out – so do a spot-test before using it on large areas, and use sunscreen as your skin will become more sensitive.

Acne Scar Removal Methods

Dermal/ Soft Tissue Fillers

Fillers are injections of fat from your body, collagen, or hyaluronic acid into the skin to even out skin. It is best suited for indented scars to smooth out skin and make it plumper. Repeated treatments every 6-18 months are necessary, but it's comparatively less expensive and less invasive, although you should expect minimal swelling/bruising and redness initially. This treatment is best for a few rolling/boxcar scars.

Dermabrasion and Microdermabrasion

Dermabrasion uses a swiftly rotating brush/ tool to exfoliate the topmost layer of your skin. This way the surface scars are removed and the new layer of skin grows smooth and without craters. This is done by a dermatologist/aesthetician, but there still may be slight discoloration after the treatment. It works well for shallow boxcars and rolling scars, but it also minimizes the depth of deeper scars and the healing time is about 3 weeks.

In microdermabrasion, a handheld tool is used to exfoliate skin in a process called “epidermal resurfacing”. This renews the skin surface and tackles melasma, striae, and even photoaging. You can even get home microdermabrasion kits.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels involve the application of chemical solutions containing glycolic, salicylic, or lactic acid, to name a few options, onto your skin to remove the upper layer. The skin that grows back is free of blemishes, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. Your dermatologist will assess what peel is best suited for your skin type. Peels and microdermabrasion are the most versatile, being suited for most skin types.

Surgery/Punch Excision

This is an invasive procedure in which each scar is individually removed surgically. The cut-out portion is then either repaired with stitches or covered with a skin flap. For subcutaneous incisional surgery, needles are placed under the skin to loosen the scarred portion, so it can be taken out easier.

Microneedling/ Collagen Induction Therapy

This procedure involves the use of a rolling pen-like tool with needles across the surface. It is run over your skin to prick it lightly, causing punctures that stimulate collagen production during healing. It is minimally invasive, but the impact is very subtle which means repeated treatment and a minimum of 9 months to see an impact. It works best for depressed/atrophic scars.

Laser Reduction

Laser ablative therapy strips off the uppermost layer of skin and promotes new cell growth; it works best if a person has already had dermabrasion. It is best suited for lighter skin tones, not darker tones, or people with repeat breakouts or keloids. The healing time is short, about 3-10 days – but expect peeling during this time.


You may try a series of injections of steroids, corticosteroids, and interferons on hypertrophic scars which are usually done in a series – once every few weeks or so. This helps to pull down raised scars by breaking collagen bonds and forcing the skin to shrink.

Energy-based Treatment

Sometimes using radiofrequency pulse treatment before dermabrasion can improve the effectiveness of the procedure. RF treatments tighten skin by applying a fractional technique deep within the skin. You may need 3-5 sessions for a significant effect.


OnabotulinumtoxinA, popularly known as Botox or botulism neurotoxin is often used by people to take away wrinkles, fine lines, and puckered skin around acne scars. You will need to have regular sessions, and it can be costly!


There you have it – all the possible treatments to wave goodbye to acne scars. It's yours to choose and then on to shine!

Updated on: 15-Feb-2023


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