How to Minimize the Look of Post-Acne Marks


In This Article:

It’s just not fair that after a swollen acne blemish goes away it’s replaced by an equally frustrating red or brown mark. Actually, frustrating is an understatement.

We want to assure you that this bothersome lingering reminder of a blemish can absolutely be alleviated quickly (or even averted before it happens) with some simple but vitally important skincare dos and don’ts.
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Post-Acne Marks: What Works and What Doesn’t

With very few exceptions, as most of us dealing with this concern already know, skincare products claiming to improve post-acne marks don't work as promised. But if you know which ingredients to look for, and what not to do, you can find the best options to lessen their appearance and surprisingly fast, too.

At-home treatments for post-acne marks, such as rubbing lemon juice or other citrus fruits on your face, absolutely don't work—they can't exfoliate skin properly and their acidic juices are potent skin sensitizers that can cause post-acne marks to last longer—not what you’re after, right?

We wish it could be different but there are no solutions in your kitchen for this skin concern (or really any skincare concern, for that matter).

Scrubs are also a waste of time for this concern because post-acne marks and acne can’t be scrubbed away. If anything, using scrubs over acne can aggravate skin, which won’t help and can get in the way of diminishing red areas from past breakouts.

So, what really works? As always, we turned to the scientific research to discover four ways to fade post-acne marks that work for any skin tone, age, or ethnicity.

  1. Use only well-formulated, gentle skincare products. It's tempting to try abrasive scrubs and all manner of aggressive treatments in a desperate effort to get rid of acne and the marks it leaves behind, but the aggravation and harshness they cause only keeps breakouts and post-acne marks around longer!

    Non-irritating products are truly the only way to go; easy does it!
  2. Use a BHA exfoliant daily. The benefits of a well-formulated, leave-on, completely non-abrasive BHA (beta hydroxy acid, active ingredient salicylic acid) exfoliant used daily cannot be overstated: It not only gently exfoliates the surface of skin to reveal new skin hiding beneath, but also helps to dissolve clogged pores that lead to breakouts. There’s more: BHA has a natural calming advantage that minimizes the appearance of redness! That’s an amazing benefit given the unsightly color that accompanies pimples and the marks they leave behind.

    What about AHAs for post-acne marks? Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs, like glycolic or lactic acid) can help fade uneven skin tone, just like a BHA can. However, AHAs cannot penetrate oil and unclog congested pores like BHA, so they’re not the best choice for this concern.
  3. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, without exception. Unprotected exposure to UV light (which will get to your skin even if it’s cloudy) steadily damages skin, which means the red areas from acne will, you guessed it, stick around longer. Protecting your skin from UV exposure every day is critical to diminishing the look of post-acne marks. It also keeps your skin healthier-looking and reduces the risk of early signs of aging. Now that's win-win!

    You also can consider applying a foundation or tinted moisturizer with SPF 30 over your regular sunscreen! That can be a great option for oily, acne-prone skin that likely needs coverage and shine control.
  4. Use products loaded with antioxidants, especially vitamin C and skin-restoring ingredients like retinol. Those two categories of beneficial ingredients help safeguard your skin from environmental assault while also revitalizing skin’s surface. That means you’ll see a smoother, healthier, and balanced appearance.

    Two Paula's Choice targeted solutions to consider are our RESIST Anti-Aging Clear Skin Hydrator and the super-charged yet super-light RESIST 1% Retinol Booster, which can be used on its own or mixed with your moisturizer or serum. We also love our RESIST 10% Niacinamide Booster for its ability to help make skin tone more even and minimize enlarged pores.

Along with anti-acne skin care, a high-strength vitamin C product can work wonders! Many will find the potent dose of 25% vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in Paula's Choice RESIST Vitamin C Spot Treatment works with their anti-acne products to brighten an uneven skin tone and help skin feel smoother. This easy-to-use formula can be dabbed on areas of concern at the end of your nightly skincare routine.

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Products for Acne Breakouts.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!

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