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Get Rid of Acne Marks and Scars
Get Rid of Acne Marks and Scars


How to Get Rid of Acne Marks and Scars

Acne marks and scars are very common. One in five people who suffer from acne develop scars as a result1. While any form of acne spot can cause acne scarring, it’s more likely to occur when serious types of spots (nodules and cysts) burst and damage the skin.

Acne marks and acne scars are both often used to describe the end result of acne on the skin, but they are, in fact, different. Acne marks – often referred to as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) – are skin discolourations that remain behind after an acne lesion has healed. They appear as flat, red, or brown areas on the skin and tend to fade naturally overtime as the skin renews.

Acne scars create irreglularities in the skin’s texture and are generally more serious. They’re raised or indented and are usually permanent. There are different types of scars that can form, and they typically appear when the body begins healing after a severe acne outbreak.

While acne marks and scars aren’t painful, they can affect your self-esteem. Fortunately, there are options available to help reduce the appearance of acne marks and scars.

Read on to find out the different types of acne scars and marks, what causes them, and some options that can help reduce their appearance.

In this guide:

Types of acne marks and scars

When an acne spot heals, it can leave behind darker patches of skin. This is particularly common in individuals with deeper skin tones. Acne marks appear as flat, dark areas, often red or brown in colour.
Dark and brown spots are due to over production of the skin’s pigment melanin as a result of inflammation caused by acne. Red spots can appear due to dilation of blood vessels near the skin’s surface. In some cases, the marks may be hypopigmented or lighter than your usual skin colour.
Acne can leave different types of scars depending on what kind of acne it is and how you take care of it. These include:

Ice pick scars

These are deep, small holes in the surface of the skin. As the name suggests, ice pick acne scars look like the skin has been punctured with a sharp object

Rolling scars

These scars are caused by bands of scar tissue forming under the skin, which gives the skin’s surface a wavy and uneven appearance.

Boxcar scars

Boxcar scars are oval or round depressions in the skin. These can also appear as craters and can be shallow or deep.


These are raised scar tissue where the acne spot once was. These can also be larger than the acne was.

Causes of acne scarring

Acne scarring can occur from any type of acne spot, but it’s more common when nodules, cysts, and other serious spots burst and damage nearby skin. Scars from these more severe forms of acne are more likely to be harder to treat and may be permanent.

Like other types of scars, acne scars are formed from damaged tissue. Once a wound or injury has healed, a scar is the mark left on the skin. Therefore, scars are a natural part of the healing process, and most will fade over time. In fact, most wounds result in some form of scarring, except for very minor ones.

Scars form when the dermis (the deep, thick middle layer of skin) is damaged. The skin creates new collagen fibres (a natural protein in the body) in response. The new scar tissue will have a different quality and texture than the surrounding tissue. When the wound completely heals, a scar is formed.

The resulting scar will either appear as an indentation in the surface of the skin if there was a loss of tissue during the healing process, or it will be raised on the surface of the skin if too much collagen was made during the healing process.

How to get rid of acne scars and marks

There are certain steps you can take to reduce the appearance of acne marks. Using exfoliating products containing ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), retinol , or salicylic acid will help remove the top layers of skin and promote the renewal of healthy skin cells to fade the look of acne marks. Using lightening or brightening ingredients can also help improve their appearance.

Alternatively, make-up can be used to cover up marks left by acne. In addition, avoiding sun exposure and protecting the affected areas with sunscreen will help since the sun can make the marks darker.

The NEUTROGENA® Clear & Defend+ Daily Serum and Liquid Exfoliant have both been specially formulated to help fade marks left after acne.

For more severe cases of acne scarring, your GP may be able to advise you on specific cosmetic procedures or specialist treatment.

The most common options to help get rid of acne scars include:

At-home skincare options

While you can’t entirely remove acne scars, you can make them less noticeable. As with acne marks, products containing hydroxy acids and retinoids can help to make your scars less pronounced, although you may need to use stronger prescription products and so it’s advisable to discuss your options with your GP. Applying sunscreen when outside can also help to reduce the colour contrast between your skin and the acne scars.

Additionally, makeup can be used to cover acne scars and help reduce their appearance. Special makeup, such as camouflage cosmetics designed to conceal scars, are available at pharmacies.

Professional acne scar treatments


This procedure involves removing the top layer of skin with a laser or specially made wire brush. Your skin may appear red and sore for a few months afterwards, but the appearance of your scars should improve as it heals.

Laser treatment

This can be used to treat the appearance of mild to moderate acne scars. There are two forms of laser treatment:

  • Ablative: The laser removes a small patch of skin around the acne scar to produce a new area of skin that is smooth.
  • Non-ablative: The laser accelerates the growth of new collagen, helping to repair some of the damage caused by scarring and improve the appearance.

Punch techniques

Punch techniques are the best acne scar treatments for ice pick and boxcar scars. The three types of punch techniques include:

  • Punch elevation: The base of the scar is surgically removed to leave the sides of the scar in place. The base is then reattached to the sides but lifted so it’s level with the surface of the skin to make the scar less noticeable. This technique is used for boxcar scars.
  • Punch excision: The scar is surgically removed, and the remaining wound is sealed. Once it heals, it leaves an even area of skin. This is suitable for ice pick scars.
  • Punch grafting: Similar to punch excision, the scar is removed, and a graft of skin is used to plug the scar. This is usually taken from elsewhere on the body. It’s used for very deep ice pick scars.


This surgical acne scar treatment can be used to treat rolling scars. The top layer of the skin is separated from the scar tissue underneath, allowing blood to collect under the affected area. The connective tissue formed then raises the rolling scar so it’s level with the rest of the skin’s surface.

How to prevent acne scarring

There are some preventative measures you can take to help avoid acne scarring forming or lessen its severity. These include:

  • Don’t pop, pick, scratch, or squeeze your acne.
  • Use gentle cleansers that are designed for spot-prone skin . Avoid scrubbing your skin when applying skincare products.
  • Apply sunscreen or avoid sun exposure when possible.

Acne scars and marks FAQs

How long does it take for acne scars to fade?

This depends on the type of scar and the type of treatment, but scars can take up to two years or more to fade. There are several options you can try to reduce their appearance, such as medicinal creams and makeup to cover the scars.

How long does it take for scar redness to fade?

Red acne scars can take up to seven months to fade on average, although it depends on the wound and its position.

Which acne scars are permanent?

Not all acne scars are permanent. Some will heal on their own, while others can be removed with treatments. However, depending on the type of scar, it may not go away. For example, cysts are a form of acne that carry the highest risk of permanent scarring.