What to Look for in an Acne Scar Cream

Acne scars, just like any scars, can be difficult to get rid of. There are many acne scar cream products out there that claim to reduce the appearance of acne scars but do they work? It depends on the type and severity of the scar and the active ingredients in the scar cream. 

The type of acne scar to be treated makes a big difference in the results you will see. Some types of scarring need more aggressive treatment than topical creams.  The three main types of acne scarring are raised, pitted, and those that are flush with the surface of your skin. Dark spots left on the face after acne has gone away are sometimes thought of as scars but are actually hyperpigmentation. These discolored spots will fade without treatment over time and most will disappear all together with enough time. Many scar creams simply speed up this fading process. But some can actually make improvements to actual acne scars.  

There are many scar creams available with different amounts and combinations of active ingredients and some ingredients are more effective than others for scar treatment. Over the counter products can be hit or miss if you don’t pay attention to their ingredients.  Look for the active ingredients glycolic acid, vitamin C and retonin. These ingredients probably won’t erase acne scars completely but they can reduce the appearance of some types of acne scarring. Even with these ingredients, cream for scars is most effective on minor scars that are flat or only slightly depressed. These creams don’t have much effect on very deep or raised scars.

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, in scar lotion stimulates collagen production and the growth of new skin cells which softens and smoothes the surface of the skin. Retinol can be very effective for treating minor acne scars that are shallow.  Slightly depressed scars can fill in as collagen is produced.  Your dermatologist may also prescribe tretinoin, the acid form of vitamin A, in a cream form to treat both acne and acne scars with the stimulation of collagen production.

Vitamin C also promotes collagen production and the growth of new skin cells. It is a critical vitamin in wound healing and is an antioxidant that helps slow down skin ageing.  Vitamin C is particularly helpful in preventing acne marks from turning into scars.

Glycolic acid is used for chemical peels to treat acne scarring and is also used in some acne scar creams.  It injures the outer layer of skin so that it will slough off and new tissue will grow. This fades the scar and makes it less visible. Over time, glycolic acid scar cream can be quite effective.

Raised scars can be flattened and improved with silicone. There is an over the counter silicone treatment that can help flatten raised scars by reducing any pain and itching in the scar and helping to calm and shrink it.

For stubborn discolored scars, your doctor may prescribe hydroquinone cream to bleach the scar and make it less noticeable.  Hydroquinone products may also be available over the counter at low concentrations. This treatment lightens scars but does not stimulate healing. 

Vitamin E is commonly used for acne home scar treatment and is found in some acne scar cream products. Although there is anecdotal evidence supporting the effectiveness of vitamin E for treating scars, it has not been shown scientifically to reduce scar appearance.

Mederma scar cream is another commonly recommended topical treatment. Its active ingredients are compounds extracted from onions. The company claims that it is clinically proven to “soften, smooth, and reduce the appearance of scars,” though I have found that anecdotal evidence of it being effective is thin. 

Acne scar cream works best on minor scars that are not raised or pitted or only slightly so.  For deep pitted scars and severe raised scars other treatments completed by a dermatologist may work better. Creams won’t remove scars completely but some are effective acne scar remedies that do in fact reduce the appearance of scars, making them less noticeable, and less of an issue in your life.