Learn how to treat and prevent acne scarring

Whether you are currently suffering from acne or went through it as a teen, you may notice it left something behind: Bumps, indentations, and discoloration of the skin, known as acne scarring. Learn how you can treat and prevent skin damage from acne.

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What Is an Acne Scar?

Acne scars are the result of inflamed pimples. These pimples can engorge and swell skin follicles, causing the follicle wall to break and damage your skin tissue. Acne scarring may look like shallow indentations or lesions on your face (though they can occur anywhere on your body). Some acne scarring may be permanent.

Acne scars are often confused with the discoloration of the skin that often occurs after a pimple has healed, known as post-acne hyperpigmentation. These marks, which often appear red or dark brown, are temporary and fade over time.

What Causes an Acne Scar?

Pimples come in all shapes and sizes. The larger the pimple the more likely it is to cause scarring after its inflammation begins to heal. Acne that takes an especially long time to heal also can result in scarring.

Acne damages skin tissue, causing your body to produce new collagen fibers to repair itself. Unfortunately, the product of this repair can sometimes look uneven and discolored.

Types of acne scars

There are two basic categories of acne scarring:

  • The most common kind of acne scarring is called “atrophic” scarring. These depressed scars, sometimes called “ice pick” or “boxcar” scars, occur when there is a loss of skin tissue during the healing process.
  • Keloid scarring occurs when the body produces too many collagen fibers. This type of scarring appears as raised bumps along the skin’s surface.

How Do You Treat Acne Scars?

The best way to treat or prevent acne scarring is to control your acne breakouts early. If your acne is cystic and severe, you may need to make an appointment with a dermatologist for a prescription and further recommendations for how to beat your acne.

  • Do not pop or pick pimples. Squeezing a pimple can worsen the inflammation, deepening the scar and spreading bacteria.
  • Do not over-scrub your skin. Over-scrubbing can further irritate blemishes and make scars look more prominent.
  • Apply sunscreen each time you go outdoors. Sunlight can further damage existing acne blemishes or scars. Sunscreen protects skin, allowing it to heal properly.

Can Acne Scars Be Removed?

Before you consider acne scar removal, your breakouts need to be under control. Keep in mind, some acne scar removal treatments only minimize the appearance of scarring, rather than fully removing it.


Dermabrasion involves a dermatologist surgically removing the outer damaged layer of your skin where the scarring occurs.

Laser resurfacing

During this procedure, a laser removes the top layer of your skin in the precise location where the scarring has occurred, exposing and tightening the skin beneath.

Filler injections

A dermatologist can inject the acne scar with a filler, such as Juvederm, which raises any indentations caused by deep scarring. Filler injections are, however, temporary.

For more information about removing or treating your acne scars, contact the UPMC Department of Dermatology.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Dermatology

The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.