How To Get Rid Of Pitted Acne Scars Effectively

Written by Swathi E , Certified Skin Care Coach

Acne is one of the most common skin problems that affect 80 percent of people between the ages 11 and 30 (1). You know how bad an acne breakout can be. When the breakout clears away, finally, it often leaves behind some scarring. Those indented marks on the skin are called pitted acne scars. These scars do not heal by themselves.

But the good news is that a variety of treatments are available to minimize them. What are they? Are they safe? In this article, we discuss a list of treatment options available to get rid of pitted acne scars. Keep reading.

What Are Pitted Acne Scars?

Pitted acne scars are also called atrophic acne scars. They are the hollow, indented marks formed on the skin after a severe acne breakout. They look sunken compared to the other areas of the skin. They affect the skin’s texture and may become permanent if not treated soon. They are caused by a sudden loss of collagen that occurs during the skin healing process.

But what causes pitted acne scars? Keep reading to know.

What Causes Pitted Acne Scars?

Pitted scars are often associated with acne, chickenpox, surgery, or accidents (2). They are formed when the underlying structures that support the skin are lost. Inflammation damages the skin after a severe acne breakout – and the skin needs to produce new collagen and tissues to heal. However, skin inflammation affects the production of both melanin and collagen. This collagen shortage leads to skin scarring (2). It pulls the skin down and forms depressed atrophic scars. Similarly, melanin, if produced excessively, causes hyperpigmentation (3).

The lack of collagen production during the skin’s healing process may cause pitted acne scars. These scars can occur in different types. We have discussed the same below.

Types Of Pitted Acne Scars

The pitted acne scars are categorized based on their appearance. The three main types are:

  •  Boxcar Scars: These are broad scars with sharp depressions on your skin. They have well-defined edges. A chicken-pox scar can be a boxcar scar.
  •  Icepick Scars: These are tiny, narrow, deep holes – unlike boxcar scars. They go deep into the skin and appear like have been made from a tiny icepick.
  •  Rolling Scars: These are the widest of the three scars and have smooth, undulating edges. Their depths may vary and they make the skin look uneven.

Pitted acne scars can dent your confidence and leave you searching for ways to find out remedies. In the next section, we discuss a list of treatment options to get rid of these scars.

How To Get Rid Of Pitted Acne Scars?

  •  Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is done in two ways: ablative and non-ablative. The ablative laser removes a small piece of skin to reveal a smoother texture.

The non-ablative laser induces heat and collagen production. The laser causes damage to initiate the wound-healing process. It also stimulates the dermal fibroblasts to replace lost collagen and elastin (1). Laser resurfacing is a non-invasive, quick treatment that warrants 6 to 8 sessions.

  •  Dermabrasion

The epidermis is removed to remodel the skin’s structural proteins in the reticular dermis (thick bottom layer of the dermis). This process reorganizes the papillary dermal collagen without causing any injury to the reticular dermis. This is best suited for treating rolling scars or boxcar scars (4). However, this treatment may increase the risk of sun sensitivity and photodamage. Hence, protect your skin after the treatment to prevent hyperpigmentation.

  •  Chemical Peeling

Chemicals applied to the skin exfoliate (to remove dead skin cells) the top layer to minimize scarring and reveal fresher skin beneath. It is a controlled procedure that boosts collagen production around the scars. Different chemicals have different penetration levels. The chemicals used and their concentration depends on the type of scarring. Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are the most commonly used peeling agents (5).
The combinations of retinaldehyde with glycolic acid and retinoic acid with glycolic acid may also help reduce pitted acne scars (6), (7).

  •  Microneedling With Radiofrequency

Radiofrequency energy is used to tighten the skin and minimize the visibility of pitted acne scars. Microneedling involves repairing the skin by causing injuries to boost collagen production. When combined with radiofrequency, the energy is released deeper into the skin. It triggers a bigger inflammatory response and remodels the dermal collagen (5). This procedure is one of the effective techniques for treating indented scarring with minimal side effects.

  •  Fillers

This procedure involves filling pitted acne scars to achieve even-looking skin. The fillers augment the soft tissue. Hyaluronic acid is the commonly used filler (8). It adds volume to the scar and has no downtime. However, it only provides a temporary solution as the body enzymes digest the fillers over time.

  •  Subcision

Subcision involves inserting a needle under the acne scar and breaking up the collagen cord. When the fibrous component below the dermis is cut, the scar elevates and produces new collagen. Multiple sessions are required to achieve the desired results. The procedure is more effective in improving rolling scars. Combining subcision with other scar revision procedures may provide better results (9).

  •  Punch Techniques

These include three types:

I) Punch Excision: The scar is cut out and stitched together to make a less visible scar. It is preferred for icepick scars and boxcar scars.

II) Punch Grafting: The scar is removed and replaced with skin from elsewhere. It is preferred for reducing icepick scars. It warrants 20 or more replacement grafts in a single session.

III) Punch Elevation: The scar is cut out. The tissue is then elevated and sutured at a slightly higher level than the surrounding skin. This procedure is preferred for reducing boxcar scars (5).

These treatments can minimize pitted acne scars. However, preventing the scars is always preferable.

Ways To Prevent Pitted Acne Scars

  •  Early treatment of active acne is the best solution to prevent pitted acne scars. If you have acne-prone skin or an acne breakout, avoid picking skin or popping the acne. Squeezing can inflame your skin and lead to scarring.
  •  Use oil-free sunscreen every day. Excess sun exposure may damage the skin and reduce collagen. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to prevent collagen loss and pitted acne scars.
  •  Exfoliate the skin to prevent the clogging of pores. Exfoliation also helps increase skin cell turnover and prevents breakouts. It also removes dead cells from the skin surface and reduces the visibility of scars.
  •  Hydrate the skin to make it smooth and minimize the appearance of pitted acne scars. Dehydrated skin highlights the irregularities on the skin.
  •  Choose skincare products with vitamin C, retinol, or alpha hydroxy acids to boost collagen production.


The sudden loss of collagen after a severe acne breakout causes pitted acne scars. From topical treatments like retinoids and glycolic acid to professional treatments like laser resurfacing and subcisions, one can pick from many options to reduce these scars. The production of new collagen takes time, so be patient. That said, it is always better to prevent the formation of such scars by following simple skincare routines. Early treatment of active acne can also help prevent the formation of pitted acne scars.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Do pitted acne scars improve with time?

Pitted scars do not improve on their own. You need to boost collagen production. Medical procedures are available to minimize them safely and effectively.

How long do pitted acne scars take to heal?

Pitted acne scars start healing within 3 to 6 months with proper treatment.

Does retinol help treat pitted scars?

Retinol helps boost collagen production. Applying over-the-counter products with retinol as an ingredient may help minimize the scars.

Is chemical peeling good for the skin?

Chemical peeling is generally a safe procedure if performed by a qualified medical professional. However, in rare cases, the procedure may cause scarring or infections.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Acne Scarring—Pathogenesis Evaluation and Treatment Options
  2. Extracellular Matrix Reorganization During Wound Healing and Its Impact on Abnormal Scarring
  3. Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation
  4. Treatment of acne scarring
  5. Effective Treatments of Atrophic Acne Scars
  6. Retinoic acid and glycolic acid combination in the treatment of acne scars
  7. Combined 0.1% retinaldehyde/ 6% glycolic acid cream in prophylaxis and treatment of acne scarring
  8. Fillers for the improvement in acne scars Fillers for the improvement in acne scars – PMC (
  9. Subcision for acne scarring: technique and outcomes in 40 patients

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