• November 26, 2020

Do Topical Treatments Work in Removing Acne Scars?

Topical Treatments for Acne

Acne affects nearly 5.6 million Canadians yearly. Also, treating acne breakouts isn’t all there is to managing this skin condition. Acne scars remain prominent after most acne breakouts. As a result, many Canadians are turning towards topical treatments for acne scars.

The all-important question is, do topical treatments really work in treating acne scars, or should you look for other options? In the following paragraphs, we’ll examine topical acne treatments in depth. 

Then, we’ll compare the effectiveness of these treatments with a few alternatives for acne scar removal. Finally, we’ll address personal hygiene tips that can help you get the best out of any treatment for acne scars.

What Causes Acne and Acne Scars?

Acne is a skin condition. It occurs when dead skin cells combine with sebum (oil). When your skin produces a lot of oil, these dead cells can get trapped in pores before your body sheds them. This causes pimples, the most common symptom of acne.

Other times, a bacterium called Cutibacterium gets stuck in pores. While in your skin pores, it multiplies then turns sebum into fatty acids. This leads to the inflammation of skin cells, which is an acne symptom. Acne scars develop when your skin tries to heal itself.


Do Topical Treatments Work for Acne?

Topical treatments for acne scars are the most common prescriptions available. They include foams, ointments, lotions, creams and gels that you rub on your skin. Generally, these medications are applied twice a day after you wash your face.

Most topical treatments for acne kill the bacteria that cause acne and treat scars. The rest, decrease sebum in pores and combat inflammation. In either case, you can use oral medications with topical treatments for faster results. 

Here are some of the most common topical treatments for acne scars:

Topical retinoids

Topical retinoids are known for their anti-ageing effects. However, they are also one of the handy treatments for acne and acne scars

Retinoids are anti-inflammatory derivatives of vitamin A that fight acne-causing bacteria. They help to exfoliate the skin, prevent both blackheads and whiteheads, and decrease your oil production. More interestingly, these topical treatments prevent acne symptoms from forming by nipping the follicle-clogging stage in the bud.

You can buy topical retinoids over-the-counter. Tretinoin, Tazarotene, and Differin are common examples. Tretinoin specifically decreases acne scars by encouraging new skin growth at the site. The initial dosage is usually three times a week. However, you may reduce the dosage as your skin gets used to it.

Topical retinoids are reasonably effective in treating acne and acne scars. The common side effects you may get include increased sensitivity to UV light, dry skin and redness. Also, it may take a long time before you see visible results.

Topical antibiotics

Topical antibiotics kill the acne-causing bacteria on your skin. The result is you will have fewer pimples. In turn, fewer pimples lead to less acne scarring on your skin. You can use topical antibiotics with other treatments like topical retinoids. 

Alternatively, you can use these antibiotics with benzoyl peroxide creams to decrease the possibility of your body getting antibiotic resistance. Common types of topical antibiotics are clindamycin and erythromycin.

Using only topical antibiotics is mildly effective in treating acne. However, oral antibiotics are more useful for patients with a higher probability of having acne scars and severe acne. Common side effects of topical antibiotics include skin rash, tingling skin sensations and redness.


Salicylic acid topical

This topical treatment is used to treat skin diseases like acne. Salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent. Therefore, it peels dead skins and reduces swelling. It then unblocks skin pores, which makes pimples shrink. Salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory that’s available as acne washes or spot treatments. 

Salicylic acid topicals are quite useful for treating acne and acne scars. However, studies have shown that they aren’t your best bet. For one, you may be allergic to the acid or get other side effects like skin irritation and discoloration.

Azelaic acid

Foams, creams or gels that contain azelaic acid can also be used to treat rosacea, melasma and bumps. More importantly, azelaic acid is one of the top topical treatments for acne and acne scars. 

Azelaic acid comes from yeast. Like other topical medications, this has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Typically, most people use this topical treatment with oral medication to help treat acne scars faster.

You can try azelaic acid topicals to treat moderately inflamed acne scars. However, it is less effective and sometimes harmful to patients with severe acne, sensitive skin, or eczema.

Some common side effects of azelaic acid topicals include:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Scaling
  • Redness

Dapsone topical

This topical usually comes in the form of a gel that stops the growth of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. The primary compound in the topical, dapsone (7.5% or 5%), is an anti-infective medication. Dapsone topical is highly reactive with benzoyl peroxide acne medication. Therefore, using both at the same time can cause discoloration of your skin.

Dapsone topical is a moderately effective treatment for acne and acne scars. However, it isn’t without its fair share of side effects. The common ones include peeling, dry or oily skin and sometimes redness at the application spot. Allergic signs include difficulty breathing and swellings.

Apple cider vinegar

This is one home remedy many people with acne and acne scars use. Apple cider vinegar is rich in organic acids. Altogether, studies have shown that these organic acids may kill the bacteria that causes acne. In addition, the lactic acid in apple cider vinegar decreases the appearance of acne scars.

The downside of apple cider vinegar as a topical treatment for acne scars is it is highly acidic. Therefore, it can easily cause burns when placed directly on the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. Studies on its efficacy aren’t yet conclusive. Therefore, apple cider vinegar may not work for your acne scars.

Honey and cinnamon

This is another popular home remedy for acne scars, as both honey and cinnamon are easily available. Generally, people use a 3 to 1 ratio of honey and cinnamon, respectively and apply it as a mask twice daily.

Cinnamon and honey are antioxidants, and research shows that antioxidants are more effective treatments of acne than topical retinoids and benzoyl peroxide. While you can safely apply honey on your skin (as long as you’re not allergic), cinnamon can cause skin irritation. In cases when a mask of honey and cinnamon works, it takes quite some time for patients to see improvements.

Effective Alternatives to Topical Treatments for Acne Scars

The treatments below are approved by Health Canada for the treatment of acne scars.

Chemical peel

Chemical peels remove the top skin layer and allow new skin to grow at the site. They effectively exfoliate the skin and stimulate the production of collagen, elastin and other body protein your skin needs. Chemical peels are available in different solution strengths based on the intensity of acne scars.

For example, you can either have hypertrophic or atrophic scars on your skin. While atrophic scars are depressed, hypertrophic scars are raised and bumpy. Strong chemical peels can be used for either type of scars. 

However, they will cause deep peeling and require more healing time. On the other hand, moderate chemical peels contain trichloroacetic acid (TCA), which offers less peeling and downtime. Chemical peels are safe to use and effective in treating acne scars. Aside from their efficacy in treating acne after-effects, chemical peels also help in smoothing and improving the skin tone.

Chemical peels


Related article: The Fastest Way to Clean Up Acne Scars


This is another alternative to topical treatments for acne scars. Aquapure is a procedure for restoring skin health and a popular acne removal treatment in Toronto. It uses four major treatments to rejuvenate your skin, and they are:

  • Peeling: This involves exfoliating the skin to remove impurities. As the first step, peeling prepares your skin for other Aquapure treatments.
  • Electroporation and sebo+: The second step is to conduct an electric current through the skin. This helps to deliver the nutrients your skin needs. Then, whiteheads, pimples and other symptoms of acne are removed.
  • Micro-current: Next, your skin will be stimulated to generate elastin and collagen. Collagen tightens your skin and makes it smoother.
  • Cooling/Heating: The last piece of the jigsaw involves using cooling energy to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Then heat energy is used to make the skin firm.

Aquapure is designed for treating acne scars in all skin types, even if you have sensitive skin. A skilled medical aesthetician can complete the entire process in only 30 minutes, and there’s no downtime. The procedure has minor, rare side effects, which are largely due to the peeling stage. This may include slight irritation and skin redness.

Tips To Help You Manage Acne and Acne Scars

Ultimately, how you take care of your skin determines whether you’ll get your desired results or not. For example, laser treatments for acne won’t work when your skin is not clean. Here are some steps to ensure you get the best out of acne treatment in Toronto:

Clean makeup before using any treatment option

Makeup clogs skin pores. Therefore, applying topical treatments for acne or its effective alternatives prevents the product from getting into your pores. If topicals can’t get into your pores, they won’t be able to kill the bacteria that causes acne or decrease sebum production.

Gently wash your face

Washing your face ensures you don’t have any clogged pores. The trick is to not scrub hard or soft. Scrubbing hard will irritate your skin, and not scrubbing enough will leave the pores clogged. When you’re done washing your face, keep your hands away from it. Your hands may have bacteria that can inflame acne scars.

Avoid picking or squeezing acne 

Blackheads, whiteheads and pimples are all tempting to pop. But squeezing or picking can push the inflammation deep into your skin. In turn, this can cause more scarring. 

squeezing acne

Stay hydrated

If acne symptoms like pimples and blackheads don’t form, then you can’t have acne scars. One way you can prevent breakouts is to drink lots of water. When you’re dehydrated, your body signals your sebum glands to produce more sebum. And more sebum on your skin increases the likelihood of acne breakouts.

FAQs About Acne Scar Treatments in Toronto 

Here are the details you need:

Q1. How long does it take to see results from topical acne treatments?

Results from topical acne treatments depend on several factors. For one, the treatment you choose plays a decisive role, and so also does your lifestyle, age and genetics.

You have to stick with topical treatments for acne for at least a month (on average) before you can see results. Some, like topical tretinoin, can take up to six months. However, alternative treatments tend to produce faster results.

Q2: How often should I apply topical medication?

You should see an expert to figure out how frequently to use topical treatments for acne. Typically, using topical medication twice a day should be enough. Remember, using any topical medication more times than prescribed will cause more harm than good.

Q3. How long does topical acne medication stay on the skin before it is absorbed?

The last thing you’d want to do is to wash off your topical cream, gel or lotion before it gets into your pores. Most experts agree you shouldn’t head to the bathroom immediately after applying topical medication. 

However, you also don’t have to wait for hours. It takes only a few minutes for your skin to absorb the substance in the cream. Nevertheless, wait for fifteen minutes if you have to apply something else on your skin after rubbing on topical acne medication.

Q4. Can I use topical acne medications with other medicines?

Yes. You can use other medicines with topical treatments for acne scars. However, you need to get the go-ahead from your medical aesthetician first. Some medications can counter the effect of topical acne treatments.

Q6. How much does acne treatment cost in Toronto?

Depending on the procedure, acne treatment costs in Toronto range from $300 to $3,499.

In conclusion

Acne and acne scars don’t look good on anyone. Recently, topical treatments for acne have sprung up as a solution to this skin condition. In truth, they are effective in treating acne. However, the results are not as impressive as the alternatives we’ve included in this article. 

Canada MedLaser is a top-notch medical spa in Toronto. We offer first-class treatments and access to technology for effective acne scar removal. Book a free consultation session with our medical aestheticians today!

Book Free Consultation
Can't find what you are looking for?

No worries, we are here to help you.

Shopping Cart