Treating and Removing Acne Scars: A Comprehensive Guide

By: Dr. Calvin Williams


Title: Treating and Removing Acne Scars: A Comprehensive Guide


Acne scars are a common and often frustrating issue for those who have experienced moderate to severe acne. The scars can serve as a constant reminder of past skin troubles and may impact a person's self-confidence. With advances in dermatology and aesthetic medicine, there are several effective treatments and therapies available to improve the appearance of acne scars or even achieve complete scar removal. In this article, we will discuss various treatment options, their pros and cons, and what you can expect from each method.


  • Topical Treatments:

The first line of defense against acne scars typically involves topical treatments. While they may not provide drastic results, they can help improve the appearance of mild scarring and discoloration. Some of the most common topical treatments include:

Retinoids: Retinoids, like tretinoin and adapalene, can promote cell turnover and help improve the texture of the skin. This can lead to a more even skin tone and a reduction in the appearance of shallow acne scars.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): AHAs, like glycolic and lactic acid, can help exfoliate the skin and encourage the production of collagen. This can result in smoother skin and diminished scarring.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and promote collagen synthesis. Topical vitamin C serums can improve the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and shallow scarring.


  • Chemical Peels:

Chemical peels  involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin, which causes the outer layers to peel away, revealing new, smoother skin beneath. There are various strengths and types of chemical peels, ranging from mild to deep, depending on the severity of scarring. Some of the most common chemical peels for acne scarring include:

Glycolic Acid Peel: A glycolic acid peel is a mild-to-moderate peel that can help improve the appearance of superficial acne scars and discoloration.

Salicylic Acid Peel: Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that can help reduce acne and improve the appearance of mild scarring.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA) Peel: TCA peels are stronger and can penetrate deeper layers of the skin, making them more effective for moderate to severe scarring. They may require a longer recovery time.


  • Microneedling:

Microneedling, also known as collagen induction therapy, involves the use of tiny needles to create micro-injuries in the skin. This triggers the body's natural healing response and encourages the production of collagen and elastin, which can help fill in and smooth out acne scars. Microneedling can be performed with a derma roller or a more advanced device like a microneedling pen. Multiple sessions may be necessary to achieve optimal results.


  • Laser Therapy:

Laser therapy is a popular and effective treatment option for acne scars. Various types of lasers can target different aspects of scarring, such as discoloration, texture, and depth. Some of the most common laser therapies for acne scars include:

Fractional CO2 Laser: The fractional CO2 laser targets both the surface and deeper layers of the skin, stimulating collagen production and helping to smooth out acne scars. This treatment can produce significant results but may require some downtime for recovery.

Pulsed Dye Laser (PDL): PDL is ideal for treating redness and discoloration associated with acne scars. It works by targeting blood vessels in the skin, reducing inflammation and promoting a more even skin tone.

Erbium: YAG Laser: This laser is less invasive than the CO2 laser and is typically used for milder acne scarring. The Erbium: YAG laser removes the outer layers of the skin, stimulating collagen production and improving the skin's texture. This treatment generally has a shorter recovery time compared to CO2 laser treatments.


  • Dermal Fillers:

Dermal fillers, like hyaluronic acid-based fillers, can be injected directly into atrophic (indented) acne scars to help raise and smooth the skin's surface. This treatment option is ideal for patients with rolling or boxcar scars who want to achieve immediate results. However, dermal fillers are temporary and may require periodic maintenance treatments to maintain the improved appearance of the scars.


  • Subcision:

Subcision is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that targets tethered or anchored scars, such as rolling or boxcar scars. During the treatment, a small needle or blade is inserted under the skin to break the fibrous bands connecting the scar to the underlying tissue. This releases the scar, allowing it to rise to the skin's surface and creating a smoother appearance. Subcision may be combined with other treatments, like dermal fillers or laser therapy, for optimal results.


  • Punch Excision and Elevation:

Punch excision is a surgical procedure used to treat deep, narrow acne scars like ice pick scars. A small, cookie-cutter-like instrument is used to remove the scarred tissue, and the resulting hole is closed with sutures. Punch elevation is similar, but instead of removing the scarred tissue, it is lifted and reattached at a higher level, making the scar less noticeable. These techniques may require some downtime for healing but can produce significant improvements in the appearance of deep acne scars.


Acne scars can be a challenging and persistent issue, but there are numerous treatments and therapies available to improve their appearance or even achieve complete scar removal. The best approach for treating acne scars depends on the type, severity, and location of the scarring, as well as individual preferences and budget. A consultation with a dermatologist or aesthetic medicine specialist can help determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs. With the right treatment, it's possible to achieve smoother, more even, and healthier-looking skin.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.