Anyone who battles breakouts will already know that acne and oily skin usually become worse during the summer months as the temperatures soar. These blemishes are often not only uncomfortable and embarrassing but may also cause inflammation that can lead to the development of scars. People who are searching for cosmetic treatments to correct this problem will often ask us, “Does microneedling really work for acne scars?” Our Bryn Mawr-based team shares that microneedling can indeed improve and soften the appearance of them. There are also other treatment options available to restore a smoother and clearer complexion without the discolorations that can remain after an acne flare.

So how do acne scars develop? Many breakouts involve pus-filled pimples, which often clear up on their own without scars. However, larger acne cysts and nodules penetrate deeply into the skin, often causing damage that remains visible even after the skin heals. Larger, more inflamed lesions, where follicles rupture, have the highest incidence of scarring. Scars are more likely to form if you have inflammatory acne, a family history of acne scars, or tend to pick, squeeze, or pop acne lesions. Manipulating blemishes is not recommended, as this further contributes to inflammation and follicular rupture, increasing the risks of scarring.

Note that having a current, active acne breakout or taking medications for acne can delay treatment for acne scars. Remember to discuss your complete medical history with us. 

Here are a few treatment options that can help to make acne scars less noticeable:

Over-the-Counter Skin Products

You can find over-the-counter skin care products that contain certain ingredients helpful for addressing acne scars. They will commonly contain alpha hydroxy acids—glycolic and lactic acid, beta hydroxy acids—salicylic acid and retinoids.  

Medical-Grade Skin Products 

Our practice provides numerous medical-grade topical products that can be used at home to reduce the severity and visibility of scars. Higher concentrations of alpha and beta hydroxy acids and retinoids are present in medical-grade products.


Microneedling is very helpful for acne scars. The treatment creates microchannels in the scarred skin, promoting growth of new collagen. Think of this approach as inducing wound healing to soften the scars. 

Our Genius™ RF device maximizes the results from microneedling by not only creating channels to trigger healing, but also delivering radiofrequency energy into the skin at the same time to stimulate increased collagen production while remodeling existing collagen. We will often combine the non-ablative LaseMD Ultra™ laser with Genius™ RF to treat more superficial textural and pigmentary irregularities. The combination of the two devices is referred to as The TotalSkin Solution™. 

Chemical Peels 

Chemical peels are solutions containing alpha and beta hydroxy acids and/or retinoic acid, which are applied topically to the skin. They stimulate increased cell turnover. This helps to gradually reduce the appearance of acne scars. Peels have multiple benefits for acne-prone skin. They provide a more even tone and texture, lighten discolored spots, and remove blockages from pores to prevent future breakouts. Anti-Acne Facials from our practice are also beneficial for managing active acne breakouts. 

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser Resurfacing

The CO2 laser is the most powerful resurfacing laser we use to treat acne scars. It creates tiny holes in the surface of the skin while simultaneously delivering a great deal of energy into the skin. During the healing process, new, healthy collagen regenerates, giving the surface a smoother, tighter texture to reduce the appearance of scars. There is downtime after this procedure.

Other Devices

Other laser resurfacing options—including Fractionated Erb:YAG and Nd-YAG—also encourage collagen production to improve skin tone and texture. Other energy-based options for acne scars include radiofrequency, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). 

Facial Fillers 

Dermal fillers can be helpful for depressed acne scars because they add volume beneath the  scarred skin to lift the surface upward, resulting in a smoother appearance. There are many choices in the filler families that are customized to the acne scar being treated.

If you want a more detailed answer to the question, “Does microneedling really work for acne scars?” our Bryn Mawr-based team would be happy to explain everything you need to know about this popular cosmetic treatment. Contact Cirillo Cosmetic Dermatology Spa by calling us at 610.525.5029 or booking a consultation online.

Victoria A. Cirillo-Hyland