The only thing worse than having a major pimple (or acne) is the long-term scarring that follows. Even if you care for your skin like a newborn infant, spots and red marks can linger for weeks or months. But there are expert ways to fade them fast—or prevent the scarring from even forming in the first place. We spoke with Yunyoung Claire Chang, a dermatologist at the Union Square Laser Dermatology; Dennis Gross, dermatologist and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare and Dr. Dennis Gross Dermatology; and Gilly Munavalli, medical director and founder of Dermatology, Laser, and Vein Specialists of the Carolinas, to give us the lowdown on how to prevent and get rid of acne scars—forever.
What is the Best Treatment for Acne Scars?
Start with chemical (not physical!) exfoliation. Gross says using a product that offers gentle chemical exfoliation is the first step in healing scars. We like his Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel; it has a blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids that exfoliates dead, darkened scar skin cells while stimulating collagen production. He also says to look for anti-inflammatory and skin brightening ingredients in your serums and, such as vitamin C, a skin-brightening antioxidant, and vitamin E, which regenerates skin cells and improves the texture. Chang says to look for topical treatments that contain retinoids, hydroquinone, and azelaic acid, which have all bene proven to dramatically lighten dark marks and even melasma. Her favorite picks are the Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum and Skinbetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream. A word of caution: hydroquinone, a skin-bleaching agent, should only be used under the care and supervision of a dermatologist, since it can potentially lighten healthy skin, too.
For ice pick, rolling, and boxcar scars, Gross says to seek a collagen-boosting treatment, like the in-office laser Smooth Beam. When collagen production is boosted, the scar will eventually raise to match the rest of your skin’s surface. Other pro treatments to discuss with your dermatologist are the laser Picoway Resolve, microneedling like Profound, subcision, and hyaluronic acid filler treatments.
With hypertrophic scars, the reduction of collagen is key. Chang suggests treatment options that include silicone gel, steroid injections, and lasers. Gross agrees and says if the acne scar is both red and raised, an in-office laser such as the Vbeam laser is “an exceptional way” to reduce its appearance.