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How To Fade Acne Scars: A Complete Guide

Our Clique doctors break down the best solutions and treatments for acne scars. Learn the difference between dark marks and acne spots, the different types of acne scars, why they appear and most importantly, how to treat them!

How are the acne scars formed?

Acne scars occur when too much collagen forms in a particular spot when a wound is healing. The scar often develops within the dermis, where the original acne inflammation formed.

There are two types of acne scars: depressed and raised. Depressed scars may look like pits or craters, and raised scars may be firm and tender (keloid scarring).

In a nutshell, scars formed as part of the skin’s normal healing process after it has been damaged by a wound or injury. Most superficial wounds (on the epidermis) heal without scarring. It is when the dermis is damaged that scars form on the skin.

What’s the difference between acne marks and acne scars?

In order to treat acne marks and scars, it is helpful to know how to distinguish between the two.
For one, a dark mark on the skin after an acne had healed is not an acne scar but rather post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Inflammation in the skin often leaves behind a temporary discolouration as part of the natural healing process. This acne mark will fade on its own over weeks to maybe months. Unlike scars, these are smooth to the touch (not raised or indented scars). Such marks signifies that there is no permanent collagen damage to the skin. Certain topical medications with ingredients such as Retin-A (tretinoin)  may speed the fading time.

Actual acne scars on the other hand, refers to a multitude of different depressed or raised marks that a breakout may leave behind on the skin. These scars may appear as rolling, boxcar or ice-pick scars.

There are two main types of acne scars:

Hypertrophic or keloid scarring:

These scars are caused when the body produces too much collagen as acne wounds heal, resulting in a mass of raised, tender tissue on the skin’s surface.

Atrophic or depressed scarring:

These scars develop when there is a loss of tissue. There are three common types of atrophic scarring:

  • Ice pick scars: Deeper than they are wide, with jagged edges. Quite often they resemble a large, scooped out pore.
  • Boxcar scars: Broad, rectangular depressions with steep, defined edges.
  • Rolling scars: Broad depressions that have rounded, sloping edges, hence the name.

What causes scars?

Acne scarring is mainly due to touching and squeezing of pimples. This damages small veins, glands and tissues surrounding the spots which creates scarring.

How to get rid of acne scars?

Well, the best treatment is undoubtedly prevention, which is avoiding getting the scars in the first place.
So resist the temptation to fiddle with blackheads, whiteheads and other blemishes. Do not pick, squeeze or pop a pimple. When you squeeze a pimple  you risk damaging the fine veins, glands and tissues that surround it. This can make the symptoms of acne worse and increase the risk of scarring..

But if it happens, know that scars will take time to fade. The good news is that when it comes to methods to get rid of acne scars and pigmentation, there are many excellent options available now, from DIYs to aesthetics treatments.

Most treatments relied on the principle of renewing the skin surface via collagen generation to reduce the depth and intensity of acne scars.
Seek a doctor with in-depth medical knowledge and experience which qualifies her/him to determine the best treatments for your case. You will need a tailored treatment plan, taking into consideration the scar types and where the scars are on your body.

To obtain the best results, your doctor may recommend more than one type of procedures, for example lasers plus creams and injections. Getting the best results often requires repeat treatments.

Natural remedies

Many people use natural remedies to help clear up acne scars, but the science behind them is unclear. In fact, some do-it-yourself (DIY) recipes may aggravate the skin condition so it is best to seek professional counsel to avoid further complications.

Products/treatments available

For home acne scars treatments, over-the-counter scar fading creams may work on hyper pigmented scars that are not too deep.
The key to fading acne-related redness lies in resurfacing skincare so exfoliation helps. Products that offers gentle chemical exfoliation will exfoliate dead and darkened skin cells, besides kick-starting your body’s natural production of collagen which helps to reduce the visibility of scars as new skin emerges. Products with powerful blend of antioxidants is likewise great for brightening the skin surface and for treating dark spots/scarring.
Look for fading cream with ingredients such as Retin-A, in combination with hydroquinone, kojic acid, or licorice, all powerful skin-lightening ingredients used to reduce post-acne discolouration and dark spots.

This method is undoubtedly worth a try, since it’s comparatively easy, convenient and affordable. However keep expectations in check as topical treatments don’t always provide the miraculous results most patients are hoping for.

This is where treatments like lasers and chemical peels come into play. These procedures can be costly, but patients are usually happy with the results.

A chemical peel exfoliates the skin on a deeper level than topical exfoliation. The goal remains the same, which is to rejuvenate and produce new skin, which in turn fade acne scars. Both at-home and in-clinic chemical peels are effective for reducing the appearance of acne scars.

Glycolic peels are great for skin brightening while salicylic peels are best for acne-prone skin.


Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure that involves the expertise of a skin care specialist or medical aesthetic doctor. Using a specialised device, the top layer of skin is removed.
This is a relatively gentle form of treatment and is safe for anyone with any skin colour. You’ll need to have regular treatments to achieve effective and lasting results.

Similarly to microdermabrasion, microneedling is best and safest when carried out by a certified specialist or aesthetic doctor to avoid the risk of further inflammation. Micro-needling is a technique that induces collagen growth underneath the scar by making micro-wounds in the skin using a dermaroller. The numerous fine needles from the dermaroller pierce the top layer of the skin, which sends a signal that there has been an injury that needs to be repaired and thus the skin produces new collagen and elastin. Like microdermabrasion, multiple sessions are normally needed to see improvement.

Acne scars can also be treated with injections.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) can be injected under the indentation of atrophic (depressed) scars to fill them so they look less concave. However, since Hyaluronic Acid is gradually broken down by the body, results are short term.
The benefit of injections on hypertrophic (raised) scars is however, longer term. When injected with cortisone, the raised scar tissue breaks down and the elevation flattens.


Another option for the treatment of keloid scars is cryotherapy which is again, best administered by a doctor. The process involves ‘freezing’ the skin and then injecting a cortisone formula into the scar tissue. This treatment requires a long time, often up years for visible results. Each scar has to be treated individually and the keloid is reduced part by part.

With laser therapy, the skin is injured in a targeted way so as to activate its natural self-healing process. Once skin is renewed, the overall complexion appears smoother. There is a wide range of laser variants available such as Q-Switch and PICO lasers. Laser treatments should only be conducted by an experienced medical aesthetic doctor in order to avoid complications and further scarring to the skin. Again, multiple sessions are required for visible, long-lasting results.

Best solutions for acne scars

The best thing you can do to keep scarring at bay is to effectively treat any existing acne. If patient is experiencing mild to moderate acne which isn’t associated with hormones, using an over-the-counter system will work for most. Acne creams that use benzoyl peroxide or an alpha hydroxy acid tend to offer good results. But, if those don’t work or stop working, you need to see a medical aesthetician.

Conclusion/Final thoughts

Acne scarring can happen to anyone. Fortunately, there are even more non-invasive treatments that can help reduce their appearance — you just need to figure out which method is right for you. All skin is different and no treatment is one-size-fits-all, but hopefully, with a little more information, we’ll all be one step closer to clear, smooth skin.

Too much sun exposure can darken the spots even more, so sunscreen will be your best friend. Therefore, a broad spectrum sunscreen, most preferably a physical blocker, is strongly advised.

An aesthetic doctor with in-depth medical knowledge and experience will be able to determine the best treatments on case to case basis. As individual skin varies,  a personalised treatment plan is necessary since factors such as scar types, how long ago since the scars were formed and where the scars are will affect recuperation period. To obtain the best results, an aesthetic doctor may recommend more than one type of procedure, for example lasers plus creams and injections. Getting the best results often requires repeat treatments.


Dr Derrick Liew - Dr Derrick Liew pic 1

Dr Derrick Liew

Dr. Derrick Liew, MD, is a dedicated practitioner who earned his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from the Russian National Research Medical University. Dr Derrick pursued his passion for Aesthetic Medicine by attaining a postgraduate certification in Aesthetics from the International Institute of Wellness & Aesthetic Medicine (IIWAM). With a keen understanding that both physical health and outer beauty play pivotal roles in building confidence and overall well-being, Dr Derrick is committed to the artistry of Aesthetic Medicine.

Dr. Derrick's dedication to excellence is evident through his continuous pursuit of knowledge and skill enhancement. Holding certifications such as the Assured Certificate in Advanced Aesthetic Science from the City & Guilds of London Institute, he stays at the forefront of advancements in the field. As a speaker for AMSC and with publications to his credit, Dr. Derrick contributes actively to the advancement of Aesthetic Medicine. Outside of his professional pursuits, Dr. Derrick's love for sports and fitness reflects his holistic approach to health and well-being.

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