How to treat Post-Acne Scarring?

earlier this summer I broke out somethin’ fierce. eventually my skin cleared up, but many of the pimples left discolored post-acne scars, boo!

Then I got this email from reader Katie:


“Hey Karen,

I was wondering if you’ve tried any products to reduce or get rid of existing acne scars. I have a couple of acne scars that still look like pimples, and I would really like to reduce the look of them… could you help a girl out???!

-Katie W.”

Hi Katie,

It’s kind of a cruel joke, isn’t it? mother Nature, not content to merely dish out the pimples, follows suit by leaving behind a discolored mark or divot that can linger for months or even years. Talk about unwanted reminders!

Depending on your skin color and the severity of your scarring, the discolorations, called post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH), can be pink, red, purple, brown or black, and can take anywhere from three to 24 months to disappear.


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PIH is a common occurrence among acne sufferers, but there are a slew of over-the-counter treatments on the market to help.

Many times they’re referred to as “brightening” or “skin tone correcting products” that very typically contain AHAs, BHAs, retinoids or hydroquinone.

To diminish the appearance of my summer breakout scars, I’ve been using a product with AHA (salicylic acid) from Clinique called even better skin tone Corrector ($40), an unscented, invisible serum.

I’ve been using it for about six weeks now, twice a day, applying after toning and moisturizing but before sunscreen.

Clinique claims even better works to correct uneven skin tone by removing dark patches, age spots and the darkening typically caused by breakouts.

The product’s been out for about a year now, but I didn’t think to try it until my skin trubs this summer.

Whenever I get a pimple, I’m pretty much guaranteed a lingering dark spot on my skin. They usually take from two to three months to fade, but Clinique even Better, applied twice per day, seems to cut that down by half.

It’s now a permanent member of my skin care arsenal. straight up, this stuff WORKS!

OF NOTE: Salicylic acid has been shown to help diminish the appearance of minor acne scarring, but it can also make skin more sensitive to sunlight and the dark spots common to it (photo aging). If you decide to give even better a try, sunscreen is an absolute must (I like Shiseido 55+).

If your scars are more along the lines of deeper skin indentations or pockmarks, you might want to ask your dermatologist about some of these treatments:

Resurfacing the upper layers of the skin with dermabrasion or lasers

Raising the surface of the skin and creating a smoother look with injectable dermal fillers

Surgical treatments like punch excision, which fuses the edges of a scar together


For more information on acne scars and PIH, check out this page on or this page.

Chicas, I’m putting this out there to you. Do you have any ideas or product recommendations for our girl Katie? have you ever dealt with acne scarring or hyperpigmentation?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


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