The Truth About Natural Remedies for Acne Scars, According to Dermatologists

Photo: Stocksy / DZ FILM
There's a reason your mom taught you to brush coconut oil into your hair or make sugar scrubs in your kitchen sink. Sometimes, DIY, natural remedies work. So, if they can make your hair shiner or your skin smoother, can you also remove acne scars naturally?

Scarring is notoriously difficult to clear up without tougher skincare actives or laser resurfacing, but not all scars are equal. With so many different types of acne come different types of scars—from dark red spots and hyperpigmentation to the kind that leaves texture and divots in the skin.

Unfortunately, your options are limited if you want to remove acne scars naturally. But there are a few things to try depending on what kind of scar you're working with. Below, we asked dermatologists Aya Ahram, Brooke Jeffy, and Sheila Farhang what natural remedies might make a difference.

Experts In This Article
  • Aya Ahram, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery in New York City.
  • Brooke Jeffy, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of BTWN, a skin-care line specifically formulated for children, tweens, and teens
  • Sheila Farhang, MD, board-certified dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, reconstructive Mohs micrographic surgeon, and founder of Avant Dermatology in Arizona

What are the types of acne scars? 

There are two major categories of acne scars, "those that leave residual color changes of the skin, and those that cause textural changes of the skin," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ahram, and they both present their unique challenges. 

Atrophic scars 

Atrophic scars are the kind that leave little divots and texture in your skin. And to make things just a little bit more complicated, there are three types of scars under this umbrella: boxcar scars, rolling scars, and ice pick scars. "Boxcar scars are broad, box-like depressions with sharply defined edges," says Dr. Ahram. "Rolling scars are wide, shallow depressions with sloping edges that give the skin a wave-like appearance. And ice pick scars are narrow, V-shaped scars that extend into the skin." Dr. Ahram explains they're significantly more difficult to get rid of because topical treatments can't penetrate deep enough to lift the skin again. Treating these scars requires dermatologists and in-office treatments like resurfacing lasers. 

Hypertrophic scars

Hypertrophic scars don't leave texture, but they do leave a mark. These scars are more about discoloration, either red (a scar called inflammatory erythema) or spots darker than your skin color (called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). These are easier to reduce with skincare or over-the-counter solutions because you're targeting the outer layer of the dermis. 

Can I get rid of acne scars naturally?

All of the dermatologists we spoke to agreed that there are no natural solutions to acne scars that are effective or that wouldn't make things even worse. "I am not aware of any natural ingredients that will improve scarring once it has occurred," Dr. Jeffy says.  The same goes for old-school home remedies. "I wouldn't recommend any DIY treatments to treat acne scarring such as lemon juice— or anything else in the vein— as this can irritate the skin," Dr. Farhang adds.

What is the fastest way to remove acne scars? 

If you want to remove acne scars, you're better off considering prescription-strength retinoids (which stimulate collagen production and cellular turnover, helping your skin heal). "An AHA or BHA can also help keep skin smooth and may reduce scar appearance," Dr. Jeffy says. 

Those ingredients are a great start, but if you're not seeing a difference or you're dealing with atrophic scarring, it's probably time to see a professional. "The fastest way to remove scars is by seeing your dermatologist and starting the correct treatment as soon as possible to avoid lasting hyperpigmentation," says Dr. Ahram. Outside of in-office treatments (which can be pricey), "they can also help you find products customized to your type of skin and scar."

Dr. Farhang says that if you want to explore in-office treatments, options like chemical peels, resurfacing lasers, microneedling, and injections are available to help improve the appearance of scarring.

Are there any natural acne scar removal remedies to try at home? 

There aren't any natural acne scar removal remedies that dermatologists can recommend in good conscience. However, you can target your scarring with naturally-derived ingredients in effective skincare, and you can stick to brands that prioritize these ingredients if that's your primary concern. Here are a few of our pro's favorite over-the-counter products for treating acne scars:

topicals faded dark spot cream
Topicals Faded Serum — $38.00

Dr. Ahram likes this serum to help improve post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (aka spots of scarring darker than your skin tone) because of its brightening ingredients like azelaic acid. While its ingredients list isn’t primarily botanical naturals, the product is vegan and free of parabens, sulfates, and mineral oils.

inkey list SuperSolutions 10% Azelaic Serum Redness Relief Solution
The Inkey List SuperSolutions 10% Azelaic Serum — $16.00

“This is a great choice for hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Jeffy, and is another brand formulated without potentially toxic or irritating ingredients that could help lighten redness from acne scars.

True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Booste
True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Booster — $120.00

These serum capsules are a plant-based alternative to traditional retinol. They contain antioxidants like carrot root extract (vitamin A), buriti fruit oil (vitamin E), and amaranth (vitamins A and E) — all vitamins that Dr. Farhang says could potentially help with scarring.

Final Takeaway

While there are a ton of DIY natural remedies we love and use in our beauty routines, the best plan of action for treating scars naturally? Talking to a dermatologist. Home remedies containing ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice can do more damage than good (which is counterproductive if clear skin is your end goal). If a trip to the dermatologist's office isn't yet in your cards, there's a handful of effective skincare products (containing naturally derived ingredients) that are a good starting point for treating acne scars.

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...