How Long Does It Take for Acne Scars to Go Away?

Reviewed on 6/8/2022
A woman's face with pitted acne scarring on her face
Skin discoloration caused by acne will usually fade within three to six months. The appearance of mild acne scars may diminish on their own but scarring usually means there is permanent damage to the skin, which may require treatment to help it fade.

Acne (acne vulgaris) is a common skin condition characterized by chronic or recurrent development of pimples, pustules, papules, or nodules on the skin. 

Acne can result in permanent scarring that can change the texture of the skin after the lesions have healed. There are different types of acne scars, including: 

  • Ice pick: small, deep pits
  • Rolling: wide and shallow  
  • Boxcar: sharp angles and edges; may be deep or shallow 
  • Keloid and hypertrophic: raised scar 
  • Skin discoloration: dark spots that appear red to purple in color
  • Perifollicular elastolysis (PFE): flesh-colored or yellow lesions (uncommon)

Skin discoloration caused by acne will usually fade within three to six months. 

The appearance of mild acne scars may diminish on their own but scarring usually means there is permanent damage to the skin, which may require treatment to help it fade.

What Is the Treatment for Acne Scars?

It is important to treat acne properly so it heals without scarring, but there are a number of dermatological treatments available to help reduce the appearance of scarring. The treatment to help acne scars fade depends on the type of scarring. 

Treatments for acne scars include:

  • Resurfacing procedures
    • For scars that are nearly flat (not very deep)
    • Removes layers of skin allowing for the production of new skin cells
      • Laser skin resurfacing
      • Chemical peels 
      • Dermabrasion 
      • Microdermabrasion (not the same as home microdermabrasion kits)
  • Fillers
    • For a few depressed scars, but not icepick scars
    • Some results are temporary and last 6 to 18 months, and some are permanent 
      • Collagen
      • The patient’s own fat
      • Other substances
  • Skin tightening
    • For depressed scars; may sometimes treat deep icepick and boxcar scars 
    • Radiofrequency to tighten the skin can help make depressed acne scars less noticeable
  • Collagen-induction therapy (also called “needling” or “micro-needling”)
    • For widespread depressed acne scars; not for raised acne scars
    • A needle-studded roller is moved across depressed acne scars to puncture the skin
    • Encourages the body to produce more collagen as it heals
    • Usually requires between three and six treatments done every two to six weeks and may take several treatments and up to nine months to see results
  • Electrodesiccation
    • Best used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to shape or reduce the edges of boxcar scars and diminish raised scars
    • Uses electric probes to heat the tissue, which causes the tissue to die
  • Injections
    • For painful, raised scars
    • Medicine may be injected directly into the scars to soften and flatten raised, thick scars
    • Usually requires repeat visits, once every few weeks
    • Skin may be injected with: 
  • Acne scar surgery 
    • For a few very noticeable depressed scars
    • The scar tissue is lifted or broken up to create a less-noticeable scar
    • May be followed by injections or radiation for raised scars that need stronger treatment than injections alone can provide
  • Laser therapy
    • Effective for most types of acne scars
    • Pulsed dye laser (PDL) can diminish color and flatten a raised scar
    • Intense pulsed light (IPL) also may be used on people with lighter skin
  • Cryosurgery
    • Diminishes raised scars in people who have lighter skin, but not recommended for people who have skin of color
    • Freezes scar tissue, causing it to die and gradually fall off
    • Often combined with corticosteroid injections
  • Scar creams, gels, and silicone dressings
    • Can help reduce scar size and discomfort but are unlikely to eliminate a raised scar
    • Can be used at home to shrink, flatten, and fade raised scars
    • Products must be used continuously to be effective 

There are no natural remedies that have been shown in studies to be effective in healing acne scars, however, they are unlikely to be harmful. Use caution on sensitive skin and consult your dermatologist before using unproven natural remedies. 

How Do You Prevent Acne Scars?

The best way to prevent acne scars is to properly treat acne when it occurs. 

Home treatments for acne include: 

  • Wash twice daily and after sweating; rinse with lukewarm water
  • Use gentle, non-abrasive cleanser and apply gently with fingertips
  • Don’t pick, pop, or squeeze pimples
    • Picking at acne can make it take longer to go away and can increase the risk of scarring
    • Let the skin heal naturally
  • Avoid touching the face because bacteria on the fingers and under the fingernails can enter pores and cause acne
  • Avoid the sun and tanning beds
  • Shampoo oily hair daily

Treatment for acne includes: 

  • Topical (on the skin) medications 
    • Benzoyl peroxide
    • Retinoids
    • Azelaic acid 
    • Salicylic acid
    • Antibiotics such as clindamycin
    • Combinations of benzoyl peroxide plus a retinoid or a topical antibiotic 
  • Birth control pill or patch approved to treat acne may be used in females

Medical treatments for acne include: 

  • Laser or light therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections
Reviewed on 6/8/2022
Image Source: iStock Images