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 | , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Astrid

    hi, I did post something a while back but now have purchased and tired a number of different NIOD and ordinary products and now am confused and would like some guidance and which to stop using and which to start and in which order. To recap, I am 41 so definitely need to think about aging, I have light acne scarring and still get acne (Peri-oral dermatitis) and on antibiotics for this but would like to get off. I have the following now (overkill). NIOD Low-Viscosity Cleaning Ester, the CAIS serum and then from the ordinary:Niacinamide 10% + Zinc PCA 1%, Buffet, Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, Natural Mosturising Factor. I have now just acquired, after reading your article the Azeliac Acid and the Rosehip Seed Oil. But now I am not sure what to use. Buffet never worked for me. Not sure either about the Hyaloronic. But am sure I should only use a few of these on a regular basis? Thanks very much. Astrid

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Astrid, I can understand the confusion and I am going to recommend a change in the regimen as outlined here. AM: LVCE; CAIS; Niacinamide + Zinc; Natural Moisturising Factors. PM: LVCE; CAIS; Hyaluronic acid; Azelaic acid and Rosehip seed oil. Best wishes Shabir

  • Astrid

    Thank you sounds like a plan! Will give you feedback in a few weeks time!

  • Victoria Health

    Thank you Astrid and look forward to your feedback. Shabir

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Katie, NIOD skincare products use some of the most innovative technologies and would recommend you continue using them. I would incorporate Niacinamide + Zinc by The Ordinary if you are getting excessive sebum production in the AM regimen after CAIS and MMHC and in the evening regimen please use Azelaic acid and Rosehip seed oil in this order after CAIS and MMHC. Best wishes Shabir

  • laura

    Hi, my son is 16, he has some PIH scarring, is it ok for me to use the Azelaic and rosehip oil regime on him ?

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Laura, Azelaic Acid Suspension by The Ordinary is perfectly safe to use in the PM regimen. It helps unclog pores and enhances cell turnover gently/ Use Rosehip Oil also at night time after the Azelaic acid. Best wishes Shabir

  • laura

    Many thanks Shabir, I will follow your advice. He used to have inflammation and breakouts but I started him on NIOD LVCE and it has transformed his skin. Just need to deal with the scars now. Best wishes.

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Laura, so glad that NIOD LVCE has transformed his skin. Best wishes Shabir

  • mel

    Hi I’ve recently purchase some The Ordinary products (Niacinamide + Zinc, Hyaluronic Acid, Squalane, Natural Mosturising Factor and Salicylic Acid). I’ve been suffering from bad acne scars (PIH, box scars and ice pick scars) and occasion breakout (during time of the month where my skin is extra oily). How could I incorporate the Azalaic Acid and Rosehip seed oil to part of my regimen? I also have dehydrated acne prone combination skin
    My current regimen:
    AM: Niacinamide + Zinc, Hyaluronic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Natural Mosturising Factor
    PM: Hyaluronic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Squalane
    Thank you

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Mel, both Azelaic acid and Rosehip seed oil can be incorporated into the PM regimen which would be: Hyaluronic acid, Salicylic acid, Squalane and Rosehip seed oil. Best wishes Shabir

  • Debbie

    Hi Shabir
    I am in my early 50’s and have suffered since my teens with severe acne scarring- ice pick, boxcar and rolling scars. Some of the scarring looks like large pores I am told. I have tried various treatments over the years but none has really worked. My skin is mostly dry these days. I have light skin although I am half Asian. Can you help with what might work for me? I make sure I have a good diet with lots of leafy green vegetables but I have trouble keeping my skin hydrated although I do drink at least a litre or water a day.

    I use the following products:

    Day CAIS; MMHC; buffet
    Night CAIS; MMHC; Ordinary Vitamin C high potency or advanced retinoid
    Also I use sanskrit saponins 2 times a week.

    Very grateful for your thoughts

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Debbie, you could consider the use of Azelaic acid to resurface skin whilst the retinoid is working to enhance cellular regeneration. Another option is to use Sheald Recovery Balm which has amazing feedback from our customers regarding all sorts of scars. Shabir

  • Debbie

    Thank you for the advice Shabir. I will let you know how I get on.

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Debbie, do keep me informed if you can please. Best wishes Shabir

  • Nilhan Cacan

    Hi, can I use azelaic acid and niacinamide together on my day time and night time routine? If yes, which one should I apply first to get the best result? Thank you!

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Nilhan, you can most definitely use niacinamide and azelaic acid however azelaic acid is better suited to evening usage whereas niacinamide may be used both AM and PM and would be used first followed by azelaic acid. Best wishes Shabir

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Serena, I would recommend the following regimen. AM: Alpha arbutin; Niacinamide + Zinc; Ascorbyl Glucoside. PM: Alpha arbutin; Advanced Retinoid; Rosehip seed oil. Niacinamide has been shown to be effective agent with natural skin lightening properties and additionally helps normalise oil production. Ascorbyl Glucoside helps to provide a stable form of vitamin C which is effective at brightening skin. Advanced Retinoid enhances cell turnover to help achieve softer, smoother skin. (You could potentially use Azelaic acid which is gentler or use them on alternate days). Numerous studies indicate that rosehip seed oil, with regular use, works to improve the appearance of scars. Best wishes Shabir

  • Serena Wilkinson

    Thank you very much for the advice Shabir. I’ll let you know if it helps!

  • Victoria Health

    You are welcome Serena.

  • Sacide Basaran


    So I use proactive at the moment have been for a while. My chin breaks out regularly (black head galore) and around my temples, on my period I break out else where which I get is normal. My diets very healthy and I exercise 3/4 times a week.

    My scaring is pretty bad, its only surface yet as i have olive skin so the scars are pretty dark. Mostly on my chin :(

    What can i use to get rid of scaring? I have a wash, cream and moisturiser routine every AM & PM. can you let me know when I would put it on please :)

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Sacide, there are many reasons for blackheads and breakouts which include cleansers which strip skin of its natural oils leading to inflammation which in turn causes excess sebum production. I am going to recommend a regimen as follows. AM: Cleanse; Salicylic acid; Hyaluronic acid; moisturiser. PM: Cleanse; Hyaluronic acid; Azelaic acid; Rosehip seed oil. Use salicylic acid concentrating around the areas prone to blackheads – it works to deep cleanse pores and should help prevent and treat blackheads. Hyaluronic acid will help hydrate skin and this should prevent inflammation which leads to excess oil production. Azelaic acid unclogs pores, gently resurfaces skin and brightens skin. Rosehip seed oil, as in the editorial, works to improve scar appearance. Best wishes Shabir

  • Lilly Santiago

    Hello I’m 48 and still break out occasionally. My main concern is how do I get rid off this icepicks marks on my face?

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Lily, you might wish to consider the use of Salicylic acid, Azelaic acid and Rosehip Oil as mentioned in the editorial. Salicylic acid helps deep clean pores so that they do not get congested helping to minimise breakouts. Azelaic acid helps unclog pores,gently resurfaces skin and helps brighten skin. Numerous studied indicate rosehip oil is good at improving scar appearance. Best wishes Shabir

  • Lilly Santiago

    Thank U!

  • Victoria Health

    You are welcome Lilly and please keep us posted if you can.

  • Lilly Santiago

    I will plan on purchasing products today!

  • Victoria Health

    Thank you.

  • Kit

    Hi Shabir! In the comment above where you say “you could potentially use Azelaic acid which is gentler or use them on alternate days”….. I just wanted to clarify what you were referring to….. did you mean she could potentially also use Azelaic Acid but alternate the days she sues it with her use of Advanced Retinoid?

    I am asking because I currently use Azelaic Acid, & was thinking about also purchasing the Advanced Retinoid now, but I was planning to use them both together at night. Would this be ok? Thanks so much for your help!

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Kit, Azelaic Acid and Advanced Retinoid can be used together however for some people this may cause slight irritation in which case one could use them on alternate days. If you have not had any tingling or itchy sensation with Azelaic Acid then I am sure you will be fine with Advanced Retinoid. I normally recommend starting with any retinoid gradually so perhaps once a week gradually increasing to daily use but it all depends on how your skin feels when using this product. Best wishes Shabir

  • Melissa Duncan

    Hi, my name is Melissa. I am trying to over haul my skincare to try and achieve better skin with the ordinary range as the products Iv been using have made my skin dry end dehydrated. My skin breaks out occasionally, and I have acne spots I want to fade but As I have dehydrated skin I’m at a loss as what to use that won’t make my skin dry.

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Melissa, dehydration is one of the causes of inflammation which can lead to dry skin and pore clogging due to improper function of the pore unit. I would recommend the following regimen. AM: Hyaluronic acid + B5; Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate; Squalene. PM: Hyaluronic acid; Azelaic acid; Rosehip seed oil. Hyaluronic acid helps hydrate dermal layer. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate helps tackle acne blemishes, increases skin hydration to reveal softer, smoother skin whilst tackling acne damage. Squalene provides superb surface hydration. Azelaic acid helps unclog pores, calms down inflammation and gently resurfaces skin. Rosehip seed oil helps restore lipids in skin and may improve scar appearance. Best wishes Shabir