Long after your acne has faded, you still may be left with a reminder of its stay in the form of scarring. Why does this happen and how long does it take for these scars to fade? Read on for all that you need to know about acne scars.

What Are Acne Scars?

In general terms, acne scars are the permanent reminders left behind after breakouts. There are two distinct types of scarring: atrophic scars are left behind as a result of tissue loss, while hypertrophic scars are caused by too much tissue. When looking to treat your acne scars, it is important to understand the various kinds of scarring and how each type best responds to the many available treatment options.

How Long Does It Take for Acne Scars to Fade?

Because each individual skin type reacts differently to acne scarring and healing, it is challenging to pinpoint an exact time frame. A study by Scott J. Trimas, MD found that the carbon dioxide laser is an effective modality for the treatment of facial acne scarring. Physician and patient satisfaction is high.

Nevertheless, multiple treatments may be necessary to achieve improvement, especially in the temple and lateral cheek areas; these anatomic sites respond less favorably to laser resurfacing than the medial cheek, perioral region, and forehead.Follow-up ranged from 16 to 40 months (mean, 24 months; median, 28 months). 

Types of Acne Scars

There are 5 types of acne scars, and each have their own causes and treatments.

1. Rolling Scars

  • Development - These loosely defined scars are the result of fibrous tissue coming up between the uppermost layers of skin and the tissue located below the surface. The rolling appearance forms when the fiber bands pull the upper layers of skin down. As this process happens, wavy depressions are left across the skin.
  • Treatment - Although they are not likely to fade away on their own, rolling scars are some of the easiest scars to treat because of their shallowness. The most recommended course of treatment is a subcision procedure. This outpatient procedure uses a scalpel to cut the fibers at the base of the tissue. This process works to give the skin a visibly smoother appearance without the distinguishable rolling waves.

2. Boxcar Scars

  • Development - Distinguished by an oval depression on the surface of the skin, boxcar scars are wider than many of the other typical acne scars. This type of scar gives the skin a pitted appearance. The scars develop when inflamed skin causes a reduction in the amount of collagen in the skin, leading to the loss of rebuilding tissue.
  • Treatment - Boxcar scars are highly unlikely to fade on their own, even after years of waiting. Fortunately, many sufferers have found success in making the scars less visible through the use of punch procedures. A punch elevation procedure levels up the skin in an effort to smooth out the surface and minimize the appearance of the boxcar scar. Another option is using dermal fillers to lift up the scar's depressed surface and make it even with the rest of the skin. The draw of dermal fillers is that they are most cost-effective compared to other types of treatment. However, because the results are not permanent, they must be repeated approximately every two years. Laser surfacing is also gaining in popularity as a means to minimize the appearance of these depressed scars.

3. Ice Park Scars

  • Development - Ice pick scars get their name from their resemblance to a long and skinny ice pick. These kinds of scars are caused by inflamed cysts and blemishes or infection. The scar begins to take root after the surrounding skin tissue is destroyed.
  • Treatment - The deep properties of ice pick scars mean that they are never likely to fade completely away. The most effective way to treat ice pick scars is through punch excision or grafting. The imperfections are treated by using tools to cut out the scar and then use a graft of skin taken elsewhere from the body to fill in the scar. While this procedure will cause its own scarring, it will be less visible than the ice pick scar had been.

4. Hypertrophic and Keloid Scars

  • Development - Both hypertrophic and keloid scars are defined by their raised appearance and firmness. They are both brought on by the production of too much collagen. Although they are similar in appearance, keloids are more severe. Men are most affected by hypertrophic scars, usually caused by deep wounds to the surface of the skin.
  • Treatment - Not everybody will decide to treat hypertrophic and keloid scars. If you do decide to pursue treatments, options include laser treatments, cortisone creams, silicone gels, and cryotherapy. Keloid scars can become more pronounced as a result of some of these treatment options, making it important to proceed with caution.

5. Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

  • Development - This type of scar differs from the others by its distinguishable colored flat marks that sit on the surface of the skin. Caused by inflamed acne, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is what is left on the skin after a pimple has healed and disappeared. Because of the inflammation, too much melanin is released and the area begins to darken as a reaction.
  • Treatment - Fortunately for people who exhibit post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, this type of scarring is the most likely to fade naturally over time. Most scarring of this type will fade in approximately four to 24 months. However, if you are not willing to wait for nature to take its course, you can assist the process with a variety of OTC treatments. For best results, look for products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or consult with a doctor about prescriptions that boast topical retinoids or azelaic acid.

Acne Marks vs Acne Scars

Although many people use the terms acne scars and acne marks interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Acne marks are more likely to fade away with time, unlike their acne scar counterparts. Marks present with a dark color while laying flat across the surface of the skin.

Conversely, scars are mostly colorless and are indented in their appearance. True acne marks fade away in about three to six months, while scars will need professional treatment. Although scars are often less noticeable than marks because of their colorless presentation, it is easier to hide or minimize the appearance of an acne mark using concealer.

Best Products for Fading Acne Scars and Dark Spots

1. Paula's Choice SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel

 Paula's Choice SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel

Best for: fading hyperpigmentation and dark spots

This leave-on exfoliant works hard to slough away dead cells and regenerate the skin. The concentration of eight percent glycolic acid can even out the tone that is negatively affected by post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and other issues related to discoloration. The plant extracts and antioxidants work together to firm up the skin and give off a brighter glow.

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2. Prosper Beauty Dermaroll

Prosper Beauty Dermaroll

Best for: pitted acne scars

This five-piece microneedle kit is engineered for use on pitted acne scars. The unique design consists of 600 titanium microneedles that operate to smooth out the skin and diminish the appearance of acne scars. The kit comes complete with three roller heads and a storage case.

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3. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

mad hippie vitamin c serum

This innovative vitamin C serum is formulated with a concentration of 15 percent L-ascorbic acid designed to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and acne scarring. Although this is certainly no miracle cure, this premium product may help to improve the overall tone and firmness of the skin. Because it remains active for at least 72 hours once applied to the skin, you can feel confident knowing that the product is providing long-lasting protection.

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4. Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum


Best for: hyperpigmentation and dark spots

Formulated to lessen the visibility of dark acne scars, this product features two percent hydroquinone and glycolic acid. This treatment works to fight hyperpigmentation while brightening the overall tone of the skin. Additionally, use a qualify, broad-spectrum sunscreen with this product. 

*Note that although these products will help to speed up the natural fading process, professional treatments will deliver faster and more effective results.

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When to See a Dermatologist

Consult with a dermatologist if you have exhausted over the counter products. Or if your acne scars are affecting your self-confidence.


How long does it take for acne scars to fade with lemon juice?

Many people mistakenly believe that lemons can fade acne scars. Or that they are effective at reducing the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. However, lemons are not effective for acne scars. This is due to the irritating elements lemon's high pH level. Instead, use a well-formulated and professional AHA product.

Can you get rid of red acne scars overnight?

There are no overnight miracles when it comes to skincare. Effective skincare requires patience and diligence in using quality products designed for specific purposes.

How long does it take for acne scars to fade with aloe vera?

Although aloe vera cannot rid the skin of most types of acne scars, the natural ingredient may prove helpful in reducing the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The compound aloin is a depigmentation agent, meaning that it can lighten the skin.

How can you fade acne scars fast?

A dermatologist will help you to determine a course of treatment designed to provide the fastest results. Possible options include laser treatments, chemical peels, or microneedles.

Do acne scars go away over time?

Depending on the type and severity of the scar, some acne scars will go away. Others can be permanent unless you choose to seek professional treatment with a dermatologist. There are also various OTC products that will minimize the visible appearance of the scars.