The Best Products For Getting Rid Of Acne Scars

This isn't news to anyone, but I feel it bears repeating: Acne scars suck. Anyone who has suffered from post-pimple hyperpigmentation knows this truth to be self-evident. And, post-puberty, they affect every age and skin colour. They manifest as red or brown marks that can last weeks — and sometimes, for the really unlucky, months. As someone from that unlucky category, I can confidently tell you that I have tried every — and I mean every — remedy known to man.

I'm also a realist: I know the only permanent ways to eradicate this woe immediately are lasers and Retin-A. But those options continue to be out of reach for the majority of those who are afflicted with this stupid, infuriating skin condition. (What? I'm not bitter.)

That said, quite a few at-home, non-prescription products do a damn good job of fading those marks faster, to get you back to the even-toned complexion you had before that massive breakout. And, for the most part, they don't cost an arm and a leg. As anyone who has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds over the years in a fruitless effort to win the war on spots knows, that's a huge selling point. While these products, for the most part, have no real effect on actually preventing blemishes, we know that fading those dark marks is half the battle.

Ahead, check out these tested scar lighteners that are the everyday heroes of our beauty arsenal. And, if I missed any, let me know in the comments what you swear by. Knowledge is power.

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When you hear the word "toner" you might not automatically assume it's a powerful, acne scar fighter — but it is. This one from Fresh is infused with a peony extract, vitamin C, and licorice root extract that visibly brightens, plumps, and leaves lasting hydration.

Fresh Peony Brightening Moisturising Facial Toner, £52, available at John Lewis.
The retinol in this night oil will help reduce the visibility of your dark spots over time while also working to help erase the acne you've already got.

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, £42.50, available at Harvey Nichols.
Ignore the name; this isn't a skin-bleaching product. But, the kojic acid and licorice root in this mask do fade acne scars and age spots in record time.

Mario Badescu Whitening Mask, £21, available at Strawberry Net.
This one comes with a hefty price tag, but it's well worth the money. The serum targets spots fast and leaves your face with an immediate glow.

Shiseido White Lucent MicroTargeting Spot Corrector, £132.99, available at Amazon.
This serum is one of our favorite tools to battle acne scars. It targets dark spots, but doesn't change your natural skin tone in any way. It's a great nighttime moisturizer, but you can use it in both the a.m. and p.m. — just remember to use sunscreen during the day.

Clarins Mission Perfection Serum, £59.24, available at Nordstrom.
This cult classic proudly boasts on its box that it can diminish scars, stretch marks, and uneven skin tone, as well as signs of ageing and dehydrated skin. Pretty lofty claims to live up to.

While I can't personally attest to the whole stretch-marks thing — which is what it's best known for — I can tell you it's one of the most effective hyperpigmentation healers on the market. Ignore the '70s packaging, because cheesy as it may look this stuff is more effective than many products twice its price tag.

Bio-Oil Specialist Skincare, £19.99, available at Boots

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Modelled after the most popular treatment in aesthetician-to-the-stars Kate Somerville's Beverly Hills clinic, the original DermalQuench Liquid Lift has the bonus, unadvertised side effect of minimizing the duration and healing time of zits.

The latest iteration has the added benefit of retinol. While it's touted as a wonder anti-wrinkle ingredient, it's also less commonly noted for its hyperpigmentation-disappearing powers. The lightweight texture and unique delivery system also make it kind of fun to apply.

Kate Somerville DermalQuench Liquid Lift + Retinol, £99.99, available at Amazon

See also: How Retinol Can Solve Almost Every Skin Problem
Okay, okay: This one is on the pricier end of the spectrum. However, it's one of the few products that I think is worthy of its price tag. Again, not the most obvious scar treatment — but "illuminating" and "skin-perfecting" are just fancy marketing terms that mean it treats bumpy, blotchy, marked-up skin.

I particularly like how soft it makes my skin feel, as well as the pleasant, subtle scent of rose — not at all overwhelming or perfume-y. I use it at night and wake up to what those marketers would call glowy, dewy, perfected skin.

By Terry Cellularose Brightening Serum, £75, available at SpaceNK

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This Kiehl's dark-spot corrector is a super-light serum that helps to both zap acne scars and even out your skin tone. It uses activated vitamin C, which has been proven to combat discoloration effortlessly.

Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution, £36

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I've written the beauty equivalent of a Jane Austen romance about this sheet mask. I can't stop shouting its name from the rooftops, because it is that crazy-good.

What makes it so special is that it provides instant relief. Slap on this sucker for 20 minutes before bedtime, then remove it. Let the serum sink in, then fish around in the packet for some extra serum and press that into the skin for a double layer of goodness. Your marks will look much less prominent after you initially remove the mask, but I've found that the next morning you'll see an even more amazing skin transformation.

If I'm feeling thrifty (read: always), I'll save the leftover serum and use it the next evening and the subsequent few evenings, depending on how long it lasts. If you're feeling REALLY crafty, you can also save that excess serum to make another mask by applying it to the skin and then layering peeled-apart cotton pads on top — like so. Talk about getting your money's worth.

Talika Purifying Bio Enzymes Mask, £7.99, available at Bath & Wind

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SkinCeuticals has a long, storied history of creating science-based formulas that kick major ass at preventing, protecting, and repairing the skin. This lighter texture of a cult-favorite product straddles all three of those categories by protecting against free radicals, evening out the skin tone, firming your complexion, and diminishing both dullness and dark spots.

Another interesting tidbit: According to the brand, once it sinks in, you can't wash or rub it off for at least 72 hours. It definitely falls into the super-duper long-wear category, that's for sure.

Two warnings for newbies — it stinks, and it can cause breakouts in some. The distinctive odour, caused by the potent mix of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin, can be a bit much to handle — but trust me when I say it's worth enduring. And you do get used to it eventually, so there's that.

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel, £90.89, available at Zest Beauty
Medicated pads bring me back to the days of standing in front of my mirror and furiously rubbing at my acne with an Oxy pad. Thank god I finally learned to stop doing that. Noted dermatologist and acne slayer Dennis Gross, MD, has created a much more sophisticated, effective, and way less harsh product that gives you the convenience of pre-soaked pads without all the burning pain.

Salicylic acid is again the star ingredient here, and it's used to clear pores, soothe new breakouts, flatten blemishes (key in helping you conceal them more effectively), prevent new ones from cropping up, and fade those pesky dark marks. It gets pimples at every stage of their life span — which with this product is mercifully quicker than that of your average breakout.

Important to note: It can cause some stinging, so start off using it once a week and see how you feel.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare One Step Acne Eliminating Pads, £27.74, available at SkinStore
Products with vitamin C almost always trumpet their brightening abilities. And yes, the ingredient is great at making dull skin look more vibrant. The unadvertised perk is that, in the right product formulation, it can also work gangbusters on erasing redness.

PTR's overnight mask uses camu camu berry, which the brand claims has 30 times the vitamin C of an orange. I don't know about that (must have forgotten my vitamin-level detector at home), but I do know I have never used a vitamin C product this effective at treating acne scars.

One night of wearing this, and a severe cheek breakout (screw you, hormones) was significantly less noticeable the next morning. I used it five nights in a row and kept seeing even better results.

It plateaued after that, so I've been switching it up with the By Terry serum for a twice-weekly treatment. My skin future has never looked brighter.

Peter Thomas Roth Camu Camu Power C x 30 Vitamin C Brightening Sleeping Mask, £34.50, available at Look Fantastic
Another power pigment eradicator is glycolic acid. Less sticky and irritating on sensitive skin than salicylic, glycolic purges pores of blackheads, exfoliates the dead skin that can lead to clogged pores in the first place, and lightens existing pigmentation.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, £74, available at Amazon
This incredibly effective new moisturiser was made for brightening, but it goes above and beyond the call of duty with smoothing glycolic and lactic acids, exfoliating fruit enzymes, and naturally hydrating squalane. It's basically a one-and-done for all your dark spot-fading, dullness-fighting needs.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Glow Moisturiser, £48.69, available at Sephora.
Clinique markets this dark-spot corrector as "even better," and we're inclined to agree. Although its main purpose is to treat sun damage and age spots, in clinical trials it also showed a significant improvement of acne scars. Use it twice a day (be sure to wear sunscreen!), and you can expect to see results after four to 12 weeks.

Clinique Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, £42
Sun damage and hormonal marks be gone, for good! This multi-action serum brightens existing brown spots while preventing the development of new ones, thanks to a potent mix of papaya and geranium flower oils.

Odacite Hyperpigmentation Serum Concentrate (Papaya + Geranium), £31, available at Cult Beauty
Don't be put off by the mention of snails in this little bottle's list of ingredients. Snail mucin and natural antioxidants encourage skin cell regeneration and immediately tighten the skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles. This Super 7 Elixir will increase skin elasticity and revitalise the skin for a glowing, youthful complexion.

Immunocologie Super 7 Elixir Face Serum 30ml. £199, available at Urban Retreat
Not only does this little tube offer natural coverage for existing pimples but it also helps to protect the skin from harmful UV rays and activates skin rejuvenation.

Dr Jart+ Platinum Beauty Balm Cream SPF30, £22.00, available at Boots
This incredibly effective multi-layer topical product helps to counter the appearance of skin discolouration and boost the appearance of overall skin tone, evenness and radiance. Hello clear complexion!

SkinCeuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector, £89, available at My Derma Center
DNA Renewal’s DNA Scar Therapy is bursting with the brand’s signature DNA Renewal Enzymes i.e. the skin's building blocks which naturally begin to deplete around the age of 30. This reparative and replenishing product helps the skin regain its ability to tackle signs of ageing and sun damage. With hydrating beta glucan and strengthening sunflower seed oil and silicone, this cream fortifies the skin's surface and gradually fades existing pigmentation.

DNA Renewal Scar Therapy, £28, available at Cult Beauty

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In just four weeks, this vitamin B3 and C cream promises to fade light scarring left from your past blemishes.

Pond's Correcting Cream Clarant B3 Dark Spot Normal to Oily Skin, £16.42, available at Amazon.
This overnight treatment not only targets active acne, but reduces the redness and appearance of leftover acne scars as well. With the help of a potent glycolic acid formula (over 20%), the swab works while you sleep for an at-home peel that won't leave your skin stripped dry.

Peter Thomas Roth 20% Glycolic Solutions Jumbo Peel Swab, £46.08, available at Look Fantastic.
For more help, check out this video from Caroline Hirons in which she interviews the much-lauded dermatologist Dr. Sam about a number of skin issues. Skip to 2:39 where they start talking about scarring for a great explanation on how to deal with acne, the different types of scarring, and what to do when you've got both at the same time.

READ MORE: We quizzed Caroline on natural beauty products to find out if they are actually doing us any good or whether 'natural' even exists.