What's the best treatment for acne scars?

Answer From Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.

Acne scars are stubborn, and no single treatment is best for everyone. One or a combination of the following approaches might improve the appearance of your skin, depending on your scar type, your skin type and the severity of the scarring.

  • Home skin care. Using sunscreen can help limit the contrast between unscarred skin and a scar. Some medicated creams, such as those containing azelaic acid or hydroxyl acids, might help too.
  • Soft tissue fillers. Injecting collagen, fat or other substances under the skin can plump the skin over indented scars. The goal is to make the scars less noticeable. Results are temporary, so repeat treatments are needed to retain the effect. This method has little risk of changes in skin color.
  • Steroid injection. Injecting steroids into some types of raised scars can improve the appearance of your skin.
  • Laser resurfacing. This approach is increasingly popular and is often used on scars that were once treated with dermabrasion. This technique has an increased risk of side effects for people with darker skin or a history of keloids.
  • Other energy-based procedures. Pulsed light sources and radiofrequency devices help make scars less noticeable without damaging the outer layer of skin. Results are subtle, and you might need repeat treatments.
  • Dermabrasion. This procedure is usually reserved for more severe scarring. Your doctor removes the top layer of skin with a rapidly rotating brush or other device. Surface scars may be completely removed, and deeper acne scars may appear less noticeable. Potential severe side effects include scarring and changes in skin color.
  • Chemical peel. Your doctor applies a chemical solution to the scar tissue to remove the top layer of skin and minimize the appearance of deeper scars. You can repeat mild and medium peels to maintain results. You can have only one deep peel. Potential side effects include changes in skin color, especially with deep peels used on dark skin.
  • Skin needling. Your doctor rolls a needle-studded device over the skin to stimulate collagen formation in the underlying tissue. It's a safe, simple and possibly effective technique for acne scarring. It has minimal risk of discoloring the skin. Results are subtle, and you may need repeat treatments.
  • Surgery. Using a minor procedure called punch excision, your doctor cuts out individual acne scars and repairs the wound with stitches or a skin graft. With a technique called subcision, your doctor inserts needles under the skin to loosen fibers below a scar.
  • OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox). Sometimes the skin around acne scars puckers. Injecting Botox relaxes the surrounding skin, which may improve the appearance of an acne scar. Results are temporary, so repeat treatments are needed to retain the effect.

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Nov. 10, 2020 See more Expert Answers

See also

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  2. Acne mistakes
  3. Acne treatments: Medical procedures may help clear skin
  4. Birth control pills for acne?
  5. Can zinc supplements help treat hidradenitis suppurativa?
  6. Hidradenitis suppurativa wound care
  7. Chemical peel
  8. Clinical trials for hidradenitis suppurativa
  9. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  10. Coping with the stress of hidradenitis suppurativa
  11. Creating a hidradenitis suppurativa care team
  12. Cushing syndrome
  13. Dermabrasion
  14. Don't blame pizza, fries or dirt for acne
  15. Hidradenitis suppurativa
  16. Hidradenitis suppurativa and biologics: Get the facts
  17. Hidradenitis suppurativa and diet: What's recommended?
  18. Hidradenitis suppurativa and sleep: How to get more zzz's
  19. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Tips for weight-loss success
  20. Hidradenitis suppurativa: What is it?
  21. Hidradenitis suppurativa: When does it appear?
  22. Hidradenitis suppurativa: Where can I find support?
  23. Hirsutism
  24. Laser resurfacing
  25. Living better with hidradenitis suppurativa
  26. Managing hidradenitis suppurativa: Early treatment is crucial
  27. Hidradenitis suppurativa-related health risks
  28. Natural acne treatment: What's most effective?
  29. Nonprescription acne treatment: Which products work best?
  30. Pituitary tumors
  31. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  32. Precocious puberty
  33. Pregnancy acne
  34. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  35. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  36. Reducing the discomfort of hidradenitis suppurativa: Self-care tips
  37. Staying active with hidradenitis suppurativa
  38. Surgery for hidradenitis suppurativa
  39. Treat acne-prone skin with care
  40. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa: Explore your options
  41. Treating hidradenitis suppurativa with antibiotics and hormones
  42. What are the signs and symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa?