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Acne Marks vs Scars: Understanding the Differences and How to Treat Them

Curated and medically reviewed by Dr. Ankit Parange , On August 1, 2023

acne marks vs scars

An acne outbreak in itself is unpleasant and brings about numerous issues. However, the aftermath is not pleasant either. Your skin exhibits irregularities in texture and discolouration, which many of us have experienced. If you have dealt with acne breakouts, chances are you’ve also faced the consequences of scarring.

The frustration persists even after the acne subsides, presenting itself as blemishes. We encounter various undesirable features such as bumps, indentations, as well as red and brown dark spots. These post-acne blemishes are far from desirable.

What exactly are these scars and marks? Are they interchangeable terms? And most importantly, can they be treated? Rest assured, all the answers you seek can be found here.

What is Acne?

Acne, a common skin condition, occurs when oil and dead skin cells obstruct your skin follicles. It is most prevalent among teenagers due to increased oil production by the sebaceous glands. However, it can affect individuals of all ages, including adults in their 40s and 50s.

The main underlying cause of acne is the blockage of pores by sebum and dead skin cells. Each pore is connected to a sebaceous gland responsible for producing an oily substance called sebum. When excess sebum blocks the pores, it creates an environment conducive to the growth of bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). The body’s immune response to these bacteria triggers inflammation, resulting in the development of common acne symptoms like whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.

What are Acne Scars? 

No matter how unattractive or painful a pimple may be, its resolution does not bring an end to our distress. Instead, it leaves a lingering mark that penetrates deeper into the skin’s support system, exacerbating the issue.

The size of the pimple directly correlates to the size of the subsequent mark it leaves. When severe or moderate acne affects the deeper layers of the skin and causes damage, it results in a prominent scar that is clearly visible on the face.

Despite the warnings from the internet, doctors, and even our mothers, urging us not to pop the pimple, we often succumb to the temptation. Unfortunately, this impulsive action leads to a permanent scar, even from a minor breakout. Collagen and elastin, crucial components of the skin, deteriorate and weaken when acne is severe or moderate. Consequently, an indented scar forms, which becomes more noticeable with the passage of time.

Types of Acne Scars

Identifying the type of acne scars is essential for determining the appropriate treatment approach. When acne heals in a way that leads to scarring, it can result in two types of textural scars: atrophic and hypertrophic scars.

Atrophic scars occur when the healing process damages and destroys collagen in the skin, resulting in indented scars. On the other hand, hypertrophic scars form when there is an excess production of collagen during the wound-healing process, leading to raised scars.

1. Atrophic Scars

Depressed scars primarily result from inflammatory acne and commonly manifest on the forehead and cheeks. They can vary in depth, ranging from shallow indentations to penetrating deeper layers of the skin. Furthermore, these scars can be categorised into the following types:

2. Rolling scars 

As their name implies, these scars exhibit gently sloping edges and create wide depressions in the skin. As the skin’s elasticity diminishes with time, these scars tend to worsen in appearance. Primarily, these scars result from persistent inflammatory acne over an extended period.

3. Boxcar scars  

The scars possess distinct boundaries and appear as wide rectangular depressions. The edges exhibit a sharp contour, which poses challenges for treatment.

4. Ice pick scars  

These features can also be recognised as excavated pores. They represent the most profound depressions and are characterised by their slim width.

5. Hypertrophic scars 

Cystic acne frequently leads to the development of raised scars. When cystic acne occurs, scar tissue forms and can result in a noticeable protrusion on the skin. These types of scars are relatively uncommon and tend to appear on the chest, back, or jawline, replacing the original cyst.

What are Acne Marks?

The variations mentioned above were related to the texture of the skin, specifically the formation of indentations or protrusions. They are commonly categorised as mild, moderate, or severe and are caused by either excessive or insufficient collagen production. However, acne can also lead to a different type of scarring known as “acne marks” or “macular acne scars.”

Individuals dealing with acne often express concern over post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks or dark marks. These marks typically appear as light or dark brown discolourations and are a consequence of mild to moderate acne breakouts. Melanin production is triggered during the healing process of acne, but it eventually fades away.

If you have dark spots resulting from cystic acne, inflammatory acne, or moderate acne, these marks tend to persist for a longer duration. Inflammatory acne stimulates increased melanin secretion in the deeper layers of the skin (known as the dermal layer), which causes the marks to take a longer time to fade.

The acne marks are divided into two categories: 

1. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)

Refers to red marks that appear on fair skin

2. Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE)

Manifests as brown marks on darker skin tones.

Both types of marks are caused by inflammatory acne, but PIH results from excessive melanin production, whereas PIE is caused by the dilation of blood vessels during the healing process. The appearance of PIE tends to worsen as the skin becomes thinner during healing.

It’s important to note that these dark marks left by acne are not considered scars and can be treated relatively easily. With proper treatment, you can achieve clear and even-toned skin once again.

What’s the Difference?

Acne Marks vs Acne Scars

The evidence of residual marks left by pimples can manifest in various forms and appearances. Different types of acne can contribute to these marks. When a dark spot emerges with a soft texture, it is not considered a scar but rather a temporary discolouration or Acne mark that typically fades within 3-6 months.

On the contrary, a scar denotes permanent damage to the skin and requires more care and professional treatments in some cases. Acne scars alter the skin’s texture, resulting in either indentations or raised bumps. The severity of the damage is determined by the depth of the indentation. Treating such scars necessitates interventions that go beyond the surface and penetrate deeper into the skin.

Early treatment of acne scarring is essential to minimise its long-term consequences. Consulting an Ayurvedic Physician promptly is recommended when dealing with a depressed area resulting from a pimple.

It is important to differentiate between acne scars and acne marks. Acne marks are a result of prolonged inflammation, triggered melanin production due to inflamed skin, and the gradual breakdown of bacteria that caused the acne. Post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) marks usually resolve over time and are distinct from stubborn acne scars.

Prevention is the most effective approach to addressing acne-related issues. It is crucial to refrain from popping or picking at pimples as this can cause damage to the skin. Treating acne promptly helps prevent the formation of scars. When you notice a protruding bump, it is advisable to seek immediate assistance from an Ayurvedic Physician.


Acne scars pose a greater challenge for treatment than acne marks due to their ability to alter the skin’s texture and damage deeper layers. This makes it more difficult to address them effectively using natural treatments.

Topical treatments offer a significant improvement in reducing acne marks compared to acne scars. When it comes to treating acne scars, there are limited options available that are as effective as procedures. While acne marks may naturally fade away within a few months, their fading process can be expedited with the use of natural remedies.

Home Remedies

However, it should be noted that Ayurvedic and home-remedies remedies can be effective in treating both acne scars and acne marks, and they are particularly advantageous due to their lack of side effects. In serious cases, it is advisable to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner, but home remedies can be attempted for milder instances. Here are some natural remedies to consider for the treatment of acne scars and acne marks:

1. Onion and Aelovera

Using a combination of onion extract and aloe vera can help in removing acne scars. Both ingredients contain natural tyrosinase inhibitors like quercetin and aloin, which aid in healing acne scars and reducing hyperpigmentation caused by acne.

To use this remedy, mix a whole onion with fresh aloe vera gel. Apply this mixture twice a day to effectively eliminate acne scars and marks.

2. Pineapple and Papaya

Using a combination of papaya and pineapple can help lighten the skin and reduce acne scars. The natural enzymes found in these fruits promote skin cell renewal, resulting in a more even tone and appearance.

To use, blend both ingredients together, including the pineapple stem, which contains bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme. Apply the mixture regularly to remove acne scars from the face.

3. Honey

Honey, a versatile natural remedy, can help with acne scars without requiring a visit to the drugstore. Honey has been used for various medicinal purposes, such as treating burns, wounds, and herpes. Research suggests that honey can expedite wound healing and minimise the likelihood of scarring.

Studies have demonstrated that applying honey directly to wounds can aid in healing by cleansing and clearing the wound, thanks to its antibacterial properties. Additionally, honey can combat infections that may contribute to the development of additional acne.

4. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera, like honey, is a popular natural remedy often used at home. It has similar effects in promoting the healing process for acne. Research suggests that applying aloe vera directly to wounds can reduce inflammation and the size of scar tissue.

Aloe vera gels and products are readily available at drugstores, but you can cultivate the plant yourself. You can harness its benefits by cutting into the leaves and applying the sticky gel directly onto the skin.

5. Turmeric Powder

Turmeric powder possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can effectively reduce bacterial growth. Additionally, it aids in skin regeneration and diminishes the appearance of scars.

6. Essential Oils

The ancient Ayurvedic texts emphasise the significance of Abhyanga therapy, which involves herbal massage, in healing scars and skin discolouration. Regular massage enhances blood circulation, eliminates damaged skin, and promotes the renewal of cells. Abhyanga also helps balance the doshas and eliminates harmful amatoxins that impede wound healing and contribute to scarring.

To expedite the healing of acne scars, massage the following essential oils onto the affected areas. Use your preferred carrier oil twice daily, such as coconut, almond, castor, or sesame.

  • Tea Tree Oil

Promotes new tissue growth, aids in wound healing, and relieves irritated skin.

  • Lavender Oil

Promotes the regeneration of new tissue, aids in wound healing, and relieves irritated skin.

  • Geranium Oil

Possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that could aid in healing damaged skin.

  • Rosehip Oil

Has anti-inflammatory effects, diminishes acne scars and hyperpigmentation, and promotes skin brightening.

Should we mention Surgical and medical procedures like laser treatment and microneedling?


In conclusion, understanding the differences between acne marks and scars is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment approach. While acne marks tend to fade away on their own over time, acne scars require more care. However, it is worth noting that Ayurvedic and natural remedies can also offer promising results in treating both acne marks and scars, with the added benefit of being free from side effects. Regardless of the chosen treatment method, consulting an Ayurvedic professional is always recommended, especially for severe cases. By being well-informed about the distinctions and armed with the right knowledge, individuals can make informed decisions to effectively address acne marks and scars, ultimately achieving clearer and healthier skin.


1. How are acne marks formed, and how do they differ from acne scars?

Acne marks do not cause any indentations or texture changes in the skin, but they are visually prominent, causing an uneven skin tone. On the other hand, Acne Scars have an effect on the Texture of your skin; they occur in the form of indentations and protrusions.

Acne marks, also called dark spots, are visible skin discolourations that occur after an acne breakout. Inflammation plays a vital role in this process, as increased blood flow causes the skin to appear red. The presence of white blood cells, involved in fighting off acne and its associated infection, contributes to inflammation. Additionally, the production of melanin by melanocytes increases during this process, leading to skin darkening.

2. Can acne marks fade naturally over time, or do they require specific treatments?

Yes, The fading of acne marks can vary from person to person, and it typically takes approximately 3 to 6 months for these marks to vanish in most individuals. But you can always expedite the process with Ayurvedic remedies. There are treatments for Acne Marks, which you should consult an Ayurvedic physician for.

3. What are the common causes of acne marks?

A no-brainer answer would be Acne; acne causes acne marks. Melanin production is triggered during the healing process of acne which results in light or dark brown spots in place of the healing pimples, these spots are known as Acne Marks.

4. What are the different types of acne scars, and how are they different from acne marks?

Most of the time, the terms Acne Scars and Acne Marks are used interchangeably. More often than not, types of Acne Marks are counted under Acne Scars. Acne marks do not cause any indentations or texture changes in the skin, but they are visually prominent, causing an uneven skin tone. On the other hand, Acne Scars affect the Texture of your skin; they occur in the form of indentations and protrusions.

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August 1, 2023
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    Dr. Sandeep Vhanawade
    Dr. Sandeep Vhanawade
    BAMS | 18 years
    Dr. Sandeep Vhanawade
    BAMS | 18 years
    Dr. Sandeep Vhanawade is a BAMS graduate with a specialization in Ayurvedic medicine. With a deep interest in Ayurveda, he joined Vaidya Suyog Dandekar and Prakruti Ayurvedic Health Resort in March 2010, where he has been working for over a decade. During his time at the health resort, he studied Panchabhautik Chikitsa, a unique branch of Ayurvedic medicine that focuses on treating imbalances in the five elements of the body. Under the guidance of Vaidya Suyog Dandekar, he worked on developing a plan for the reversal of Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, and Thyroid, intending to help people live drugless life. Dr. Sandeep Vhanawade's experience in Ayurvedic medicine spans over 18 years, making him a seasoned practitioner. Currently, he serves as a medical officer at Prakruti Ayurvedic Health Resort, where he continues to help patients achieve optimal health through the principles and practices of Ayurveda.
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