Does Retinol Help With Acne Scars? Here’s the Answer You Need

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If you have recently started using retinol as an acne treatment, you may be wondering, does retinol help with acne scars too? Retinol is considered a gold standard ingredient by dermatologists when it comes to treating skin issues. 

Retinol works to help reduce the appearance of acne by getting rid of the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin to reveal better-looking skin. It promotes collagen and elastin production in the skin cells, giving the skin a smooth, healthy look.

Using retinol is a good way to clear and even out your skin if an acne breakout has left indented scars on your face. This article provides you with answers to any possible questions you may have concerning using retinol for acne scars.

Read ahead to find out how retinol helps to reduce and clear out acne scars, along with how to use retinol correctly to get rid of acne scars. 

Can You Use Retinol on Acne Scars?

You can apply retinol on your acne scars to reduce the appearance of acne the same way you use retinol to treat acne. Acne scars usually develop as a result of acne. When you sort out the acne breakout in your skin, acne bumps may appear as scars on your skin. 

Retinol is a skincare ingredient that helps to smooth scars by evening out your skin texture. It helps the resurfacing skin texture, while also brightening the skin.

How Does Retinol Help Acne Scars?

Retinol simply works on your acne scars by boosting the rate of epidermal turnover in the skin. This allows new, fresh skin cells to appear on your skin surface faster than usual. 

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative, and vitamin A is a vital vitamin that the body needs to repair itself when there is a wound or damage. 

According to skin health specialist, Dr. Anita Sturnham, “the body doesn’t produce vitamin A and therefore you need to supply it into your body either through your diet or by applying it topically to your skin.” 

Dr. Sturnham goes further to say that retinoids work on your skin at a deep cellular rate, where they boost the production of collagen and elastin to revitalize the skin cells. 

Several studies have looked into the benefits of using retinol on the skin and retinol has been confirmed to help reduce hyperpigmentation and roughness of the skin. 

It rids the skin of dead skin cells and with an increase in the production of collagen and elastin in the epidermis, your skin will become smooth and fresh. This leads to a reduction in the appearance of acne scars.

How to Get Rid of Acne Scars Using Retinol

To get rid of your acne scars with retinol, you need to learn to use it correctly on your skin without causing further damage. Using retinol incorrectly on your skin can cause you to have retinol burn, and that can do more damage to your skin.

Here are a few things to take note of when using retinol on your skin to help you reduce acne scars.

1. Choose the right percentage

The level of retinol percentage in over-the-counter retinol products such as cream, gel, and serum ranges from 0.25 to 1.5 percent. When picking the retinol serum to use on your acne scars, consider your skin type and how well it can tolerate retinol.

If you have sensitive or dry skin, or you are a newbie to the ingredient, the wisest choice for you is a low concentration. You can opt for a product that contains between 0.25 to 0.5 percent retinol. 

If you do not experience side effects after using it for about a month or two, you can upgrade to a higher percentage. While normal to oily skin can use just about any percentage of over-the-counter retinol.

Note: while you pick your retinol product, ensure that you pick one that is formulated for acne. Anti-aging retinol products may contain oil and fragrance, and using them to treat acne or acne scars can worsen the issue.

2. Start slowly and gently

As a beginner-level user of retinol products, you have to start slowly and gently. Don’t attempt to rush or overuse it to get it to clear your acne quickly. Doing that may irritate your skin and cause your skin to experience other side effects. 

Using retinol too often on your skin as a newbie may send your skin into overdrive, causing your skin to experience a massive epidermal. 

This may happen because retinol accelerates the speed of epidermal turnover in the skin. This may cause underdeveloped and immature skin cells to surface on your skin.

Board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Marisa Garshick suggests starting with a low usage frequency when you start using the product on your skin. Start by using it two to three times weekly until your skin can tolerate a more frequent application.

3. Don’t use it too much

You should never apply too much retinol on your skin, as it could irritate and dry out your skin. A pea-sized amount of retinol is enough to work on your skin to help with your acne scars. 

Using too much will not only irritate your skin, but it will also cause your skin to experience retinol burn. Retinol burn is not a pleasant situation as it ranges from mild to severe side effects. 

4. Use it at the right time

The right time to apply retinol products on your face is at night. This is because retinol and other retinoids make your skin prone to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. Therefore, applying retinol on your skin in the morning might be a very bad idea. 

Not only will the sunburn your skin, but it will also cancel out the retinol on your skin. This affects the effectiveness of the product.

5. Moisturize your skin

This is a very important step in your everyday skincare routine. Moisturizers are formulated to help retain moisture on the skin, and this will help to keep the body hydrated for a very long time.  

Retinol has a drying effect on the skin, therefore, you will need a moisturizer to help restore hydration on your skin after using your retinol.

6. Avoid the sun and use sunscreen

Due to the increased sensitivity to the sun that happens when you use retinol on your skin, you need to avoid exposing your skin to the sun for a long time. 

Also, be sure you protect your skin by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. This will help to keep your body safe from being burned by the sun.

Can Retinol Make Acne Scars Worse?

Yes, it can. Although retinol is a very effective method of getting rid of acne scars, it can also worsen the scars. Using too much retinol can irritate your skin and that can make the scar appear worse. 

Using retinol to treat acne scars when your skin is still breaking out can increase the scar on your skin. This is because retinol will purge more acne to appear on your skin and that automatically means more scars. 

Before you start treating acne scars, make sure that your skin is safe from experiencing breakouts. Treat acne first and when your face is cleared of acne, you can proceed to work on reducing or clearing out the indented scars on your skin caused by acne.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you use retinol on your skin to treat acne scars?

For the first month of using retinol, only use it two to three times weekly. This is because it takes time to get your skin accustomed to the ingredient. 

If you do not get any irritation after the first month of using it, you can increase your usage frequency to daily usage.

Is retinol good for clearing acne scars?

Yes, it is. Using retinol on your acne scars is a good way to clear out acne from your skin. Retinol will help to smooth out your skin to reduce the appearance of the scar. 

When you use your retinol product diligently on your face, it will help to even out your skin texture. It accelerates the rate of epidermal turnover to keep your skin smooth and healthy.

How much retinol should you use?

You should only use a peasized amount per routine. A peasized amount of your retinol product is enough to cover the affected skin area. 

Using too much of your retinol product at once will cause your skin to get irritated. This may even lead to retinol burn, which is a situation where you have to deal with the side effects of retinol.


Acne appears on the skin as bumps or inflammations. When you treat acne, it leaves behind a mark to show it was once on your skin and that can be very annoying. 

After treating acne, you will notice the indented scars it leaves on your skin. The next step is to get rid of the scars on your skin. Using retinol on acne scars is an effective way to reduce the appearance of acne scars on your skin.

However, you need to learn to use your retinol product correctly for it to be able to help your acne scars effectively. Follow the guide provided to you in this article on how to get rid of acne scars on your skin. 

Thanks for reading.

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