Acne, that’s only a problem for teenagers, right? Well, actually, no.
Because a number of naturally occurring factors cause acne, we all have to learn to live with it and, more importantly, learn how to deal with it.
Thankfully acne — such as pimples and zits — will go away on its own most of the time with daily skincare. But the rest of the time, discoloration can occur and acne scars may form due too much or too little collagen in the healing process.
Not all hope is lost, however. Though there are many in-person treatments for acne scars, like laser resurfacing and dermabrasion, over-the-counter solutions exist. With the right cream or serum used every day, acne scars will fade away.
Active ingredients basically clear and strip down the top layer of skin. That process promotes the growth of healthy skin, ultimately causing scars to recede over time.
A lot of these active ingredients will be familiar to those who have used acne treatment products in the past. Salicylic, lactic and alpha hydroxy acids clear pores and exfoliate skin, while retinoids (forms of vitamin A) help with discoloration and lead to thicker skin.
Many products also contain ingredients to help soothe skin from the harsh acids. Who doesn’t love a little aloe or natural oils to restore their skin’s luster?
But sometimes one cream doesn’t work for your skin or some peel leaves your skin too irritated.
To help you zero in on the best acne scar treatments for you, SPY evaluated over two dozen creams, gels, serums and peels. After comparing for value, ingredients and user reviews where possible, we rounded up nine of the best products to help you get rid of acne scars. We also another nonessential (but highly recommended) product at the bottom.
Before we dive in, a couple pro tips to consider:
- Test these products on a small patch of skin on your body before deciding to use more. A test before can save you pain later.
- If you’re using an acid peel (or really applying anything to your skin), be sure to clean and dry your skin beforehand.
- If you’re using an aggressive acid peel (more than 30-40% acid) or have more sensitive skin, apply a neutralizer to stabilize your skin’s pH. Neutralizers can be purchased or you can make your own with a ¼ cup of baking soda and 4 cups of water.
- Consider wearing sunscreen if you plan on going outside because retinol increases sun sensitivity. Also, your skin could be sensitive after an acid peel and the sun won’t help.
- Don’t forget to take the acid peel off. If you feel your skin becoming irritated, it’s too late and you’ll likely deal with some redness and irritation.
- Avoid any skin with open wounds. The products will sting and it will be unpleasant.
1. Mederma PM Intensive Overnight Scar Cream
BEST FOR OVERNIGHT
Mederma PM’s Intensive Overnight Scar Cream is safe for your face and designed to go on before bed, so you can repair scars while you sleep. Depending on how old your scar is, you could see improvement in a few weeks or a few months for older scars.
2. HONEYDEW Natural Scar Cream for Face
Honeydew’s scar cream was designed with faces in mind. It’s packed with shea butter and coconut and rosehip oils to soften skin and increase collagen for more supple and elastic skin. It will remove acne scars over time and if you continue to use it, it will help prevent new scars from forming too.
3. CeraVe Retinol Serum
CeraVe’s Retinol Serum just works. Retinol does the heavy lifting to polish and smooth your skin in this formula and ceramides help your skin retain its moisture. Remember to wear sunscreen if you use this product regularly due to retinol’s effect on skin in the sun.
4. PURA D’OR Organic Rosehip Seed Oil
Whether it’s beard, hair or skin, natural oils work wonders on the human body to soften and hydrate. Rosehip seed oil has fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins A & C, all which improve skin texture and reduce scars over time, including acne scars.
The oil has a faint scent at first, but it goes away quickly, and it comes in a bottle with a convenient spray pump for ease of use.
5. Aroamas Advanced Scar Gel
BEST FOR ANY SCAR
This is the Leatherman Multitool of scar gels. It’s safe for all skin and all ages, and it’s odorless, colorless and self-drying, so you can use this for any scar from any time from any where, whether from acne or something else. Not only will it soften and smooth scars over time, it’ll cut down on redness and itchiness too. Oh yeah, and unlike so many anecdotal remedies, the use of silicone gel to repair scars is backed up by research, so you know it will work.
6. Yeouth Glycolic Acid Peel 30%
BEST PEEL FOR BEGINNERS
Moving away from creams, you can always try to fight scars with chemical peels. Yeouth’s Glycolic Acid Peel, with 30% acid, will work to break down the top layer of skin to soften any acne scars and promote new skin growth. If you’ve never done a peel before, you’ll want something with a lower concentration of acid like this option, which also has anti-inflammatory ingredients, like cucumber and chamomile, to minimize the damage from the cleanse.
7. QRxLabs Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads
EASIEST TO USE
If you don’t want to apply the acid to your face manually or with cotton balls, these glycolic acid resurfacing pads from QRxLabs will do the trick for you. The acid is in the pads, so you can grab one and give your face a quick wipe down to work on those acne scars, without any mess or fuss. These pads can also be useful if you have acne scars in hard-to-reach places like on your back.
8. ASDM Beverly Hills Medical Grade Glycolic Acid Peel 40%
BEST FOR EXPERIENCED USERS
The more acid in a peel, the harsher it will feel. But when used properly, you can avoid the burn while getting even more of that cleansing power from the additional acid. With more acid, you get more exfoliating power, more breakdown of acne scars and you’ll boost collagen production as well. But you should really only go above 30% acid if you’ve done peels before, because you can seriously irritate your skin if you don’t know what you’re doing.
9. ASDM Beverly Hills 90% Lactic Acid Medical Strength, 2oz
BEST FOR EXPERTS AND PROFESSIONALS
Only you know why you would ever need 90%-strength lactic acid to treat scars, but for the most serious skin enthusiasts, you can buy an almost-pure bottle of lactic acid from ASMD Beverly Hills. This much acid power comes with serious risk to your skin (and eyes and lips and sensitive parts) if not used properly, so you must pay attention during use and you must use a neutralizer afterward to stop the acid breakdown process. If you’re even remotely unsure about this level of strength or your skin’s ability to handle it, go for a different peel.
10. Amazon Brand Solimo Cotton Balls
BEST COTTON BALLS
When applying serums or peels, you want to make sure the product goes on clean. The best way to ensure that is to use a cotton ball or pad instead of your hands. You can’t go wrong with just about any cotton ball or pad, but Amazon’s Solimo Cotton Balls have the best price for 200 balls that we could find.