These acne scar treatments *actually* work

These marks left behind by pimples are called “post-inflammatory pigmentation” and can often be just as distressing as the pimples themselves, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (FAAD). And they can be super difficult to zap away. So, how exactly do we get rid of acne scars?

If acne scars are red, keep an eye out for ingredients like licorice, cucumber, rice, oat, ambophenol, niacinamide, prickly-pear seed extract, and some types of thermal spring waters in your skincare products, says Anna Guanche, MD, a California-based dermatologist and celebrity beauty expert. Brownish-colored acne scars? Products with azelaic acid, glycolic acid, hydroquinone, glutathione or vitamin C are a good bet, Dr. Guanche tells Health.

Some pitted scars may require laser treatment to smooth the surface of skin and stimulate collagen to fill in the “holes” and “pits” caused by severe acne, says Dr. Nazarian. Although multiple sessions are typically needed, laser treatments done by your dermatologist are some of the most effective and rapid ways to improve scars, she says.

To prevent dark pigmentation and acne scars from worsening, be sure to always protect skin by wearing facial sunscreen. “Sunscreen is an important component of fading acne scars, since exposing red scars to the sun could result in them turning a brownish color, especially for darker skin types,” explains Dr. Guanche.

Have annoying acne scars you’d like to erase? We know we do. Here, the top product picks from dermatologists that will banish acne scars once and for all.

1 Proactiv Advanced Dark Spot Correcting Serum

Dr. Nazarian’s pick, this dark spot correcting serum has 2% hydroquinone, which helps fade brownish skin discolorations, spots, blotches, and marks. It also contains sea buckthorn berry oil (a powerful antioxidant) to calm and reduce irritation and citric acid to renew the skin.

2 Fresh Rose Hydrating Gel Cream

New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, loves this daily moisturizing gel cream packed with rosewater and rose flower oil to soothe acne scars. Algae and hyaluronic acid hydrate and deliver moisture to skin, while angelica leaf extract promotes collagen and helps even out skin texture.

3 Clean and Clear Alcohol-Free Lemon Juice Facial Toner

This alcohol- and oil-free toner combines lemon extract and vitamin C to remove impurities and excess oil from skin and brighten pigmentation left behind after pimples go away, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

4 NeoStrata Pigment Controller

Boasting retinol and vitamin C, Dr. Nazarian likes this pigment controller because it increases cell turnover and fades dark spots faster. Also great? It has SabiWhite (a turmeric root extract that naturally whites skin) and NeoGlucosamine to exfoliate dark spots and boost healing.

5 CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

The ceramides and hyaluronic acid in this cleanser help hydrate and maintain your skin’s moisture level, while niacinamide stimulates fibroblasts that make collagen, explains Dr. Jaliman. Bottom line: It has the power to help with and fade fine lines, uneven texture, and dark spots.

6 Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair

Dr. Zeichner recommends this affordable moisturizer that’s packed with retinol. Since acne scars are characterized by abnormal collagen under the skin, retinol can help your body rev up new, healthy collagen to improve the texture of scars.

7 Shiseido Benefiance Pure Retinol Intensive Revitalizing Face Mask

Another pick from Dr. Nazarian, these luxurious masks contain retinol, hydroxyproline (a high-tech amino acid), and salicylic and glycolic acids to fight wrinkles and dryness, firm skin, and fade dark spots. Safe for all skin types, the box set comes with four upper and four lower masks, so you can target acne scars in different parts of your face.

8 The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, Dr. Jaliman tells us. “Many use it to help prevent and reduce their acne scars,” she adds. Her favorite: this.33-oz. bottle of The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil, which is sold every eight seconds globally (wow!).

9 St. Ives Rosewater And Bamboo Stick Facial Cleanser

Zap acne scars with this cleansing stick! Natural coconut oil cleanses and nourishes skin, while rose water has calming antioxidant benefits to soothe inflammation and brighten dark spots, raves Dr. Zeichner.

10 SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

“Certain vitamins have the ability to resurface dead skin cells faster and decrease pigment left by old acne marks, one of the best being vitamin C,” says Dr. Nazarian. While it may be a splurge, dermatologists swear by this serum. In addition to vitamin C, it contains ferulic acid to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, brighten your complexion, even skin tone, and diminish discoloration and redness.

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16 thoughts on “These acne scar treatments *actually* work

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