7 Ways To Get Rid Of Pitted Acne Scars | Causes And Types

Minimize the appearance of those hollow scars on your face with simple natural treatments.

Medically reviewed by Dr Ashok Gund, MBBS, CSD Dr Ashok Gund Dr Ashok GundMBBS, CSD facebook_icon
Written by , MA (English Literature) Swathi E MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Edited by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Monomita Chakraborty MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years

Acne is one of the most common skin problems that affect 80% of people between the ages 11 and 30 (1). Acne breakouts often leave indented scars, known as pitted acne scars. People often find it difficult to get rid of pitted acne scars, and they usually do not fade easily.

However, there are several treatment options that may help reduce the appearance of pitted acne scars. But are they safe? What about the cost? This article answers your queries and discusses a list of treatment options available to manage pitted acne scars. Keep reading!

What Are Pitted Acne Scars?

Woman looking at her pitted acne scars in the mirror
Image: Shutterstock

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?

Acne and chickenpox cause pitted scars
Image: Shutterstock

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 self-esteem, 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.

According to a recent population-based cross-sectional study conducted on 723 participants, 19.3% of participants with mild acne scars considered them a ‘very large’ or ‘extremely large’ concern as compared to 20.1% of participants with moderate scars and 34.0% of participants with very severe scars. Further, 68% reported feeling self-conscious while 74.8% worried about the scars not going away.

How To Get Rid Of Pitted Acne Scars?

  •  Laser Resurfacing
Woman getting laser resurfacing done for pitted acne scars
Image: Shutterstock

Laser resurfacing is done in two ways: ablativei  A minimally invasive surgical procedure used to remove abnormal tissue or tumor from any body part. and non-ablative. The ablativei  A minimally invasive surgical procedure used to remove abnormal tissue or tumor from any body part. 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 fibroblastsi  A type of cell that contributes to the formation of connective tissues that help maintain the structural framework of the body. 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 photodamagei  A term used to describe changes in the skin, such as wrinkles and pigmentation that occurs due to prolonged exposure to solar radiation. . 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
Woman getting microneedling with radiofrequency done for pitted acne scars
Image: Shutterstock

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.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Paraffin was the first filling agent used in dermal fillers. However, its use is prohibited due to complications like granulomai  An aggregation of white blood cells that form in response to chronic inflammation. It can occur in any part of the body. formation, migration, and embolization (10).
  •  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).

protip_icon Trivia
The term ‘subcision’ was coined in the year 1995. The procedure is also known as subcutaneous-incision-less surgery (11).
  •  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.

Another treatment that can help is platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP), also called vampire facelift/facial. Here, platelet-rich plasma (fibroblastsi  A type of cell that contributes to the formation of connective tissues that help maintain the structural framework of the body. , epidermal growth factors) is injected into acne scars subdermal with microneedling, giving excellent results.

In addition to topical treatments, oral supplements of collagen sachets also enhance the outcome of the treatments.

Ways To Prevent Pitted Acne Scars

Woman exfoliating her face to prevent pitted acne scars
Image: Shutterstock
  •  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.
  • Try some natural remedies or home remedies to soothe the skin and also treat the scars.

Jazmin, a blogger, shared how she treated acne scars by addressing their root cause and exfoliating her skin using beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid. She also recommended using chemical exfoliators such as glycolic acid, vitamin C, azelaic acid, etc., for scar lightening. She writes, “My skin is so much smoother and clearer now that I am using these products (and not picking my spots anymore!), and my spots do not scar as much as they used to (i).”

Apart from these, there are multiple other effective natural remedies that support skin rejuvenation, aid in acne scar removal, and may help manage pitted acne scars.

Summing It Up

Infographic: An Effective Homemade Face Mask For Scars

Pitted acne scars occur after a severe acne breakout. These scars may become permanent if not treated on time. While there are several medical procedures to treat these scars, you can also parallelly try a simple and effective homemade face mask that may aid in recovery. Check out the infographic below for more details.

an effective homemade face mask for scars (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Pitted acne scars are indented scars caused by severe acne breakouts. They mainly result from the sudden loss of collagen and damage caused by acne inflammation. Several treatments like retinoids, glycolic acid, laser resurfacing, subcision, dermabrasion, chemical peeling, etc., help reduce the appearance of scars. However, since you cannot completely get rid of pitted acne scars, it is always best to take preventive measures to minimize scarring. Following a proper skincare routine for enhancing your beauty and treating acne breakouts on time to help prevent pitted acne scars.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does niacinamide help with pitted acne scars?

No. Niacinamide may help reduce post-acne marks and improve skin texture. However, it may not improve the appearance of deep and pitted acne scars.

What is better for pitted acne scars, microneedling or laser?

Both are effective in improving the appearance of pitted scars. Microneedling is less expensive than laser therapy and has a shorter downtime. However, laser therapy may provide long-lasting results.

What is better for pitted acne scars, microdermabrasion, or micro-needling?

Both treatments yield similar results using different techniques to treat pitted acne scars. While microdermabrasion is a safer procedure that exfoliates the top layer of the skin, microneedling works at deeper levels to boost collagen production and provide lasting results.

Key Takeaways

  • Pitted acne scars may leave your face looking uneven and spotted.
  • Laser resurfacing, using chemical peels, micro-needling, and dermabrasion are a few of the many options suggested by a specialist in dermatology that help reduce the appearance of pitted acne scars.
  • Keeping your skin exfoliated, well-moisturized, sun-protected, and acne-free can help prevent the development of pitted acne scars.
Get Rid Of Pitted Acne Scars

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Learn about the best treatments for deep pitted acne scars. Check out the video below to know more about the different options available for getting rid of those acne scars.

Personal Experience: Source


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 (nih.gov)
  9. Subcision for acne scarring: technique and outcomes in 40 patients
  10. The history of injectable facial fillers
  11. Subcision plus 50% trichloroacetic acid chemical reconstruction of skin scars in the management of atrophic acne scars: A cost-effective therapy
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Dr Ashok Gund

Dr Ashok GundMBBS, CSD (Dermatology)

Dr. Ashok Gund is a dermatologist with 21 years of experience. He provides services like ultrasonic lipolysis, I-lipolysis treatments for fat loss and body reshaping treatments, along with esthetic PRP treatments in Kalyan and Dombivli, Maharashtra, India. He is well-versed and updated with cutting edge technologies in anti-aging medicines. He has academic membership with AMAR and WOSIAM and was honored...read full bio

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