The best acne scar serum
Controlling acne is usually a serious struggle, so there are few things more frustrating than clearing your skin only to wind up with scars from all your past breakouts. Acne scar serums can help restore your confidence by fading red marks and other hyperpigmentation. In some cases, they can smooth areas of uneven texture as well. Some products can even treat existing acne and fade acne scars at the same time, so your dollar stretches even more.
Take a look at our buying guide to pick up all the information you need to find the best acne scar serum for your medicine cabinet. We've even included some specific product recommendations at the end of this guide, including our top pick from CLEARstem, which can fade acne scars in as little as one week, and it doesn't contain any artificial dyes or fragrances.
Considerations when choosing acne scar serums
All acne scars aren't the same, and some are easier to treat with an acne scar serum than others. That's why it's essential to understand what type of scars you have.
Hyperpigmentation is the dark or red spots that appear after acne clears. They're the most common type of post-acne scars and are usually the most responsive to an acne scar serum.
Rolling scars are shallow depressions in your skin with a wave-like texture that occur after inflammatory acne clears. They can often respond to acne scar serums if they contain the right ingredients.
Boxcar scars also occur after inflammatory acne clears, forming wide shallow depressions in the skin, but they're usually more sharply defined than rolling scars. They can sometimes respond to acne scar serums that contain certain ingredients.
Icepick scars are small narrow indentations in the skin that are extremely deep, and they usually occur after hormonal acne. Because they're deeper than other textured scars, they don't typically respond to acne serum scars.
The active ingredients in acne scar serums play major roles in how effective the formulas are and what types of scars they can effectively treat. There are some ingredients to keep an eye out for:
AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) help exfoliate the skin to rid the skin of dead surface cells. AHAs can help brighten the skin and improve skin tone, so they're ideal for hyperpigmentation. They also work well for smoothing mild textured scars. BHA can help deep clean the pores, so it's often included in acne scar serums that are also meant to treat active acne.
Retinol can help brighten your skin tone, boost collagen production, and plump the skin, so it's ideal for treating both hyperpigmentation and textured acne scars. Retinol also has anti-aging properties, but it can cause dryness and irritation in some skin types.
Vitamin C helps brighten and fade hyperpigmentation. It also helps boost collagen production, which may improve the appearance of textured acne scarring too.
Stem cells are often used to promote wound healing and help repair tissue damage, so they're an effective ingredient in an acne scar serum.
Niacinamide helps with cell turnover in the skin. It works especially well to fade hyperpigmentation that appears post-acne.
If you've suffered from acne and the scars afterward, chances are you have oily skin. For oily skin, a water-based formula is best for your acne scar serum. It's oil-free and won't clog your pores and potentially cause future acne breakouts. If you have dry or normal skin and want to be rid of scars, opt for an oil-based formula for your scar serum. It can help moisturize your skin, so you don't have to worry about the active ingredients in the serum irritating or drying your skin.
Acne scar serums can sometimes have a strong medicinal or antiseptic smell. If your skin is sensitive or you're sensitive to scents, skip any serum that features synthetic fragrance, which can cause allergic reactions or irritate the skin. Opt for a fragrance-free formula to avoid any potential irritations.
Acne scar serum generally costs between $6 and $160. You'll pay between $6 and $30 for a serum with a single active ingredient, $30 and $70 for a serum with two to three active ingredients, and $70 and $160 for a serum with three or more active ingredients.
Q. Should I use an acne scar serum every day?
A. To fade scars with an acne scar serum, consistent use is key. Read the guidelines on the packaging to see the recommended usage, but in most cases, you should apply the serum at least once per day.
Q. When will I see results from an acne scar serum?
A. It depends on the formula that you choose and the type of scars you're treating. You can usually fade hyperpigmentation in about one month with a scar serum, but textured scars can take six months or longer to fade.
Acne scar serums we recommend
Our take: A high-quality serum that can help reduce the appearance of acne scars in as little as one week while still maintaining hydration.
What we like: Can reduce dark spots and inflammation in just one week. Helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles as well as stimulate collagen production. Offers a natural organic cruelty-free formula without any artificial dyes or fragrances. Suitable for sensitive skin.
What we dislike: Some users don't like the medicine-dropper packaging.
Best bang for your buck: InstaNatural Vitamin C Skin-Clearing Serum
Our take: A serum that helps clear blemishes and scars, and it boasts a lovely citrus scent.
What we like: Fades acne scars, and fights existing acne. Contains a combination of antioxidants like vitamins C and B3. Helps reduce sun damage. Has a fresh citrus scent that many users love.
What we dislike: Skin can break out during the first few weeks of use as retinol helps deep clean the pores.
Choice 3: iS Vitamin C Skin-Clearing Serum
Our take: An extremely pricey serum that still has many devoted users because of its high performance.
What we like: Features a powerful botanical formula. Helps even out skin tone, and softens acne scars. Smoothes fine lines and wrinkles, and reduces pore size. Can work for all skin types. Doesn't contain parabens.
What we dislike: Can cause a tingling sensation when it's working.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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