What to Do About Acne Scars

If you are one of the millions of people who have suffered from acne, you know how frustrating it can be.

But even after your breakouts heal, you may notice that your skin still doesn’t look quite the same as before. It’s estimated that about 80% of all people experience acne between the ages of 11 and 30, and some folks continue to have breakouts as they age. About 1 in 5 people who get acne will also have lingering scars after their blemishes go away. 

Acne scars may occur anywhere you’ve had a breakout, such as the face, back or chest. They may appear as areas of discoloration or as indentations or raised bumps. Depending on the type and severity of your scars, treatments may include topical ointments you can apply at home or professional treatments from your dermatologist. 

At Cayce Dermatology, Dr. Kimberly Cayce and the rest of our medical team have helped many patients reduce acne scars for a better appearance and greater confidence. Let’s go over some of the basics about acne scars and different options for getting rid of them.

Causes & Types of Acne Scars

Acne scars are the result of inflammation of blemishes that occur during breakouts. The acne pore swells, causing a breakdown in the wall of the pore. After the skin heals, the affected area may appear discolored or misshapen.

A depressed scar appears as an indentation and is caused by a loss of tissue. There are three main types of depressed scars: 

  • Icepick scars are wider near the skin’s surface and narrower toward the bottom. They often appear on thinner areas of skin such as the forehead and upper cheeks.
  • Rolling scars are sloping indentations that give the affected area an uneven, wavy appearance. They are typically found on thicker skin along the jaw and lower cheeks.
  • Boxcar scars have harder edges and appear to go deeper in the skin. They also appear most frequently along the jaw and lower cheeks. 

A raised scar is the opposite. It happens when the skin creates excess repair tissue during the healing process and appears as a raised area or bump. Some patients find that raised scars may be itchy, painful or tender to the touch. They may occur on the jaw, back, chest or shoulders. 

You can reduce your risk of developing acne scars by not picking or scratching blemishes and treating breakouts promptly to promote faster healing. Other helpful habits include wearing sunscreen daily and not smoking. It’s also important to be aware that genetic factors may make some people more prone to develop acne scars. 

At-Home Acne Scar Treatments

For some people, acne scars may respond to topical treatments that you apply directly to the skin. Some brands are available over-the-counter while others require a prescription. 

Your dermatologist may recommend creams or gels that can shrink, flatten or fade raised scars. These products should be used consistently for best results and may be paired with in-office treatments. 

For other patients, topical treatments may help with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is a darkening of the skin that may be left behind after a blemish heals and may be dark red or brown in color. Sometimes these areas gradually fade on their own. If you have discoloration that won’t go away, applying a retinoid product may help to promote fading. 

Other at-home topical treatments may include alpha hydroxy acids, lactic acid or salicylic acid. 

In-Office Acne Scar Treatment Options

If at-home methods alone aren’t getting rid of your acne scars, your dermatologist may suggest professional treatments. Which treatment is right for you is based on many factors including the type and severity of your scars and your treatment goals. 

Skin Resurfacing 

Resurfacing diminishes the appearance of acne scars. It works by removing outer layers of skin and promoting the growth of new, healthy skin cells. It can also be used to contour the edges of scars to make them less conspicuous. The specific procedure you receive may depend on how deep the scar is. 

  • Fractional Skin Tightening combines microneedling with radio-frequency technology to stimulate collagen production and promote skin resurfacing.
  • Chemical peels involve a chemical substance applied to the surface of your skin. It removes the top layer to encourage the growth or new skin cells. 
  • Dermabrasion or microdermabrasion involves an abrasive tool that creates just enough friction to gently remove the top layer of skin. 

Dermal Fillers 

Injectable fillers are recommended for safely and subtly plumping areas with depressed scarring. This gives the skin a more even appearance. Some fillers provide permanent results while others require follow-up treatments every 6 to 18 months for lasting effects. 


This technique uses a sterile device with small needles, which gently puncture the skin to stimulate cell regrowth and collagen production. Recommended for areas with widespread scarring, the dermatologist moves the device over the affected area during the procedure. For best results, 3 to 6 treatments should be scheduled every 2 to 6 weeks. 


Cryotherapy is a good option for diminishing the appearance of acne scars in people with lighter skin tones. It involves freezing the scar tissue so that the affected cells die. The dead cells will gradually flake off on their own, allowing new, healthy skin to grow in their place. 

Fractional Skin Tightening 

This method is good for depressed scars including icepick and boxcar scars. Radiofrequency technology is combined with microneedling, causing exfoliation and collagen remodeling and resulting in improved texture and skin tone. Many patients see results in as few as 3 days with the most noticeable results appearing after 1 month. Those receiving this treatment should apply sunscreen during the day and moisturizer at night to soothe the skin.  


For acne scars that haven’t responded to other treatments, minor surgery may be an option. These procedures are performed while you are awake, in a dermatologist’s office, on an outpatient basis. The treated area is numbed for greater comfort. 

For those with depressed scars, the dermatologist may be able to utilize a process called subscision to lift the affected area closer to the surface of the skin for a more even appearance. If you have raised scars, you may receive an excision in which the excess scar tissue is removed. 

Schedule a Consultation

If you’d like to learn about options for treating acne scars, schedule an appointment with Cayce Dermatology. The dermatologist will examine your skin to determine the type and severity of your scars. This will help to decide the best course of treatment. 

If you’re still having acne breakouts, it is recommended that you wait until your skin heals before treating any remaining scars. A dermatology appointment may be necessary if at-home treatments have been unsuccessful at resolving active acne breakouts. You’ll also want to think about your treatment goals. You may be looking to regain a smoother texture or simply make the scars less obvious to others. 


To schedule your appointment, you can call us at 573-234-1000 or contact us online. We look forward to helping you look and feel your best!

Leave a Comment