Do Acne Scars Fade?
The answer is that most types of acne scarring will slightly fade over time, and pigmented acne scarring has a much higher chance of fully fading over time.
With treatment, the different types of scarring all have a better chance of fading more quickly and fully over time.
Types of Acne Scars
The Schweigerderm site explains the different types of acne scars and that indented scarring is the least likely to fade naturally over time with hyper and hypo-pigmentation the most likely to fade on their own over time. They also explain how treatment can help most acne scarring types of fade more quickly and fully than if left on their own.
Atrophic scars: Atrophic scars are indented scars, and are one of the hardest types of acne scarring to treat because they are so deep and affect many layers of the skin. There are different types of atrophic scars including icepick, rolling, boxcar.
Ice pick scars: Ice Pick scars are narrow and deep indents in the skin and are very obvious to the naked eye. Ice pick scars can get slightly better over time without treatment but will usually need treatment to see good improvement and results because they have gone so deeply into the skin.
Boxcar scars: Boxcar scars are also indented atrophic scars, but they are less deep than ice-pick scars and also wider. Boxcar scars usually have sharp vertical edges, and can measure 1.5 to 4mm across in diameter. These occur most often on the cheek and temple. Like all types of indented scarring, boxcar scars need treatment to see good improvement as they won’t fully disappear over time.
Rolling scars: Rolling scars are a common type of acne scarring. They are shallow and wide with sloped rolling edges that look like indented valleys on the skin. Long-term acne often leads to rolling scarring. When skin looses its elasticity over time these can become even worse in appearance, however very shallow ones can also fade as time passes. Since these scars are shallow, they are easier to treat then some of the deeper pitted scar types.
Hypertrophic acne scars Hypertrophic are raised scar types. This type of scarring often will fade on its own, and if not you can go into the dermatologist to see what they recommend as treatment.
Keloid acne scars Keloids are when a hypertrophic scar becomes larger than the original acne wound due to the body making too much excess scar tissue as it heals. Asian and African American skin types will get this type of scarring more often. They can either be little bumps or large swelling on the skin, usually shiny and smooth, and they can be different colors. You will need to go into the dermatologist to get more in-depth treatment to fully heal this type although it may come back at some point.
When acne heals and discoloration is left in its place, that is a pigmentation change known as hyper or hypo-pigmentation that can happen as acne heals and is technically not classified as a scar but still causes a color change on your face.
Hyperpigmentation Hyperpigmentation is when your body makes too much pigment and colors your skin a darker color which can be red, brown or black. These can be small discoloration changes or over a bigger area of skin. Hyperpigmentation does usually fade over time, although Haro u can help it fade more quickly with treatment.
Hypo-pigmentation Hypo-pigmentation is when your body loses pigment due to skin tissue damage, so an area looks lighter instead of darker after it heals, appearing as white or lighter dots or areas on the skin. This type of color change also can fade on its own, but can also be helped to fade more quickly with treatment.
Acne scars come in two main forms, depressed scarring, and raised scarring. Both of these types are permanent skin structure changes that don’t go away on their own over time unless treatment is used.
Additionally, some people get discoloration and red marks on their face after acne, which is another form of acne scarring, although it is not technically classified as “scarring”, and is more likely to fade on its own without treatment.
Treatment will help both types of scarring. This post focuses on how to help depressed, indented scarring as well as acne scar discoloration. To treat raised acne scarring you can go into your dermatologist and ask for their recommendations, as the below methods are effective on indented and discoloration scarring, not raised acne scarring.
All three types of acne scarring can be treated by a professional dermatologist as well, so making time to get a professional opinion and recommendations is always a good idea.
How to Treat & Fade Acne Scars
Do acne scars fade? The short answer is yes, over time, most scar types fade, including atrophic, hypertrophic, and pigmentation scarring, but there are treatments you can do to stimulate healing and help most scar types fade more quickly. You can heal acne scarring with various at-home and in-clinic treatments, some of my favorite are laid out below:
Microneedling is effective for indented scarring and discoloration scarring and can be done at-home or in-office. Micro-needling works by using needles to help the top layer of damaged skin come off while at the same time stimulating the skin’s natural healing response which makes the skin repair itself and build new collagen. It works well to help fade indented scarring as well as discolored pigmentation change scarring. Micro-needling can only be done once every few weeks because the skin needs time to fully repair and heal inbetween each session.
Another benefit of micro-needling is it opens the skin up so it is more receptive to serums that can help the skin heal such as copper peptides for acne scars and Vitamin C, both of which are part of the skin’s collagen production process.
I personally like to use copper peptides at night for skin healing due to the peptides bright blue color you can’t wear out in the daytime, and then Vitamin C as part of my morning routine to help skin continue the healing process during the day while giving my skin a nice glow. Vitamin C and copper peptides can’t be used at the same time as the copper peptides will oxidize the Vitamin C and render it ineffective, which is why you need to use them at different times of day.
- Chemical Peels: Chemical peels can be used to treat indented acne scarring and hyperpigmentation. These need to be done in a professional dermatologist office, so you can go to your dermatologist to see if one makes sense for your skin.
- Copper Peptide Serum: Copper peptides are a skin building block and studies have shown they assist in wound healing. They are most effective when they can reach deeper layers of the skin when combined with micro-needling.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is also an important part of the skin’s collagen production process and using a Vitamin C serum has also been found effective in helping the skin repair. The best way to use Vitamin C to help with atrophic and discoloration scarring is to use it in combination with micro-needling by putting it on as part of your morning skincare routine. I’ve personally seen Vitamin C help dark spots on my skin lighten and discoloration and red acne scars lighten to get a nice glow as well.
- Exfoliation Creams: Exfoliation creams can help fade and improve indented scarring and discoloration scarring. These work by sitting on the top layer of skin and helping encourage the damaged skin structures to separate and remove themselves from the healthy skin. Damaged skin structure is weaker than healthy skin structure which is why letting an exfoliation cream sit on the skin all day will help separate and remove the damaged skin from your healthy skin so the scarred areas exfoliate off and fade more quickly to reveal healthy skin underneath.
Professional Treatments to Fade Acne Scars:
- In-Clinic Microneedling: You can go into a clinic to get micro-needling done at a deeper level to fade more severe scarring. For best results you can use copper peptide at night and Vitamin C serum in the morning to give the skin the healing ingredients it needs while getting the micro-needling treatments.
- Fillers, Fillers are injections that can temporarily improve the appearance of indented acne scarring.
- Subcision, Subcision can help with some types of indented scarring by untethering some of the scarred area from the skin to help the scar improve.
- Lasers, Lasers work by removing the top layer of skin and by helping to stimulate skin repair responses.
Acne Scarring Fading Over Time with Treatment
The first 3 years I had acne scarring, I didn’t treat it at all except for trying a few different creams, which didn’t have any long-term positive effects other than making my skin look really white and oily.
Finally I started researching what actually works and reading scientific journals to get to the heart of ingredients and procedures that actually help stimulate skin healing responses, skin repair and results.
After that I started using at-home micro-needling every few weeks, and applying copper peptide serum on my skin at night, and Vitamin C and an exfoliating serum on my skin each morning.
I’ve seen huge improvements in my indented acne scarring and skin texture in over a year I’ve been doing this and my scarring has faded to the point I’m finally happy with my skin again.
Here is my skin and its results over time:
Additional before and after acne scarring pictures can be viewed here.