How to get rid of acne scars - 15 tips from the skincare experts

Swat up on these 15 expert tips!

a close up of a women's face with a magnifying glass on her acne scars
(Image credit: Future/Getty/iStockphoto)

Whether you have pitted scars or red patches left from spots on your face, there are some hard-working ingredients and must-have products that can help get rid of acne scars.

Ask any acne-sufferer and they'll tell you that acne scars are part and parcel of the skin condition. And whilst many are accepting of this, it's something that can still make the most confident person feel self-conscious on occasion. We're all about promoting natural beauty, but finding a lotion or two that can help with the appearance of leftover scarring is something any sufferer would willingly give a go. Which is why we've spoken to skin experts for suggestions on their tips to help get rid of acne scars - or, at least fade them as much as possible.

 Much like reducing stretch marks, or getting rid of liver spots, getting rid of acne scars might not happen over night, but these products and treatments showed some visible changes in a few days or weeks with the right approach.

How to get rid of acne scars

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For the majority of people, over the counter products are your go-to way of sorting scars left by acne and there are three ingredients to look out for - Vitamin C, Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Retinol

If your acne scarring is particularly bothersome and you’ve already tried a host of lotions, potions and treatments, you can go in-clinic for specialised treatments. These treatments vary in price and can be costly but are often more effective in reducing the look of acne scars, particularly pitted scars.

1. Vitamin C serums

This powerful antioxidant ingredient brightens the skin and lightens those pesky dark patches of pigmentation for more even-toned skin. According to Aesthetic Doctor, Dr David Jack, "Over the counter formulas including vitamin C can also help [reduce acne scarring]." It works by inhibiting excess melanin that causes the dark patches left when acne has gone. Use it every day on clean skin, underneath your serums or moisturiser to fade dark marks and give skin a natural luminosity.

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum - View at Boots

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum - View at Boots

RRP: £32 | Delivery: Standard/Click&Collect
Perfect for skin with uneven tone, this 10% vitamin C serum is just as effective as more costly alternatives. It will improve discolouration, smooth out texture issues and leave a radiant glow. 

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic - View at SkinCeuticals

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic - View at SkinCeuticals

RRP: £150 | Delivery: Standard/Nextday
A fantastic, lightweight serum that’s bursting with discolouration-busting 15% vitamin C (L-Ascorbic acid), vitamin E and ferulic acid. These three ingredients pack a powerful punch, working to improve skin tone and texture. It’s a brilliant solution to acne scarring.

2. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHAs)

Alpha Hydroxy Acids act as exfoliants that speed up your skin’s natural shedding process. Most commonly used AHAs include glycolic and lactic acid, both being fantastic at reducing hyper-pigmentation from acne scars. Just remember to use your SPF during the day when using these as they can make the skin more sensitive.

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel - View at LookFantastic

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel - View at LookFantastic

RRP: £18 | Delivery: Standard/Nextday
Containing a combination of acids, these daily treatments work by exfoliating the top layers of the skin. AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) mix together to improve uneven skin tone left behind by acne scars.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution - View at Boots

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution - View at Boots

RRP: £8.00 | Delivery: Standard/Click&Collect
An exfoliating toner that has seen rave reviews for good reason. This glycolic acid toner minimises the look of acne scars and fades marks, leaving you with even skin tone and an effortless glow.

3. Retinol

Topical retinol or retinoid (the stronger version of retinol obtained through prescription), otherwise known as vitamin A, is a highly effective ingredient for all sorts of skin issues including reducing the appearance of acne scars. This superhero ingredient increases cell turnover and therefore, fades dark spots caused by hyper-pigmentation fantastically well.

It’s an ingredient to start slowly with, as it can cause sensitivity and you should always be applying SPF during the day while using it. Use a lower percentage of retinol to begin with (around 0.3%) then work your way up. Your skin will look smooth, bright and even in tone within weeks.

Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum - View at Cult Beauty

Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum - View at Cult Beauty

RRP: £70.00 | Delivery: Standard/Nextday
A cult status product that’s combined the science of retinoids with calming botanical ingredients. This soothing serum speeds up cell turnover so your acne scars gently fade away while keeping skin comforted.

Indeed Labs Retinol Reface - View at Boots

Indeed Labs Retinol Reface - View at Boots

RRP: £13.33 | Delivery: Standard/Click&Collect
Exactly what it says on the tin, this vitamin A derived retinol blend delivers softer, smoother, more even skin tone with regular use. It’s a brilliant, less costly addition to a skincare routine for anyone suffering from acne scars.

Dr Wade suggests speaking to your GP in order to obtain a prescription for stronger retinol - 2% strength is the highest you can buy without prescription. “For mild scarring, we would recommend starting off with a prescription strength Topical Retinoid which is clinically proven to increase collagen production and improve collagen turnover.”

4. Microdermabrasion

Essentially exfoliation that goes a little bit deeper than you can at home with an acid peel or physical scrub, microdermabrasion is performed with a tool coated with fine crystals that are rubbed into the area and a vacuum is applied to suck dead skin cells away, removing and renewing the top layer of the skin. It’s an effective treatment for light to moderate acne scarring but unfortunately, it won’t work on ice-pick scars as these are too deep for the tool to reach.

5. Chemical peels

A chemical peel is an effective way of removing the upper layers of the skin (epidermis) and portions of the middle layers of the skin (dermis). It involves a chemical solution being applied to the skin that after time, will break down the top layers of skin to reveal the renewed surface. Skin will look much smoother, clearer and free from pigmentation. Again, it’s unlikely it will reach the lowest layers of the dermis so won’t be as effective on deeply pitted ice-pick scars.

6. Microneedling

This treatment actually involves small needles (usually on a roller applicator) puncturing the upper layers of the skin, causing slight damage in order to kickstart your body's natural healing response and renew itself. Your body recognises that it’s ‘injured’ and produces more collagen to compensate, leaving you with smooth, diminished scars. It’s a great treatment for mild to moderate acne scars and will certainly lessen the appearance of more severe pitted scars.

At-home microneedling has seen a huge surge in popularity with needled, handheld rollers being purchased, promising renewed skin but, performing this procedure yourself does involve some risks. It’s important to thoroughly sterilise your microneedling device in between uses as bacteria from the skin can thrive and grow on the instrument if not cleaned thoroughly - and you don’t want to be putting that back on to your face and puncturing the skin with it as this can lead to serious infections. We strongly recommend going to a professional for this treatment as you’ll be in a clean environment with sterilised tools and with someone who knows what they’re doing.

Woman demonstrates how to get rid of acne scars with microneedling


7. Dermal fillers

Not just for plumping lips, dermal fillers are a great way to go for deeply pitted scars. The indent in your skin is injected with medical grade filler to literally ‘fill’ the scar back up, leaving the skin smoothed. You may be left with a small bit of redness immediately after the procedure but this should subside after a few hours or days.

Dr Wade explains how effective fillers can be, “We use hyaluronic acid dermal fillers which are injected into the base of the lesions to lift the skin up. When using temporary fillers, these stretch the skin which stimulates collagen production and so we often find that when the filler has been cleared from the body there is still a permanent effect on the skin as the skin has ‘remodelled’ itself, to some extent.

The drawback of this treatment is that, depending on the patient, fillers might not be permanent and can be expensive (around £150+ depending on the clinic you visit.)

 How to get rid of acne scars using natural remedies

8. Acupuncture

If you’re looking for a more natural approach to improving your acne scars, you may want to consider home remedies or holistic treatments with a specialist. We spoke to acupuncturist and facialist Laura Jones at Laura Jones Acupuncture, about the benefits of acupuncture for acne scars, “Acupuncture is very effective at treating scarring as it increases circulation to the area, helping to reduce inflammation as well stimulating collagen production. This encourages the tissue to repair itself, helping to reduce the appearance of acne scarring.”

9. Manuka Honey

Laura goes on to explain that a few kitchen-cupboard treatments can work wonders on marks left by healed acne. “Applying Manuka honey at home is a good option, as it has great anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. For dark marks and pigmented skin, applying apple cider vinegar with a cotton bud to the scar and leave on overnight before washing off in the morning. When choosing skin care products, I would suggest looking out products that contain narcissus bulb, kojic and liquorice extract, which have a brightening effect on the skin.”

10. Natural oils

As for raised bumps, she suggests applying a mixture of natural oils. “Oils high in essential fatty acids such as castor oil can help to reduce the appearance of scarring by deeply hydrating the skin and softening fibrous tissue in scars, making them less noticeable, says Laura. "I would always mix it with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil as castor is quite a thick oil, which can be hard to massage in.”

She added: "It’s worth bearing in mind that ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean better for your skin. These methods aren’t proven nor have they approved by skincare scientists so be aware of things like irritation or soreness and stop using them if this happens." Laura suggests always doing a patch test first, “With all natural remedies it is important to patch test 48 hours before using them on your face to ensure you are not sensitive to them and try to avoid the eye area when applying to the skin.”