Management of acne scarring, part II: a comparative review of non-laser-based, minimally invasive approaches

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2012 Oct 1;13(5):331-40. doi: 10.2165/11631410-000000000-00000.


Acne scarring is a commonly encountered yet extremely challenging problem to treat for the dermatologist. As acne scarring can lead to significant psychological distress and low self-esteem, it is of utmost importance to have effective and satisfying treatments in the physician's armamentarium. However, many treatments are unsatisfying, leading to patient disappointment and frustration. Although early treatment of acne lesions and inflammation with isotretinoin is beneficial in preventing acne scarring, many patients still present with troubling noticeable scars. Despite the advances in pharmacology and technology, scar treatment still remains suboptimal and is tainted with several adverse effects. However, some treatments can provide benefits. This review article exhaustively discusses and analyzes the various minimally invasive approaches to the treatment of acne scarring with an emphasis on pharmacologic agents, such as isotretinoin for atrophic acne scars and corticosteroids and chemotherapeutic drugs for hypertrophic scars. Intralesional injections of corticosteroids are efficacious in reducing keloid scar formation in addition to preventing recurrence following surgical excision. In-office and minimally invasive procedural management, including chemical peels, dermabrasion, tissue augmentation, and punch excision is also discussed. Superficial chemical peels are efficacious in treating atrophic scars with relatively few adverse effects and complications. Although dermabrasion is used less often with the advent of laser resurfacing, this technique remains as a viable option for those with atrophic scars. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be managed successfully with topical agents such as azelaic acid and hydroquinone. The efficacy of various treatment modalities is highlighted with a focus on choosing the correct modalities for specific scar types.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Keloid / therapy
  • Acne Vulgaris / complications*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Biocompatible Materials / therapeutic use
  • Chemexfoliation*
  • Cicatrix / classification
  • Cicatrix / etiology
  • Cicatrix / therapy*
  • Cicatrix, Hypertrophic / therapy
  • Cryosurgery
  • Cytotoxins / therapeutic use
  • Dermabrasion*
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hyperpigmentation / therapy
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Cytotoxins
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Retinoids