Adults Only: How to Erase Acne Scars at Any Age

Repairing the damage from the outside in

Acne breakouts are frustrating enough when you’re young, but adult acne and the scars it leaves behind can last long after the teenage years have passed. And these marks don’t just look unattractive, the damage can also be unseen. 

The psychological effects that severe acne sufferers face while in active breakout mode can be compounded exponentially when the resulting scars act as daily reminders of the anguish, embarrassment, and isolation that a face full of pimples can cause.

The good news is that acne scars can finally be reduced or even erased with the help of some of the latest medical skincare technologies.

What causes acne scars?

We’re all guilty of picking at our zits or popping pimples—and the red, oozy, “made-it-worse visual outcome is almost always a reminder of why it’s best to resist the urge.

But, even when you do keep your hands off your face, sometimes a scar will still be left behind. While acne often makes its presence known above the skin, the reason it leaves scarring behind has more to do with what’s happening underneath the skin.

Whether there’s scarring and how exactly it presents depends on your skin type and the extent of the damage. Scars are formed when a breakout penetrates the skin deeply,  resulting in trauma to the skin tissue.  

Before treating acne scars, it’s important to know what type they are because every type responds differently to treatment, and some treatments are better for particular types than others.

Types of Acne Scars

  • Discolouration/Hyperpigmentation: This type of scar is usually flat and happens when the skin remains darker after a blemish has healed. The purple, red, or brown marks can fade over a few months on their own and are more easily erased by serums and less-invasive treatments. 
  • Atrophic/depressed/indentation scars:  A depressed scar that sits below the surrounding skin, an atrophic scar is formed when not enough collagen is made while the wound is healing, leaving an indentation in the skin. These scars are more challenging, though not impossible, to erase.

Three types of atrophic scars 


Wide, U-shaped scars with sharp edges, boxcar scars can be shallow or deep. The shallower they are, the better they respond to skin resurfacing treatments. 

Ice pick

Narrow, V-shaped scars that can go deep into the skin, ice pick scars. Similar to a chickenpox scar, these scars can look like small round or oval holes. Because they can extend far under the surface of the skin, ice-pick scars can be the most difficult scars to treat. 


Wide depressions with rounded edges, rolling scars have an irregular, rolling appearance.

Hypertrophic or raised acne scars

Most common with chest and back acne, hypertrophic scars stand above the surface of the surrounding skin and are caused by too much collagen during healing.

Treatment for Acne Scars

Before treating acne scars, it’s important for patients to be seen by a dermatologist or a healthcare professional who will help them determine the type of scars, the best treatment method(s) to reduce the appearance of the scars and evaluate whether the marks presented on the skin are actually acne scars and not the symptom of another condition.

Some acne scar treatments below can’t be used alongside topical acne medications because the inflammation caused by the breakouts can reduce treatment effectiveness and new breakouts can lead to new acne scars. For this reason, it is highly recommended that the acne itself be treated before acne scar treatments begin.

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Topical Treatments 

Alpha hydroxy acids

Best for more moderate types of acne scars

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are often found in products made to treat acne, this mild acid exfoliates the outer layer of the skin to help remove discolouration and rough skin and make acne scars appear less noticeable. 

Lactic acid

Best for most types of moderate acne scars

Lactic acid peels done once every 2 weeks for 3 months improved the texture, appearance, and pigmentation of the skin and lighten acne scars.

There are countless peels, serums, and ointments with lactic acid, but you can also use diluted apple cider vinegar as a toner or spot treatment thanks to its natural lactic acid. But apple cider, as well as other at-home treatments, are potentially harsh on sensitive skin. They should always be tested on a small area of the skin before starting treatment with the product. 

If the skin is sensitive and the product is applied, there’s potential for inflammation and irritation, which can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.


Best for atrophic or depressed scars

Topical retinoids are another acne treatment with scar-smoothing benefits. In addition to speeding up your cell regeneration and improving your skin’s texture, retinoids can also help reduce discolouration and make scars less noticeable.

Because retinoids can make the skin especially sensitive to the sun, it is highly suggested that patients always wear sunscreen daily when using any product that contains retinoids.

Lower-concentration retinoid creams and serums are available over the counter, but a healthcare professional can prescribe products with higher concentrations.  

Salicylic acid

Best for all mild acne scars

From pads to spot treatments and lotions to face cleansers,  salicylic acid is present in just about every kind of acne treatment these days.

Salicylic acid, which works to clear pores, reduce swelling and redness, and exfoliate the skin when applied topically, is considered to be one of the better treatments for mild acne scars. 


Best for preventing and reducing all acne scars

To make scars less apparent and not get worse, sunscreen should be applied every day over scars.  

If at-home treatments don’t seem to be making a difference, a skin care specialist or healthcare professional can help with more aggressive and effective treatments.

Treatments for Deeper and More Severe Scars

Laser Genesis

Best for all types of acne scars, especially deeper scars

Laser Genesis permanently removes acne scars and simultaneously restores and rejuvenates the skin. A non-invasive, painless procedure, Laser Genesis effectively heals scarring caused by acne, surgery, or burns, while also reducing the appearance of deep wrinkles, evens texture, reducing pores, and eliminating age spots. The icing on the cake is the boost of radiance and firmness Laser Genesis gives the skin by stimulating collagen production. Laser Genesis can be used to treat any part of the body; however, it is predominantly used on the face, neck, chest, and hands.

Laser Genesis does not wound the skin. Instead, it works by penetrating the top layer of skin and delivering thousands of micro-pulses of light to the dermis. The warming action shrinks blood vessels, breaks down scar tissue, and stimulates collagen production, leaving skin free of scars, broken blood vessels, and redness.

Unlike traditional laser treatments, Laser Genesis treats and rejuvenates the skin from beneath the surface, which means that the top layer, or epidermis, is not injured during the procedure. The most commonly reported side effect is mild, temporary redness of the treatment area, but this will resolve as your skin begins to heal.

Just about anyone is a good candidate for Laser Genesis. If you want to know more about how Laser Genesis compares to similar treatments, call Specialist Skin Solutions today to schedule a consultation. You’re just a few sessions away from having scar-free skin at last!


Best for scars close to the surface like shallow boxcar or rolling scars and helps deeper scars become less noticeable

Dermabrasion is one of the most effective and common treatments for facial scars. While it uses the same general principle as the microdermabrasion kits you can do at home, healthcare professionals use tools to exfoliate the top layer of the skin.

Chemical peels

Best for all types of acne scars, often used for deeper scars

Not the kind of face masks that you wear during a great Netflix movie, a chemical peel is a strong acid that’s used to remove the top layer of the skin to reduce deeper scars. 

Some chemical peels are mild enough to be used at home, but a healthcare professional can provide a stronger solution with more dramatic results. 


Best for all types of acne scars, often used for deeper scars

Dermal Fillers are an injectable gel, generally made from collagen or hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring substance produced by the body that attracts and binds water.

When injected into the skin, dermal fillers restore volume, soften and fill lines, and are highly effective in eradicating acne scars, even the deeper types. When injected into the acne scar, dermal fillers work by expanding the tissue beneath the area, plumping up and smoothing depressed scars, producing a subtle, natural look that can last *6 to 18 months.


Best for: depressed acne scars

This newer treatment uses a small, handheld, needle-studded roller or a handheld “pen” on the surface of the scars. The needles puncture the skin without going through it. As the skin heals, it produces collagen.

Take away

Acne scars can be frustrating, annoying, and even psychologically damaging, but these days you don’t have to suffer in silence. Though most deep acne scars are permanent, a healthcare provider can help you find the right treatment plan for you. 

If you want to erase or reduce acne scars once and for all, call Specialist Skin Solutions today to schedule a consultation. You’re just a few sessions away from having scar-free, smooth, glowing skin. Want to know more about how our various treatments compare to similar treatments? Contact us today!

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