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Does Exfoliating Help with Acne Scars?

Does Exfoliating Help with Acne Scars?
Article Highlights
  • Exfoliation works, but harsh exfoliation methods ought to be avoided
  • Chemical exfoliation with alpha or beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) or enzymes is considered gentler and much more effective
  • Those with severe acne scars are better off consulting a dermatologist for personalized or customized recommendations on the best way to exfoliate and treat their skin

Truth be told, nothing deals a heftier blow to one's self-esteem like a nasty breakout followed by stark-looking acne scars in the aftermath. And in the quest for a solution for these discolorations and blemishes, numerous options have been tested, explored, and prodded. Everything from professional treatments to homemade solutions and medieval tools, no stone has been left unturned. Regular exfoliation or facial scrubs are one among the long list of options that dermatologists have attempted to deploy against this scourge of acne scars. But is it really effective? Does exfoliating get rid of acne scars? Well, let's dive in.

Best Exfoliating Methods For Acne Scars

Even before delving deeper into the discourse of exfoliating acne scars and the effectiveness of this approach, it pays to shed some crucial light on some of the best exfoliating approaches for getting rid of acne scars. You see, acne scars exfoliation is a serious business, and you need the best method that is tailored to your skin's profile if you want to stand the best chance of getting fruitful results.

Without further ado, here's a quick list of the best exfoliating methods that work with acne scars.

  • Chemical exfoliants: Chemical exfoliants such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) can help to dissolve the glue that holds dead skin cells together, promoting cell turnover and revealing fresh, new skin. AHAs are water-soluble and work well for surface-level exfoliation, while BHAs are oil-soluble and can penetrate deeper into the pores to clear out debris. AENO's Hydrocolloid Acne Patches with Salicylic Acid comes to mind; they employ a combination of tea tree oil, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid to help you banish those stubborn post-acne scars and blemishes.pimple patches with salicylic acid
  • Microdermabrasion: This is a non-invasive treatment that uses a wand-like device to gently exfoliate the outer layer of the skin, promoting cell turnover and stimulating collagen production. Microdermabrasion can help to improve the texture and tone of the skin, making your acne scars less noticeable.
  • Physical exfoliants: Although not as effective as chemical exfoliants, physical exfoliants such as scrubs and brushes can help to remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover. Bear in mind that it is important to use gentle physical exfoliants and not overdo them, as harsh scrubbing can damage the skin and worsen acne.
  • Retinoids: Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that can help to stimulate collagen production and promote cell turnover. They have been observed to help improve the appearance of acne scars over time. That being said, retinoids can be irritating to the skin and should be used under the guidance of a dermatologist.

So, does exfoliating help with acne scars? Well, in light of the above-mentioned approaches, exfoliating can help minimize the appearance of acne scars by sloughing off dead cells on the skin's surface and revealing an unblemished layer of cells underneath. While exfoliation won't completely remove scars, it can make a difference with mild acne scarring. Using products containing exfoliating acids and enzymes can be especially effective at fading acne scars and marks. Still, experts maintain that it is advisable to choose a product that is gentle enough for your skin type to avoid further irritation or damage.

How To Exfoliate Acne Scars Without Making It Worse

Truth be told, exfoliation for acne scars is more of an art than a science. Knowing what exfoliation method to use is not enough; you also need to know how to slough off dead skin without irritating your healing scars or making them look worse. Here's a quick but detailed primer on the tenets of exfoliating scars for that smooth complexion interspersed with a healthy glow.

  • Use gentle exfoliants: Look for exfoliants that are gentle and non-irritating, such as chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs) or a soft-bristled brush. Avoid using harsh scrubs or exfoliants with large, abrasive particles, as they can cause micro-tears in the skin and worsen acne. There's a reason AENO's Hydrocolloid Acne Patches with Salicylic Acid employs an AHA in its formulation - to avoid damaging your skin or worsening any healing acne wounds.salicylic acid patches
  • Don't overdo it: Acne scars exfoliation may be safe (or even recommended), but exfoliating too frequently or aggressively can damage the skin and worsen acne. Start with once or twice a week and gradually increase the frequency if your skin tolerates it.
  • Moisturize after exfoliating: Remember that exfoliating can leave the skin feeling dry and tight, so it's important to follow up with a moisturizer to hydrate and soothe the skin.
  • Protect your skin from the sun's UV rays: Exfoliating can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it's important to wear sunscreen daily to protect your skin from further damage.
  • Consider consulting a dermatologist: Here's the thing; if you have severe acne scars, it may be best to consult a dermatologist for personalized or customized recommendations on the best way to exfoliate and treat your skin.

Above all, look for products containing exfoliating acids and enzymes such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and salicylic acid. These ingredients can be especially effective at fading acne scars and marks while brightening and resurfacing the skin.

Possible Ways Exfoliating Could Make It Worse

Still on the parley of; does exfoliating help acne scars, it is wise to be aware that as much as sloughing off dead skin may be a beneficial part of your skincare regimen, there is a heightened risk of negative effects if done incorrectly. Here are some of the few ways incorrect and imprudent exfoliating can worsen things for you.

  • Over-exfoliation: Exfoliating too often or using harsh exfoliants can damage the skin's protective barrier and cause inflammation, which can make acne worse and exacerbate acne scars. That's why it is recommended to use facial scrubs no more than twice a week, if possible.
  • Using abrasive scrubs: Abrasive scrubs with large, rough particles can cause micro-tears in the skin, which can worsen acne and increase the appearance of acne scars. As the famous adage goes, baby steps first.
  • Exfoliating active acne: Exfoliating active acne can spread bacteria and cause further inflammation, leading to more acne scars. Let your lesions and fresh wounds heal completely before thinking of exfoliation. Speaking of which, AENO's Organic Face Salve for Acne, Pimples and Scars is an excellent staging ground for anyone with active acne looking for an organic pimple-eradicating complex that can also help make old scars less conspicuous.aeno herbal balm
  • Using the wrong type of exfoliant: Not all exfoliants are created equal. Some exfoliants, such as physical scrubs or rough cleansing brushes, can be too harsh for sensitive or acne-prone folks, leading to irritation and breakouts.
  • Ignoring sun protection: Exfoliating can make the skin more susceptible to sun damage, so it's critical to slather on sunscreen and avoid excessive sun exposure to prevent further damage to the skin and the potential worsening of acne scars.
  • Using the wrong technique: The wrong exfoliation technique can also bring harm. You see, acne scars vary in shape and size, so different types of scars require different exfoliation techniques. For example, atrophic scars appear hilly/bumpy on the skin. As such, mechanical exfoliation may further puncture the spots with the abrasive part of the exfoliating tool. With this type of scar, chemical exfoliants that employ salicylic or lactic acid may be more effective.

Things to Avoid When Exfoliating Acne Scars

As much as exfoliating can help fade acne scars, it is important to avoid certain things that can make the scars worse. Firstly, avoid using rough-surfaced gritty brushes, cleaning pads, and facial scrubs as they can cause further inflammation of the acne scars. Secondly, avoid over-exfoliating, as it can cause irritation and make your scars worse. In case you are wondering, signs of over-exfoliation include increased redness, irritation, itchiness, and a feeling of waxiness or tightness. Thirdly, when exfoliating acne scars, be sure to use the right technique for the specific type of scar that you are trying to battle. Atrophic scars, as mentioned earlier, for example, should never be mechanically exfoliated.

is exfoliating good for skin

Above all, avoid using heavy makeup to cover up acne scars, as it could actually inflame any existing or active breakout and exacerbate the risk of getting hideous-looking acne scars once a pimple heals. Lastly, protect your skin from sun rays when exfoliating regularly by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing.

In Closing

So, does exfoliating help with scars? Yes, indeed, it does. Nevertheless, it is advisable to pay close attention to the above-mentioned talking points to avoid worsening your acne situation.


  • Is an exfoliator good for acne scars?

    Exfoliating can be good for acne scars as it can fade scars and make them smoother and less noticeable. Using products containing exfoliating acids and enzymes can be especially effective at fading acne scars and marks, brightening and resurfacing the skin. There are exfoliants can also help tone down the conspicuousness of acne scars. However, it's important to choose a product that is gentle enough for your skin type to avoid further irritation or damage.

  • Does exfoliating help with pitted acne scars?

    Exfoliating can help with pitted acne scars by increasing cell turnover and breaking down acne-causing oil and bacteria. Cleansers and serums containing AHAs (like glycolic acid), BHAs (like salicylic acid), and retinol can all be effective in gentle exfoliation.

  • Does exfoliating help with acne dark spots?

    Exfoliating can help with acne dark spots by reducing excess melanin, breaking up pigmented cells, and sloughing them off. Exfoliation can diminish the appearance of dark spots and give them a smoother-looking appearance. Using products containing exfoliating acids and enzymes can be especially effective at fading acne scars and marks while brightening and resurfacing the skin.

  • What fades acne scars?

    There are several treatments available to help fade acne scars, including resurfacing procedures such as laser therapy, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels. Retinol or vitamin A can also be effective in preventing acne and scarring by increasing cell turnover and removing dead skin cells.

  • What makes acne scars look worse?

    Several factors can make acne scars look worse, including too much sun exposure, which can darken scarring and make it more obvious, especially for people with darker skin color. Picking, scratching, or squeezing pimples can cause extra damage to the skin and promote inflammation which will make scars worse. Wearing heavy makeup and over-exfoliating can also worsen acne scars.

  • Do most acne scars go away?

    Most acne scars are permanent unless treated, especially severe scarring. However, brownish or reddish acne marks that form in the aftermath of acne lesions typically fade eventually, but it may take more than a year or so. Mild or moderate scarring may also fade over time, but it is imperative to be a little more proactive and adopt a scar-reducing strategy/routine.

The list of used resources:

  1. Kelava, O., (2022). Exfoliating for acne-prone skin, Healthline. Healthline Media

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