Best Ingredients for Acne Scars

a woman with acne scars on her face

Acne Scars

Fighting acne can sometimes feel like a battle, especially when you’re dealing with painful cystic or hormonal acne. When it goes on for several months, it feels like a massive victory when you finally get it under control.

However, once the blemishes are gone you start facing a new issue: acne scars.

While acne scars aren’t as problematic as acne itself, their appearance can be quite noticeable. Many people find it struggling in hiding the acne scars.

Thankfully, it’s not impossible to fade acne scars; all it really takes are the right method and ingredients! But first, let’s have a look at what causes acne scars.

What Causes Acne Scars?

Typically, acne scars are caused by the pores that have become stuffed with excess sebum and bacteria, which leads to burning blemishes. These blemishes can swell, causing the follicle barrier to break.

When these blemishes are not deep, they can heal quickly. If they’re deep, there is a higher risk of spreading bacteria. This unfortunately leads to even deeper blemishes.

Deep blemishes can eventually heal, as the skin forms new collagen fibres. Collagen is a protein molecule, which is considered ‘the building block’ of your skin. But these new fibres don’t always blend so well into the rest of your skin – leading to the appearance of scars.

Sometimes, your body produces too little or too much collagen. When your body doesn’t produce enough collagen, they create icepick acne scars on the face. When the body creates too much, these become keloids.

As this tissue rebuilds itself, excess melanin can also be a byproduct of the healing process which is the main pigment in our skin that can intensify within the scar tissue, causing a darker complexion in contrast to our regular complexion.

Best Ingredients for Acne Scars

Before you start any treatment for acne scars, it’s important to consult a dermatologist. They can help you find the best method to lessen the appearance of your scars and also make sure that the marks on your skin are actually scars and not another skin condition.

Alpha hydroxy acids

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are often found in products used to treat acne since they help to get rid of dead skin and prevent clogged pores. Even better, AHAs can also make the appearance of acne scars less noticeable.

The mild acid exfoliates the outer layer of the skin to help in removing discolouration and rough skin.

Lactic acid

A small 2010 study by a dermatologist-performed lactic acid peels done once every two weeks for three months, shown to improve the texture, appearance, and pigmentation of the skin and lighten the acne scars.

There is various peels, serums, and ointments with lactic acid, but you can also use diluted apple cider vinegar as a toner or spot treatment being it a natural lactic acid.

Alpha Arbutin

Alpha-arbutin reduces melanin formation, it can also improve the appearance of pigmentation which are left behind by acne breakouts. It can also assist to fade age spots, dark spots, melasma from sun exposure and post-inflammatory pigmentation.

Alpha arbutin for dark spots & pigmentation can also prevent the formation of future hyperpigmentation or freckles from developing. It is frequently used as a natural alternative to hydroquinone, which is regularly used to lighten the skin.

With regular usage, alpha-arbutin leaves the skin looking brighter, healthier, and more vibrant.


Topical retinoids are yet another acne treatment with scar-smoothing benefits. In addition to fastening the cell regeneration and improving your skin’s texture, retinoids can also help lessen discolouration and make scars less visible according to a recent review. However, they can also make your skin very sensitive to the sun. So it is suggested to always wear sunscreen when using anything that contains retinoids.

You can find creams and serums with retinoids without a prescription, but your dermatologist can also prescribe you with higher concentrations. 

Salicylic acid

Chances are high that you’ve already used salicylic acid for your acne in the past. Salicylic acid is a very common ingredient and is a part of almost every kind of acne scar treatment these days.

Salicylic acid clears pores, reduces redness and swelling, and exfoliates the skin when applied topically. It’s observed to be one of the best treatments for acne scars.

It might take a few weeks to see any difference while using salicylic acid. It can also cause irritation or dryness. You may need to use the product less frequently or try spot treating if you have sensitive skin.


It’s extremely important to wear sunscreen daily over acne-prone skin. Sun exposure can darken those scars or make them even more noticeable. It is suggested to use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 in your daily skincare routine.

Take Away

Acne scars are really very frustrating, but there are many acne scar treatments that can make them less visible. Most of the scars are permanent, but a dermatologist can help you find the best treatment to help you reduce the appearance of scars.

You’re less likely to have acne scars if you have fewer breakouts. Avoid picking, squeezing, or popping any breakout, to prevent irritating the skin and damaging the underlying tissue, which can lead to scars.