How To Smooth Indented Acne Scars On Your Skin

acne scars on a woman's cheek

Updated: 11/1/17. Most everyone will experience some sort of breakouts, blackheads or clogged pores as teenagers. Unfortunately, some people also experience more severe cystic and nodular acne. This is the kind that can permanently damage the skin and cause indented acne scars that last a lifetime. As an esthetician and skin care expert, a common question I get is, “How can I smooth out the indents in my skin from acne scars?”

Fortunately, there are many things you can do at home for depressed acne scars and indents in your skin. If you choose to seek treatment from a dermatologist or cosmetic professional, you have even more options. A home care regimen should focus on exfoliation, collagen regeneration, and sun protection. When used regularly, this combination can dramatically create a smoother texture with fewer visible indentations. The sooner you start it, the better.

Note: For any other types of skin indents other than indented scars from acne, whether it’s lines, wrinkles, large pores or chicken pox scars, the protocol is actually pretty much the same. Regardless of the cause, all skin indentations benefit from smoothing the skin’s texture.

Tips to smooth out indents in skin

Use a retinol product or a prescription retinoid.

I’m a huge believer in what retinol and prescription retinoids can do to heal indented acne scars and smooth the skin. Yes, it’s still important to get professional treatments like chemical peels that work deeper within the skin to affect change (more on that below). However, using an at-home retinol treatment at least five nights a week will dramatically improve the skin’s texture, without a spa or office visit. It’s essentially like giving your skin mini peels at home.

Smooth Indented Acne ScarsIf your skin is sensitive and can’t tolerate Retin A or other prescription retinoids, your skin will likely respond more favorably to a strong over-the-counter version like Advanced Resurfacing Serum. Use it faithfully and you’ll get results. I promise. Like any well-formulated retinol product, you won’t see results overnight. With continued use, though, indented scars in the skin will look better and better. New to retinol or prescription retinoids? Read my beginner’s guide to retinol.

Wear sunscreen every single day—rain or shine.

You’ll never get great results from these suggestions if you do not wear sunscreen every single day. The sun’s UV rays cause damage to the skin by breaking down collagen, which sabotages any attempt to smooth out your skin and lessen indented scars.

In addition, acne can leave behind dark, red or purple scars that can linger for months. UV rays stimulate melanin cells, so anytime your scars are subjected to them they’ll appear darker, redder, and will be visible longer. UV rays don’t just affect you on sunny days spent outdoors; they can easily penetrate the windows in your home, office, or car. Bottom line: wear a sunscreen moisturizer 365 days a year, rain or shine, inside or out.

For acne-prone skin, it’s very important to find a sunscreen formula that doesn’t clog the pores or encourage breakouts. If you want an extremely lightweight sunscreen formulated for breakout-prone, sensitive skin, Daily Protection SPF 30 is perfect for you.

Schedule a professional chemical peel.

Your esthetician or skin care professional should suggest a series of peels appropriate for the severity of your indented acne scars.

What is a chemical peel? During a chemical peel, a professional will apply a chemical solution (acid) to the face. This removes and exfoliates the outer layers of skin. As a result, a clearer, more evenly pigmented, glowing layer of skin appears. The new, regenerated skin is smoother than the old skin, helping to diminish dents in the skin, whether they are from acne or other causes. Peels also work beneath the surface to encourage the stimulation of fibroblasts. These aid in the creation of new collagen.

As you’re going through the peel process, the new skin will temporarily be more vulnerable to the sun. So daily use of sunscreen is especially imperative during this time. Depending on the type of peel, you may need to repeat treatments every 2-6 weeks to achieve desired results. You can also maintain results by using Triple Berry Smoothing Peel. This peel helps both resurface the skin as well as lift away discoloration left over from blemishes.

*Caution: when it comes to chemical peels, it’s extremely important that the person administering the treatment is well-versed and experienced. If the peel isn’t left on long enough, you won’t see results. On the other hand, if it’s left on too long, you may run the risk of potential damage. Be sure to do your due diligence and get a trusted referral. Here are 5 questions you should ask when consulting with a skin professional.Skin Peel Smooth Skin

Get injectable fillers, if needed.

Certain cosmetic dermal fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm will help lift the depressed acne scars. The effect is temporary, only lasting anywhere from 6-12 months. Be sure you consult with a reputable nurse or cosmetic dermatologist to see which type of filler may be best for your skin.

For severe indents in the skin from scarring, consider ablative laser resurfacing.

This should be your last resort if your pitted scars are deep and you’re not seeing desired results from chemical peels. With ablative laser resurfacing, a laser destroys the epidermis and heats the dermis. This, then, leads to collagen destruction and subsequent regrowth. You’ll have a wound after this treatment. After it all heals, new smoother and tighter skin forms. Ablative laser resurfacing can be harsh, but results are often dramatic and may last for years.

There is also fractional laser resurfacing, which is a newer technique. This can be nearly as good as non-fractional ablative resurfacing, but it may take more treatments to achieve the same results. If you decide to proceed with skin resurfacing to smooth out your skin, you might need to take a number of preparatory steps.

These include taking an antiviral or antibacterial medication to prevent infection, applying a retinoid skin cream to help prepare the skin and stopping certain medications, such as drugs, to prevent blood clots. You should definitely stop smoking, too, as it can interfere with healing.

Consider gaining weight.

I know this might sound strange, but gaining weight leads to larger fat cells underneath the skin. This gives a natural plumpness to the skin that can fill indents in the skin, such as scars, as well as lines, wrinkles, and pores.

Severe pitted acne scars can be a challenge to improve but if you’re really committed to it, you can definitely significantly smooth out your skin. I also recommend that you read through all of these acne posts to get my expert advice for getting it under control.

Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


Post a comment
  1. Hi there. Thank you for the post. The article has covered pretty much all of the questions I’ve had.

    Posted By: Nour Alwazzan-Swan  | 

    • That’s great, thank you for reading the post!

      Posted By: Ella Stevenson  | 

  2. I just recently have gotten ice pick scarring from a recent breakout. Any advice on how I could treat them with specific products or would I have to go towards the laser route?

    Posted By: Jasmine  | 

    • I would schedule an appointment with a cosmetic dermatologist. Perhaps they can put in some filler to help improve that. There are many options of things they might be able to do.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  3. Would this work on chicken pox scars for a child? The scar is 7 months post chicken pox and is on the nose .. Thanks

    Posted By: judy  | 

    • I wouldn’t have a young child use retinol, it’s way to active of an ingredient. I know for adults, some doctors are using a cosmetic dermal filler called Restylane Silk to inject into scars to fill them up.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  4. Will this work if i hve had dents without having acne

    Posted By: zz  | 

    • Yes, retinol resurfaces any uneven skin texture, even if no acne is present.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      • I have been using tretinoin cream 0.5 and then 0.1 gel for 6 months on nightly basis.
        Everything was perfect until one day around 3rd 4th month a small pitted indented scars around my cheek started to appear just like that. Some of them look like 2 or 3 large pores connected in to one .
        Only on left side on my face seems to be affected. I decided to continue to use tretinoin hoping that with time it will correct the problem which I believe it has caused. However it’s been 6 months now and the scars are still there.
        I don’t know what to do. Did Tretinoin gave me chemical burn or something? But this has why after 4 months, before everything was super. Or maybe Tretinoin has uncovered previously unseen hidden scars which are not visible due to exfoliation. Can someone please advise on this matter. I would like to continue to use tretinoin but I am afraid to get more pits.
        If tretinoin is continue to exfoliate my skin why the surface has not been even out and scars not gone?
        Please I need an advice

        Posted By: Anna  | 

      • Hi Anna, I honestly have never heard of that or personally seen something like this so I’m not sure. It should only make the skin plumper and therefore smooth our any sorts of indents, not reveal them. I would suggest you consult with a dermatologist to see what can be done.

        Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  5. i have minor dents in skin, just a few here and there, not sure what it’s from though, because I dont get too much acne. Anyways, I’m an asian and have very thin sensitive skin. I’ve gotten several laser treatments done on my face last year (for spider veins on my face and dark spot removal lasers….). Not sure when this happened, but I also have a “flesh colored spot” on my cheek, and I’m thrinking it’s from one of the times I lasered. my flesh color spot, i mean, it looks a lil pinkish/red, like the skin is raw (this spot is also slightlyyyy indented), however, it should be all healed. What are your suggestions on treating this pinkinsh/red spot, and also the dents on my face? Thanks so much!

    Posted By: tara  | 

    • I would suggest that you go back to the facility where you had the treatment done and have them look at it and make a suggestion. They know your skin the best. As for the dents, ask them about it too, but long-term use of retinol (as mentioned in this post) is very beneficial.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

    • And as for your question about the difference between salicylic acid and glycolic, glycolic is better for smoothing dents.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

      • Thanks so much for your response. What percentage glycolic acid and what percentage retinol would be the most effective and quick? Thanks again! Much appreciated

        Posted By: Tara  | 

  6. Renée, would a retinol or glycolic acid be the best bet for very minor indents. I have two that are hardly noticeable indents (at most 2 mm deep) on the plumpest part of my cheek and I’d like them to go away asap! Right now they only turn a little red if I poke at them or take a warm shower. It’s been about 10 months since they appeared and I cycle between two leave-on glycolic acid products (5% and 12%) and a .15% pure-active retinol since I’m not sure which one is doing the trick.

    I know, they’re very minor, but if I can do something about them then I’d like to. I tried a professional peel once, and that was very tragic. I do religiously wear a daily sunscreen, so that part’s covered!


    Posted By: Justin  | 

    • Retinol actually creates permanent change in the skin (as long as you use it regularly forever) whereas glycolic and acids work to simply exfoliate surface dry cells off the skin. So retinol is your best bet but glycolic helps retinol penetrate more effectively so it’s definitely good to use both, but not on the same night. Also, not all chemical peels are equal so even though you didn’t have a good experience, there are others that could be really helpful. Try a different place but be sure to communicate you previous experience.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  7. I just got 2 cortisone shots in my forehead and now I have 2 indentations..
    Will this cream help the indentations in any way… Help!

    Posted By: Carmen  | 

    • yes, any time of retinol is your best bet for building up the collagen (the thickness/cushion) in the skin. You could also get a prescription retinoid but it does have a lot of side effects and makes the skin more sun sensitive so that’s not good going into summer. But yes, our product is perfect and use it all over the face, not just those two areas.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 


Post a Comment:

Find your
skin type

Great skin starts with knowing your skin type.

Take the quiz