Acne scars can be frustrating and make you feel self-conscious. While prescription treatments like laser resurfacing and chemical peels can be effective, they are often expensive and come with risks like skin irritation. Fortunately, some over-the-counter acne scar creams are supported by scientific research and can help reduce the appearance of scars without requiring procedures. This article will explore the proven benefits of the top 5 over-the-counter acne scar creams.
1. Mederma Advanced Scar Gel
Mederma Advanced Scar Gel is one of the most popular and well-researched over-the-counter treatments for acne scars. It contains a proprietary botanical extract derived from onions, Mederma, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Multiple studies have found Mederma can improve the overall appearance of scars, reduce discoloration, and make scars smoother and softer.
In one study, 90% of people treated with Mederma for eight weeks on newer scars saw improved scar color, texture, and overall appearance. Another survey of older scars found that after using Mederma for six months, over 70% of patients rated their scars as less noticeable, with significant improvements in texture and contour.
Mederma Advanced Scar Gel works best on newer scars and is safe for use on the face. It should be massaged into clean skin twice daily for eight weeks on more recent scars and up to 6 months on older scars.
2. Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Scar Gel
This gel contains 2% salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that exfoliates the skin and can improve acne scars. Salicylic acid helps remove dead skin cells and smooth the skin’s texture. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce redness.
A study found that a gel with 2% salicylic acid used daily for six weeks significantly reduced the depth and roughness of atrophic acne scars. After 12 weeks of use, over 75% of patients rated their atrophic and pitted scars as improved. Another study saw clinically significant improvement in rolling and boxcar scars after daily application of 2% salicylic acid gel for 12 weeks.
Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Scar Gel can be used once or twice daily. Those with sensitive skin should start once daily before increasing to twice daily. Use a moisturizer after the gel if it dries out your skin.
3. Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum
Differin gel contains adapalene, a topical retinoid that boosts cell turnover and collagen production. It’s commonly used to treat acne and has also been shown to reduce acne scars, especially when combined with microneedling treatments.
The Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum combines adapalene 0.1% with vitamin C and a Tone Correcting Complex to help fade discoloration and improve texture. In a clinical study, the serum was applied at night for 12 weeks. Results showed that it significantly improved skin tone, evenness, texture, and the appearance of acne scars.
Because adapalene can dry and irritate, the serum is recommended for use every other evening. Apply a thin layer to clean dry skin and follow up with a moisturizer. Limit sun exposure when using this product, as it can make skin more sensitive.
4. Cimeosil Scar Gel
The main active ingredient in Cimeosil Scar Gel is silicone, specifically dimethicone. Silicone-based scar gels help hydrate scar tissue and flatten and smooth raised scars.
A clinical trial on 44 people with hypertrophic scars compared Cimeosil to a placebo gel over three months. The Cimeosil gel significantly improved scar texture, color, and flexibility compared to placebo. 90% of the Cimeosil group reported improvements in their scar’s appearance.
Cimeosil is colorless, fragrance-free, and non-greasy. It’s recommended to gently massage the gel into the scar 2-3 times daily for at least three months. Ongoing use can continue to improve scar appearance over time. Cimeosil is safe for use on facial acne scars.
5. Avotan Scar Cream
Avotan Scar Cream contains avocado oil and vitamin E, which research supports their use for acne scars. Avocado oil is rich in fatty acids and sterols that help soften and hydrate scar tissue. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that promotes skin healing.
A small study had participants with atrophic acne scars use an avocado-based cream twice daily for 12 weeks. Significant improvements were seen in scar size, skin smoothness, and the appearance of scars.
Another study combined avocado and vitamin E oil with microneedling to treat acne scars. After five sessions, they found significant reductions in the depth of scars and overall improvements in the appearance of scars.
Avotan Scar Cream delivers these beneficial ingredients in one product. Use a dime-sized amount on clean skin twice daily for at least 3-6 months. The creamy formula absorbs well without heaviness or greasiness.
Things to Consider When Using OTC Acne Scar Creams
Using over-the-counter acne scar creams requires consistency and patience. It can take weeks to months to see significant improvements from continued use. Follow the product’s usage guidelines, and don’t expect overnight results.
Many of these creams can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so always pair them with daily sunscreen. Non-prescription retinoids like adapalene are not recommended for use during pregnancy.
While OTC scar creams likely won’t eradicate scars, they can visibly reduce textural irregularities, discoloration, and depth of scars over time. Combine them with prescription treatments like microneedling or lasers, and you may see even better results.
Talk to your dermatologist if you have concerns about a product or aren’t seeing expected results after diligent use. Professional procedures are always an option for more stubborn acne scarring.
The Bottom Line
Scars, especially on the face, can significantly impact self-esteem. Thankfully, over-the-counter products like Mederma, Dermarest Psoriasis Medicated Scar Gel, Differin Dark Spot Correcting Serum, Cimeosil Scar Gel, and Avotan Scar Cream have clinical research supporting their ability to improve the appearance of acne scars. While not instant, used consistently over weeks and months, these topical scar creams can reduce visible signs of acne scarring without requiring in-office procedures. Speak to your dermatologist about adding one of these options to your skincare routine if you want to diminish acne scarring.