Two top dermatologists reveal how to treat acne scars once and for all

June 29, 2024

Acne scars can often haunt us as reminders of past acne battles. Thankfully, with the right combination of treatments and expert guidance tailored to your specific skin’s needs, you can treat acne scars and restore your complexion to its former glory. Below, board-certified NYC cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD, and Murad founder and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad break down the different acne treatment options and how they work.  

First Steps in Treatment 

There are two main types of acne scars: hypertrophic which are raised, and atrophic, which result in a depression in the skin, Dr. Green explains. Generally, raised and depressed acne scars are difficult to treat and require in-office procedures to achieve even skin texture and long-lasting results.  

That said, some people experience discoloration or dark spots, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), after a breakout has healed. For these types of acne scars, Dr. Murad recommends products with vitamin C which can help fade acne scars and other dark spots. He also emphasizes that unless you wear sunscreen regularly, those hyper-pigmented areas can return.  

So when acne scarring appears, Dr. Green’s first piece of advice is straightforward: Consult with a dermatologist. “Acne scars can be incredibly hard to get rid of on your own,” she says. They’ll be able to guide you to the best treatment option for your skin type, type of acne scars, and their severity. Visible improvements may take time and require multiple sessions and a combination of treatments.  

Laser Treatments 

Laser treatments are one of the most effective ways to treat acne scars. “Noninvasive laser resurfacing treatments such as the Fraxel or eMatrix lasers work to stimulate new collagen production to smooth out skin texture and improve the appearance of atrophic scars,” Dr. Green says. These types of treatments have mild side effects (redness and swelling), minimal downtime, and require three to five treatments a few weeks apart to achieve the desired results. It’s vital that the correct laser treatment and settings are used based on your skin type, tone and acne scars. So, Dr. Green emphasizes the importance of having laser treatments performed by a board-certified dermatologist.  

Subcision With Dermal Fillers 

Subcision with dermal fillers is another treatment option for acne scars. It uses a needle to break up the scar tissue underneath the skin. “The filler is then injected into the scar to replenish lost volume and smooth the skin’s surface,” Dr. Green explains. The results are immediate and best visible after a week or so after the treatment once swelling subsides. And depending on the type of filler used, results can last 6-18 months. 


Fillers may not be the best option for everyone in which case microneedling is another way to go if it’s a good fit for your skin. It works by creating “micro-injuries” along the skin which stimulates the natural wound-healing process and collagen production, Dr. Green says. The results may show after one session but full results may require multiple treatments a month apart. Common side effects include mild redness, swelling, dryness and flaking. Again, it’s crucial that you consult with a professional to prevent adverse effects.  

Chemical Peels 

Chemical peels are another type of resurfacing treatments that can help treat acne scars. They use chemical exfoliation to increase cell rate turnover and stimulate collagen production, Dr. Green explains. The strength of chemical peel is determined by your skin type and side effects can include dryness and flaking for a week after the peel. Results are gradual and may not be visible right away. Typically, Dr. Green says three to six treatments are recommended depending on the severity of acne scars.  

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered specific medical advice.  

About the Author

More by this author
Jessica Estrada is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and editor covering a wide range of lifestyle topics including beauty, skincare, wellness and mental health. Her work has been featured in Well + Good, Refinery29, Bustle, Elite Daily, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, Cosmopolitan, The Cut and more.