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How to reduce acne scars

Joanna Melville | 04.07.2021

The aftermath of an acne breakout can sometimes leave your skin with scars caused by damage to the dermis layer. Whilst not all acne will result in scarring, there are a number of topical treatments available to reduce their appearance. 


Scars occur when the tissues in the dermis layer of the skin becomes damaged - for example from the spot itself or how it’s been dealt with. The healing process involves the body trying to replace these damaged tissues by producing collagen fibres to repair the tissue creating a new layer around the damage. Scarring can occur when too much collagen is produced or not enough and the scarring can range from flat and white to raised and dark. 

Scars can be identify as two different types: 

  • ATROPHIC SCARS:  are depressed into the skin which look like holes or textured crevices because not enough collagen was created when healing. These scars can take a variety of forms such as Boxcar (u-shaped with sharp edges) or Icepick (deep, narrow with sharp edges).
  • HYPERTROPHIC SCARS: are raised scars created when too much collagen is produced when healing. These can be raised lumps and bumps under the surface of the skin. 

Alongside scarring, dark spots, pigmentation and uneven skin tone which can occur after a severe breakout or from picking at/popping pimples. This can clear up over time or with the aid of treatments such as Alpha Arbutin, Tranexamic Acid and Rosehip Oil


The breakouts themselves can naturally cause scarring as the inflammation of the walls of the pore can be damaged and the contents of the blemish expand into the surrounding tissues. 

Another obvious cause can be from picking, popping or squeezing pimples when they arise (we understand, the temptation is SO real) which can cause excess inflammation and damage to an already fragile skin structure - resulting in potentially deeper scars which are harder to heal. 

To find out more about what can cause acne, read our Acne 101 blog.


As scarring affects deeper under the skin’s surface, it can feel like a bit of a long game to see results and it’s not guaranteed that the skin will return to its original state. Patience and persistence plus some expertly created products are a perfect power combination to reduce the appearance of scarring as much as possible.

Model with Tranexamic Acid bottle


This hero product helps to halt the melanin production that causes the appearance of scars to be dark whilst brightening the skin’s appearance. 

This overnight gel treatment targets hyperpigmentation, uneven patches and dark spots. It brightens your skin's complexion, as well as aids the reduction of dark spots and uneven skin tone.

Formulated with 2% Tranexamic Acid, 2% Acai Berry extract to promote even skin tone, as well as 2% skin brightening hero Vitamin C, it also boosts overall skin brightness and evens skin tone.

HOW TO USE: Use in the PM as your last step before sleep. Follow your usual skincare recipe, but replace your moisturizer step with this night treatment for powerful overnight treatment. Once absorbed leave to work overnight and wash off the next morning. To help prevent dehydration we’d recommend to use this treatment 2-3 nights a week so you can use moisturizer with your routine on the other nights. Generally, tranexamic acid is safe for all skin types. Those with super sensitive skin or eczema should do a patch first, just to be safe.


Alpha Arbutin is an active ingredient that limits the melanin production in your skin meaning less pigmentation which can form as part of the scarring. A concentrated 2% Alpha Arbutin serum to help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dark spots and keep skin at an optimal hydration level.

Derived from the leaves of the bearberry plant, this serum helps to brighten the skin and improve overall skin tone. Added Squalane helps to increase skin hydration and smoothness.

HOW TO USE: Use in the AM and PM. On cleansed skin apply a pea-sized amount to face and neck

If you are using alongside any other serums, layer in any order and follow with moisturizer.


When it comes to targeting the texture of scars, an active exfoliating acid such as Glycolic Acid can help smooth the skin. This 10% Glycolic Acid exfoliating toner helps to reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines, as well as support smoother and brighter skin. Derived from sugar cane, this Glycolic Acid unsticks dead skin on the surface to help improve the overall appearance of skin texture and brightness. Formulated with 10% Glycolic Acid for maximum effect, and 5% Witch Hazel to help reduce excess oil and soothe. Recommended for those with oily or congested skin.

HOW TO USE: For use in the PM. After cleansing and Hyaluronic Acid if you are using it, saturate a cotton pad and wipe your face and neck. You can also use on other blemish-prone areas, including your back and chest. Follow with preferred serums and moisturizer. No need to rinse.


Vitamin C 30% bottle

Bring in the brightness to help lift the appearance of scarring. Vitamin C is a powerful, multi-functional antioxidant and skin brightening ingredient. It helps to tackle the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dullness and fine lines.

Formulated with 30% pure L-ascorbic Acid, this serum helps your skin appear brighter and targets signs of aging. It also helps to protect against free radicals and pollution. Best used in the AM, the rich, creamy texture gives an instant smoothing effect, making it a great base for makeup.

HOW TO USE: Can be used AM or PM, but we recommend using in the AM to make the most of its antioxidant properties. Apply a pea-sized amount to face and neck after cleansing and Hyaluronic Acid if using. For a thinner consistency, we recommend mixing with Hyaluronic Acid. Follow with moisturizer and sunscreen if applied in the AM. For more information on layering, watch the video in the layering section below.

Also check out 15% Vitamin C + EGF, Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser and Symbright Moisturizer to tackle the effects if scarring.


Rosehip oil bottle

Rosehip Oil helps to brighten and improve the appearance of skin tone and texture and is packed with essential fatty acids, Omega-6 and skin beneficial vitamins. It provides an overnight nourishment boost for dull or tired skin and helps tackle uneven skin tone. Beneficial for all skin types, it hydrates and soothes dry skin and contains Linoleic Acid, which can help to regulate oil production for those with oily or blemish prone skin.

HOW TO USE: Massage 2-3 drops into your skin after serums and mositurizer for softer skin by morning. This super oil can also be used on hands, nails and cuticles to relieve dry, cracked skin.

View all INKEY List products that target acne scars.


As well as treating existing scars, there are ways you can prevent scarring or prevent the appearance of scars getting worse. Firstly, don’t pick at or over-exfoliate scarred areas - this will irritate and potentially make the area worse. Targeted treatments and patience are your best formula. 

Unprotected sun exposure can cause post acne scars to further darken and linger for longer. We suggest protecting skin with a broad spectrum SPF daily as the last step of your AM routine.

The best cure for acne scars is to prevent acne in the first place. Spend some time with your skincare routine and making sure it’s tailored to your skin type and target concerns. A cleanser such as our Salicylic Acid Cleanser and/or our Oat Cleansing Balm are great starting points for keeping the pores clear of acne-causing bacteria, dirt and dead skin cells. Our Succinic Acid Treatment also helps target breakouts quickly to reduce spread. 

With post acne marks there can be different types that each respond better to different treatment types. It can be worth consulting with a doctor or dermatologist who can advise on a much wider range of treatment options to suit your specific scar type.

Routine still leaving a mark? Contact the team at #askINKEY or create your own personalized routine with our Recipe Builder.

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