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How to Get Rid of Acne Scars on Melanated Skin

Sep 10, 2021 04:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Black woman looking in mirror at acne scars

Acne affects millions and impacts people of all skin tones, yet acne can pose special challenges in people with darker skin. With darker skin, one pimple or breakout can cause dark marks, scars, or even keloids, which is scar tissue that continues to grow larger than the original scar. Treating dark spots from acne is different than treating acne scars. Scars require tissue to be damaged or overgrown. Scars are difficult to fully remove, and while they may fade over time, they usually remain visible. 

Acne scars occur when normal tissue in the skin is destroyed and replaced with fibrous tissue. You can think of an acne lesion as a wound. When the damage caused by acne is severe, the body can respond by creating too much tissue or too little tissue. The deeper and more inflamed the acne lesion, or the more that it is picked or squeezed, the more likely it is to scar. 

Since it's pretty difficult to determine what causes one person to scar more than another, the best way to avoid scarring is to treat acne with a great skincare routine which includes resisting the urge to poke at your pimples. In this article, we discuss how acne scars may be treated and sometimes prevented, in people with darker skin.

Steroid Injections

Cortisone shots can be used to treat blemishes on both the face and the body. Using cortisone in such cases reduces the chance of scarring. A cortisone shot is the injection of a synthetic hormone. The shot, which is injected directly into an acne cyst or nodule, typically contains a small amount of a steroid, such as triamcinolone, a powerful anti-inflammatory. You can get multiple injections in one session, with each injection going to a different area, but you must wait about 6 weeks between injections in the same spot. There are side effects to this treatment:

  • Pitting or thinning of the skin at the site of the injection. This can result in a visible depression where the cyst was. These depressions are often temporary and resolve on their own.

  • Hypopigmentation, an area of lighter than normal skin or a white spot. Over time, this often goes away on its own.

  • Systemic effects from the steroid. This could be caused if more than the limit is injected and absorbed into the bloodstream.

Dermal Fillers

Dermal fillers can be used to help an array of skin problems, one of them being acne scars. A tiny amount can temporarily plump and smooth over any skin craters left behind from acne.

'Dermal fillers are very good for indented scars', says Dr. Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, in an interview. “However, depending on the type of filler used, the treatment will need to be repeated at regular intervals - most probably every six months - to maintain the results.” The skin's initial reaction may be to bruise, swell up, and go red but be patient and wait for the magic to happen. As acne scarring treatments go, this one isn’t the priciest and is relatively non-invasive and pain-free.

Natural Remedies


Vitamin C: Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, which can brighten skin and even skin tone. Vitamin C has been shown to be an effective depigmenting agent that decreases melanin formation. There ared many Black-owned skincare products that have vitamin C serums. Aloe vera: It’s true that aloe is an exceptional healing agent, especially when it comes to your skin. An animal study found that consistent use of aloe could stabilize melanin levels in cells, but more research is needed to know the limits of this effect. Grapeseed extract: Grapeseed extract is another natural product that may work to help lighten dark spots. There aren’t any studies on the topical use of grapeseed extract for this purpose. But there is a study that shows that 6 months of grapeseed extract taken orally was beneficial for people who have the skin condition melasma, which is similar to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Chemical Peels

One of the popular methods is the chemical peel but picking the right type of chemical peel may not be an easy task. A 2010 study found that dermatologist-performed lactic acid peels done once every two weeks for three months improved the texture, appearance, and pigmentation of the skin and lightened acne scars. You can also use diluted apple cider vinegar as a toner or spot treatment thanks to its natural lactic acid. Glycolic acid is the most popular when it comes to Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). It’s the most potent when it comes to exfoliating, which means it’s incredibly efficient but can be too strong for sensitive skin types.

Salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) and is the most commonly used because it is great for sensitive skin. Salicylic acid clears pores, reduces swelling and redness, and exfoliates the skin when applied topically.  All peels are different as they contain varying acid combinations, which penetrate the skin at a unique level. Superficial peels may leave you slightly dry that evening. Medium-strength peels will cause your skin to peel and blister two to three days after the peel is applied. During this time, your skin may feel dry and tight. It is necessary to keep your face moist.

Laser Treatments

Dermatologists often remodel collagen using lasers which improves acne scars by 30% or more. Laser treatment for acne scarring works in two ways. First, heat from the laser works to remove the top layer of your skin where a scar has formed. As this top layer of your scar peels off, your skin appears smoother, and the appearance of the scar is less noticeable. As the scar tissue breaks apart, heat and light from the laser also encourage new, healthy skin cells to grow. Fractional lasers (Fraxel) aim to stimulate the tissue underneath your scar to remove cells that are darkly pigmented underneath the top layer of skin. Boxcar and icepick scars sometimes respond well to this kind of laser. Erbium laser resurfacing is also another option and it's more aggressive than Fraxel but it won't work for those with darker skin tones.


This treatment can help with everything from wrinkles and dark under-eye circles to stretch marks, discoloration, scars and enhanced product absorption. Gliding tiny needles over the skin breaks down collagen bundles in the top layer of the dermis, which are responsible for those uneven scars. It also stimulates the repair process by immediately boosting the production of more collagen. This results in plumper, more even skin texture and tone, plus less obvious scarring. This is a treament that you can do at home. For shallow acne scars, you'll want a derma-roller with one-millimeter needles, and for deeper scars, one and a half millimeters would be best.



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Harvard Publish School

 Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content. 

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