How To Prevent Acne Scars

5 Ways to Minimize Your Risk of Developing Acne Scars

Close up of inflamed breakouts and scars
Image: CMSP / Getty Images

For the vast majority of people acne is, thankfully, a temporary problem. Unfortunately, acne scars caused by breakouts can be permanent. Scarring results when the skin's tissue has been damaged.

Honestly, you can't completely prevent scarring.  Sometimes you scar even when you've been extra-super-careful with your skin. 

There are steps, though, that you can take to minimize your chance of those developing those annoying acne scars.


1. Treat Acne as soon as It Develops

The best thing you can do is get acne under control ASAP.  Obviously, this is easier said than done, but it should be the goal.

Don't wait to see if acne will go away on its own. Begin treating it right away, and see your doctor immediately if your acne isn't getting any better with over-the-counter acne treatments.

Quick treatment helps to keep breakouts to a minimum, and prevents that not-too-serious case of acne from developing into a more severe form.  Prevent pimples and you'll prevent scarring.

2. Reduce Inflammation

Large, inflamed acne blemishes are much more likely to leave scars behind. Those non-inflamed breakouts and blackheads, not so much.

Your goal should always be to calm inflammation, and avoid doing anything that will further irritate your skin.

Aggressive scrubbing and harsh skin care products are out.  So is squeezing at pimples, which brings us to #3.

3. Don't Squeeze, Pop, or Pick at Pimples

We all know we shouldn't, but it's tempting anyway!  But squeezing a pimple can force all that gunk deeper into the follicle, spread infection, and worsen the blemish.

This is especially true for deep, serious blemishes like nodules and cysts. You should never, ever squeeze these blemishes.

Bottom line: squeezing a zit causes acute inflammation (the very thing step #2 tells us to avoid) and it seriously damages the skin's tissue.

Remind yourself that popping pimples can extend the healing time and ups the chance of it leaving a permanent scar. Allow the blemish to heal on its own.

Already picked at that blemish? There are things you can do to help heal a picked-at pimple and minimize skin damage.

4. Know if You are Prone to Scarring

The reality is some people are more prone to scarring than others.  Some people come through a case of rather severe acne without a scar in sight.  For others, even a benign little blemish can leave a depressed pockmark.

You know your skin.  If you are highly prone to scarring, see a dermatologist right away to discuss acne treatment options. Don't wait.

Your dermatologist can help you get a treatment plan together to heal breakouts and keep scarring to a minimum. 

5. See Your Doctor if You get Large, Deep Breakouts or Acne Cysts

While smaller blemishes can still scar the skin, it's the big guys that usually do the damage.  Because they extend deeper into the skin, deep nodular breakouts or cystic breakouts are more likely to destroy skin tissue and leave scars.

Over-the-counter acne products just won't help these types of breakouts, so don't waste your time with them.  Get an appointment with a dermatologist.  Quick, effective treatment can help lessen the chance of developing deep scars.

Even after all your best efforts, you may still develop some scarring. Luckily, there are many effective scar treatments available today, so talk to your dermatologist about your options.


Fife D. "Evaluation of Acne Scars: How to Assess Them and What to Tell the Patient." Dermatologic Clinics. 2016 April; 34(2):207-213.

Werschler WP, Few JW, Jacob CI, et. al. "Advancing the Care fo Post-Acne Scarring: Expert Insights Into New Treatment Options." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.  2016 May; 15(5):518-525.

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