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Does Hyaluronic Acid Treat Acne Scars?

October 08, 2020 | BY R. Motzell

If you’re struggling to get rid of your acne scars, keep reading. Let’s talk about what hyaluronic acid may be able to do for you! 

Acne is bothersome, irritating and often hard to get rid of. Everyone has had a zit or two, but for those who suffer from persistent acne, the search for effective treatments can be grueling.


Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options to try that can help with addressing your specific acne-related concerns. Before getting into hyaluronic acid specifically, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the various types of acids you’ll see as ingredients in skincare products. 


Acids – What They Are and What They Do

When it comes to treating acne, you’ve probably heard the names of a few key ingredients from your dermatologist, friends or skincare ads. Glycolic Acid, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid all serve different purposes in skincare and can be used to treat different issues related to acne. 


Glycolic acid is typically used to improve the overall quality of your skin. This acid can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines on your face by prompting your skin to produce collagen. Not typically used to treat acne specifically, glycolic acid is normally used more for its anti-aging properties.


Salicylic acid is often found in acne spot treatments and creams. Salicylic acid reduces the appearance of your pores and works to unclog them. Salicylic acid is commonly a main ingredient in over-the-counter acne products. 


Finally, hyaluronic acid is another acid with blemish-fighting properties. In contrast to salicylic acid, which eliminates the dead skin clogging your pores, hyaluronic acid acts as a component in moisturizers, and keeps your skin from getting too dry. This makes it a powerful asset in overall skin health. If your skin gets too dry, it will start overproducing oil, which can cause breakouts. 


What are Acne Scars, Anyway? 

Acne scars are marks left over by acne, usually cystic acne. This type of acne is often painful and breaks the skin deeply enough to leave lasting scars. Cystic acne usually requires harsher and more intense prescription treatment regimens to clear up. 


An acne scar usually looks like a discolored mark on your skin where it was clearly previously broken out. These scars are frustrating and troublesome to deal with and can sabotage your confidence even after a breakout is long gone.


After a breakout of cystic acne is clear, scars may remain. This is where ingredients like hyaluronic acid come in. For lighter scarring, applying a topical treatment can help reduce its appearance. However, when scars are deeper, an injection may be more effective. 


The “Dry Out Your Skin” Myth

One major myth surrounding fighting acne is the idea that you should dry out your skin to shrink and eliminate your zits. In reality, the opposite is true. Drying out your skin does not improve its overall health and can end up causing you more issues.


Overusing certain skincare products, especially without using a moisturizer, can dry out your skin and potentially cause breakouts. One major culprit that can over-dry your skin if used too much is benzoyl peroxide, which is often used as a spot treatment for acne. If you use benzoyl peroxide to fight your acne, make sure to use it sparingly and pair it with a moisturizer. 


Hyaluronic Acid as a Moisturizer 

Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in your skin. 

As an ingredient, it’s added to moisturizing creams for its ability to keep your skin soft and supple. This is because hyaluronic acid helps your skin hold water, which is essential to keep it from drying out. Again, dry skin is a major no-go for anyone fighting acne. To keep your skin soft and moisturized, daily use of moisturizers is essential. Hyaluronic acid makes a perfect addition to your moisturizing routine, since it keeps your skin’s water retention up. 


Cream moisturizers often include hyaluronic acid as an ingredient, but some users of the acid prefer to apply a serum. A serum is applied topically using a dropper. Whereas moisturizers with hyaluronic acid are typically heavier and creamier, a hyaluronic acid serum is normally a thin liquid with the acid as its primary active ingredient.


Hyaluronic Acid as An Injection 

For the treatment of acne scars, hyaluronic acid can be more effective in the form of an injection. This is done using what is called a dermal filler. A dermal filler is injected underneath the surface of the skin and can have long term positive effects on your skin’s health and appearance.


Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers are popular for anyone trying to reduce the appearance wrinkles and lines on their face. However, they are also used to reduce the visibility of acne scars. The injection of hyaluronic acid tends to be more effective than topical application of the acid.


Hyaluronic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid for Acne 

When specifically dealing with acne, the key acid that is most often an active ingredient in products is salicylic acid. This is because of salicylic acid’s pore-unclogging capabilities. In contrast, hyaluronic acid will not unclog your pores or dissolve dead skin cells. Instead, hyaluronic acid is primarily used to keep your skin moisturized.


Both salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid can serve unique purposes in a skincare routine for acne-prone skin. However, it is important to consider that hyaluronic acid is normally used for its anti-aging properties rather than for specifically fighting acne. Because of this, there may be better, more effective options for dealing with cystic acne scars.


The effectiveness of hyaluronic acid to reduce the visibility of your acne scars depends on your skin type, the severity of your acne, and the rest of the key ingredients in your skincare regimen. Nevertheless, the use of hyaluronic acid dermal fillers is much more effective in helping with acne scars than topical application of the acid is. Topically applying hyaluronic acid can have other benefits for your skin’s health but is not proven to be effective in reducing acne scarring.


While salicylic acid is effective in spot treatments and cleansers for acne-prone skin, it is not always powerful enough to eliminate scars from deep, cystic acne. However, salicylic acid can be effective for treatment of less severe acne scarring associated with occasional pimples and blemishes. 


Although hyaluronic acid is more effective for treating acne scars as a dermal filler, salicylic acid is an exclusively topical acne treatment. It can be your go-to for battling whiteheads and blackheads as they show up. However, it’s typically more effective to treat cystic scars with something more powerful. 


For Extra-Severe Cases 

If you suffer from extremely severe cystic acne and are dealing with scarring, an over-the-counter treatment like a hyaluronic acid serum will likely not be strong enough. In these situations, it’s best to consult a dermatologist and come up with a game plan for dealing with acne and scarring.


A dermatologist may recommend surgery in certain situations to reduce the appearance of severe acne scars. An oral medication like Accutane is another powerful route to take, although such medications often have some risks associated with use.


Final Thoughts 

Regardless of the severity of your acne, building a relationship with your dermatologist and asking them questions is always a great idea. This way, you don’t have to face your acne alone. Working with a dermatologist means you’ll have expert advice and feedback along the way as you construct a skincare regimen that works for you.


If you are considering implementing hyaluronic acid into your skincare regimen, it’s a good idea to get your dermatologist’s advice. Combining the wrong ingredients within your skincare routine can be counterproductive and can occasionally end up irritating your skin. Your dermatologist can help you determine whether hyaluronic acid fits with the rest of your skincare routine.


Luckily, hyaluronic acid use has no side effects for the majority of people, and usually fits right in with other skincare products. Many people do not include a moisturizer in their skincare routine if they are using a product with hyaluronic acid. If this is the case, it’s even more beneficial to start using hyaluronic acid, either as a serum or as an ingredient in a moisturizer. This will keep your skin moisturized, healthy and clear. 


It’s often difficult to know where to start when dealing with acne – but hyaluronic acid can play a key role in boosting your skin’s look, feel ,and overall health. Whatever your skin struggles are, hyaluronic acid is definitely worth considering!



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