How To Fade Acne Scars


Acne sufferers face more than one concern which of course includes the nuisance of acne itself, however most sufferers are usually anxious about acne scars since unlike acne, which may be temporary, acne scars are perceived to be for life.

There are numerous topical products aimed at treating scar tissue but before we investigate the types of acne scars, it is important that one should try and prevent acne in the first place.

Preventing acne

With acne affecting some 85% of the population at some time in their lives, it is important to try and prevent and treat acne effectively. Normally, antibiotics are prescribed such as tetracycline to eradicate the specific type of bacteria living on the surface of the skin. These bacteria block the pores leading to inflammation, which in turn causes excess sebum production and then leads to acne.

Whilst many experts point out that diet has nothing to do with acne, in my opinion, there is nothing could be further from the truth. A diet containing refined carbohydrates and sugar causes the release of excess insulin. Insulin has numerous effects on the body however it does cause the production of excess male hormone, testosterone, which causes the production of excess sebum production which the acne-causing bacteria thrive on. This is just the basic reason but there are also other processes involved which lead to the different types of acne.

From a dietary point of view, all grains are carbohydrates which are converted into sugar leading to acne so it is important to reduce the consumption of these. Reducing the consumption of bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes and corn will all help to prevent acne outbreaks to a degree.

A supplement that I know helps many teenagers and adults to keep acne at bay is Clear Skin Complex by Viridian Nutrition. This supplement contains probiotics which we now understand to have an influence on many concerns including skin. In the most simplistic way, probiotics help to rid the gut of toxins which may seep into the bloodstream. Clear Skin Complex also contains zinc which helps reduce inflammation so skin can heal quickly and Burdock root which displays antimicrobial properties helping to reduce the numbers of bacteria living on skin’s surface.

Types of acne scars

Acne scars develop as a result of the loss of skin tissue or an increase in skin tissue formation. Studies indicate that the severe forms of acne, those that develop in the deeper layers of the dermis, are mostly responsible for causing acne scars. No matter what type of acne, some people are simply prone to scar formation. Sometimes skin simply does not heal itself correctly resulting in acne scars. Squeezing or popping acne can also result in scars.

Types of acne scars include:

  • Acne spots – discolouration of the skin, they are usually brown or red. These fade in time or quicker with the help of topical treatments. Also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, PIH, because inflammation causes excess melanin build-up in the area.
  • Ice Pick scars – usually appearing on the cheeks, these arise from sebum and bacteria being buried in pores. Skin becomes inflamed because of the pus and bacteria which puts pressure on the tissues damaging them and leaving skin with a deep and narrow indentation which resemble ice which has been cut repeatedly with an ice-pick.
  • Boxcar scars – usually on cheeks and temples, boxcar scars are a U-shaped scar with defined edges and generally wider than Ice Pick scars.
  • Rolling scars – rounded in appearance, rolling scars are caused by the development of bands of tissue under the skin with a rippling effect.

Whatever the type of scar, it is important to tackle this as early as possible to avert the possibility of permanent scarring.

Topical acne scar treatment

Getting rid of acne scars is not easy and requires patience. Whilst there are many topical products on the market against preventing acne, there are a few which are of benefit in minimising the appearance of acne scars. A chemical called azelaic acid shows great promise in addressing all types of mild acne scars.

Azelaic acid is a mild acid that can be found in grains such as barley, wheat and rye. It is a keratolytic agent, which means that it softens keratin and prevents the build-up of keratinocytes, which are skin cells, so that they do not build up and block pores. Azelaic acid also has antibacterial properties which prevents the bacteria living on skin’s surface from thriving and in this way helps many people in preventing acne breakouts. Azelaic acid also helps skin renewal and in doing do helps to fade dark spots, minimise the appearance of acne scars and eradicate blemishes often associated with acne.

Azelaic acid also helps to minimise the appearance of red acne marks and also has brightening properties which helps to tackle uneven skin tone. In addition to these properties, Azelaic acid is also a powerful anti-inflammatory which calms skin down which also explains its frequent use in controlling rosacea. This multi-tasker works on so many levels to improve the appearance of acne-prone skin as well as improving the appearance of all types of acne scars.

How to use Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid comes in serum, gel and cream forms. I recommend the use of Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% by The Ordinary and to apply five to six drops at night on the whole face or you can simply use it to target the specific areas. Regular use of azelaic acid suspension will help prevent moderate acne from becoming worse before it spreads further and creates scars. Just like retinoids, azelaic acid helps to enhance skin cell turnover rates so that new skin is growing faster as dead skin cells are exfoliated away. This is why azelaic acid helps to counter post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, PIH, and improve the appearance of acne marks and scars.

After the application of azelaic acid, use 100% Organic Cold Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil. Rosehip seed oil underwent clinical trials in South America in the early 1980’s. The trials studied people with extensive scarring, acne scarring, deep wrinkles, surgical scars and UV damaged skin. The results showed a marked improvement in the appearance of scars especially after four months use, although improvements were noted at monthly intervals. Rosehip seed oil was found to regenerate skin, improve the appearance of all types of scars and prevent the advancement of wrinkles.  It may also be prudent to use Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, a beta hydroxyl acid, to deep clean pores of excess sebum.

A word of caution; azelaic acid may cause slight dryness, redness and itching. Should this occur, use once or twice a week increasing gradually to daily night time usage.

This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner.

Shabir Daya | , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Georgie

    Hi Shabir

    I recently purchased azelaic acid and euk134 and NMF. I already use granactive retinoid 5%. If azelaic acid is a mild acid, should i still not use it with euk134? I understand you should not use acids with euk134 but is that only strong acids? Also should i not use Euk 134 with the retinoid? If in the PM i cleanse and apply euk134 and leave a few hours before applying azelaic acid and granactive retinoid 5% before going to bed, would this be ok? If not, i will only use Euk134 in the AM. Thankyou so much.

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Georgie, I would prefer that you use EUK in the AM regimen because there is a risk of compromising its benefits in the PM regimen even if you did leave half an hour or so. Shabir

  • Kaka

    Hi Shabir,
    I have been using the Alpha Arbutin and Niacinamide at AM, and, Alpha Arbutin and Azelaic acid at night with almond oil as I find my skin is dry after applying the azelaic acid suspension. I am looking tackle adult acne scars, hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. I must admit the texture of my skin is bettre but the hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone is still an issue.
    Can you please recommend a product I can add to address this, or if i need to change my regimen (after i have finished the existing products ofcourse)

  • Victoria Health

    Hi, I would recommend that you consider the additional use of Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate in the AM regimen after the niacinamide. MAP works to brighten skin and is known for its benefits to tackle hyper pigmented skin. In the PM regimen, use Glycolic acid Toning Solution after cleansing to offer gentle resurfacing and instead of almond oil consider the use of rosehip seed oil which has been shown to be effective for all types of scar tissue.

  • Amanda

    Hi Shabir,

    After reading this article as well as others related to this brand, along with this entire thread, I think i may have nailed it. I have put together a regime to achieve my ultimate perfect ‘i woke up like this’ skin. But i think i may have confused myself just a little.

    I am 29 with Dark African skin and have had MANY treatments including Obagi face peel, Dermamelan Face peel, Danne Montague King Chemical Peels, Facials, and currently using Paulas choice products BHA, AHA, Toner etc. I no longer have issues with acne albeit the ODD BREAKOUT but still have uneven PIGMENTATION. My biggest complaint though is the TEXTURE and the HUGE PORES. I have an OILY tzone also.

    The products and regime i have gathered from your other responses are as follows:

    AM Alpha arbutin 2% + HA,
    AM Niacinimide 10 + zinc
    AM: Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%

    PM: AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution applied as a masque up to twice per week in the PM.

    PM Glycolic acid 7% toning
    PM Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
    PM Azelaic acid 10% 6 drops twice a week.
    PM Rose hip oil

    I have excluded retinoids and retinols as I am currently breastfeeding,

    Have i missed anything else? What about Alpha Lipoic Acid 5%?
    Is it all necessary for my concerns? Have I put them in the correct order? Can this all be simplified and still achieve the results I am seeking? Will I have brand new baby smooth skin again one day? lol

    I really appreciate you :)

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Amanda, I am impressed with your selection. In the PM regimen, the order would be Glycolic Toning Solution; Azelaic acid; NMF followed by rose hip oil. Perhaps consider the use of Alpha Lipoic acid again once or twice a week in the PM regimen when not using the peeling solution. ALA does have skin resurfacing properties and hopefully this all adds the final result which is smooth skin. Shabir

  • Amanda

    Awww great, if you are impressed then I must be on the right track! Thank you for correcting the PM regime. If I add the Alpha Lipoic acid would it go after the Azelaic acid and before the NMF? Am i still able to use MAP in the AM when using ALA in the PM? Thank you for your swift response, I am about to begin purchasing! Hooray! x

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Amanda, I would recommend using ALA followed by Azelaic acid before the NMF. You can use MAP in the AM when using ALA in PM. Best wishes Shabir

  • Hmai Pachuau

    Hi Shabir,

    I am so glad i bumped into your article. Thank you for the information. I am a 33 year old oily combination skin and i have been suffering from acne vulgaris on both the cheecks since the past 5 months. They are so big and visible. Please help me on what i can use for my acne. Thank you in advance..

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Hmai, I am going to set out a regimen which I am sure will be of great benefit in preventing outbreaks using The Ordinary products.
    AM: Hyaluronic acid + B5; Niacinamide + Zinc; Natural Moisturizing Factors
    PM: Salicylic acid; Hyaluronic acid; Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate; Natural Moisturizing Factors

    Hyaluronic acid will help hydrate the dermal layer since dehydration leads to inflammation causing excess sebum production.
    Niacinamide + Zinc will help normalise oil production, calm inflammation and encourage quicker healing of skin.
    Natural Moisturizing Factors will provide surface hydration without clogging pores.
    Salicylic acid will help deep clean pores of dirt, grime, excess sebum and dead skin cells.
    Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, a vitamin C derivative, works effectively to tackle acne damage as well as brightening skin.

    Best wishes,

  • Hmai Pachuau

    Dear Shabir

    Thank you for your help. I appreciate it alot. Ordering for these products very soon..

  • Victoria Health

    You are welcome Hmai and please keep us posted with the results.