woman with acne scarring

Acne scars can plague your skin long after the acne goes away. Many adults find themselves faced with acne scars after breakouts from their teen years, and they tend to get worse as time passes. There are numerous products and treatments that claim to get rid of acne scars, but what is actually effective?

Here are dermatologist-approved ways to treat acne scars from a Greeley dermatology doctor. It’s important to note that there are multiple types of acne scars and not every treatment works on every scar. Everyone’s skin is different, which means that a treatment that may work well for one person could be ineffective for someone else. For personalized treatment options, visit your dermatologist.

Dermabrasion or Microdermabrasion

Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are the most common resurfacing procedures done by dermatologists. These treatments are best for widespread acne scars or depressed scars that aren’t especially deep. Dermabrasion removes layers of skin, including the scarred or discolored area, which allows new skin cells to grow. It is a fairly painless procedure that involves a high-speed brush to remove layers or skin and resurface the skin.

Dermabrasion tends to be very effective, but it also brings sensitive skin layers to the surface and can require a few days to heal. Depending on how deep the scarring goes under the skin, your dermatology doctor may recommend a different resurfacing procedure such as laser skin resurfacing.

Skin Fillers

If you have just a few depressed acne scars, your dermatologist may recommend skin fillers. Fillers are a boost of collagen or your own fat that fills in the indented area to make the skin look smooth and even. Fillers are injected with a needle. Some fillers are permanent, but others are temporary and need to be redone every six to 18 months. Because they are an injection instead of just a topical treatment, fillers also have unique risks and rewards, which should be discussed with the dermatologist before the procedure. Skin fillers are best for isolated acne scars.


A popular over-the-counter option is a skin serum rich in antioxidants and vitamin E. Apply the serum once a day, ideally before bed, and let it soak into the skin while you sleep. These types of serums brighten the skin and lighten dark spots and scarring. A serum can also serve as a protective layer over damaged skin, which can make acne scars look less noticeable.

Antioxidants promote healing to keep your skin regenerating and improving the look of scars over time. Serums tend to be most effective on shallow scars or those that are relatively flat and are just discolored.

Chemical Peels

Like the name implies, chemical peels use acid and other chemicals to remove layers of infected skin. Chemical peels are available through a dermatologist, spa, or even at home with a chemical peel mask. However, at-home versions tend to not be as potent or as effective. By removing the outside layer of skin, a chemical peel reveals smoother, healthier skin underneath. It can reduce the look of shallow acne scars or discoloration. Chemical peels are less effective on deeper acne scars because they don’t remove enough layers of skin to make a true difference. 

Acne Cream

Another over-the-counter treatment that is known to be fairly effective is a specialized acne scar cream. Dermatologists warn that not all creams are created equal, however. Look for a cream that contains retinol and salicylic acid, which help fade scarring and discoloration. Acne creams are the least expensive treatment option, but they also tend to take the longest to work. For best results, apply the cream to the scarred areas once a day and watch the scars gradually fade.

Acne scars can be difficult to treat, but these dermatologist-approved treatments can help give your skin a healthier look and increase your confidence.