A number of products claim to diminish or even eliminate acne scars. Unfortunately, many of these products have disappointing results, according to the Mayo Clinic. A fat-soluble type of vitamin A known as retinol that is used to treat acne can have a modest effect on the scars acne may leave behind. Retinol is available in prescription-strength acne creams such as tretinoin (brand names Avita, Renova, Retina-A and Retin-A Micro). It's also available in less potent concentrations in some over-the-counter creams and lotions.
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As a mainstay acne treatment, retinol can help prevent skin pores from becoming clogged. It works by clearing the way for the removal of dead skin cells. Once these cells are cleared, pimples, blackheads and whiteheads no longer have such fertile ground in which to develop.
OTC Retinol Creams
Superficial acne scarring may be successfully treated with retinol because it encourages the production of collagen, which helps soften and smooth the surface of the skin. A number of over-the-counter products may help lessen the appearance of acne scars, including Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer and TNS Recovery Complex by SkinMedica.
Prescription-only creams that contain tretinoin also promote collagen production and speed the rate of cell turnover. Retin-A and others work especially well on red or brown acne scars. However, don’t expect miracles. Only very shallow scars can be improved with tretinoin.
There are possible side effects associated with retinol. It can cause redness, dryness and mild stinging. But these symptoms usually go away as your skin adjusts to the treatment. The use of retinol and tretinoin can make your skin more sun-sensitive, so it’s especially important to be diligent about wearing sunscreen.
If you're not satisfied with the effects of retinol on your acne scars, there are a number of other possible procedures to consider. For example, collagen injections can fill scars temporarily. Laser resurfacing may also help. Conventional surgery can be effective in cases of deep scarring.