How to Get Rid of Red Marks from Acne: 11 Methods that Fade and Heal

If you're wondering how to get rid of red marks from acne, first allow us to say a hearty congrats. 'Cause as crappy as the post acne red marks can be, at least the active, volcanic acne phase is well and over. Hurrah for that.

But now that your face is clear of acne, the last thing you need are the memories lingering on in the red marks left on your skin. Those marks are due to normal skin tissue being destroyed and replaced with fibrous tissue, which is part of the healing process of acne.

Your skin is much more likely to have the residual red marks if you have popped, picked at, or poked the acne - but don't beat yourself up over, most of us don't have much self control when it comes to acne. Post acne red marks are also much more common in people with fair to light skin, which is as expected since lighter skin tends to make the spots stand out more.

The good news is that the marks usually go away by themselves - in six months, in five years, sooner or later. Why wait until later? Especially when there are several super effective things you can do right now to get your skin back to its smooth, clear self sooner.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) are top notch exfoliants - and not the gritty, primitive type that scrubs your face raw. No, these babies work much starter (more on that in a bit). By breaking down dead skin cells and promoting cell turnover, they are able to quickly and effectively repair your skin from the red marks left by acne and improve the overall tone and texture of your skin.

Curious which AHA you should be using? Here's a quick introduction to the most popular of the five AHAs: glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, and tartaric acids. Read on to meet your AHA soulmate...

Note: Always wear sunscreen when you're using AHAs. Your skin is much more susceptible to sunburn.

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane (though it is now also made synthetically). It is the most common AHA used to remove the dead cells on the outer layer of your skin. It also lightens hyperpigmentation and any skin discolorations by dissolving the substances that bind cells together.

There was a time when glycolic acid was associated only with harsh chemical peel treatments. Today, it is available and safe to use as an ingredient in skin cleansers, exfoliants, serums and creams. As such, it can re-texture your skin without the intensive (and expensive) in-office procedure.

The percentage of glycolic acid in a product varies. A product with pure glycolic acid in a lower concentration is much more effective than a product that contains other ingredients, such as a moisturizer.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is derived from milk and is a natural human metabolite—it tells the skin to get with it and self-exfoliate, repair UV damage, and monitor collagen production. Metabolites also ensure that there is very little chance of an allergic reaction.

Lactic acid peels are mild, and that makes them a good choice for anyone trying a peel for the first time. They are especially good for sensitive skin and mature skin, but are effective with dry or oily skin also.

Lactic acid is thick, sticky, and yellowish; glycolic acid is clear and watery. Both peels produce results, but lactic acid peels are less harsh and tend to fade hyperpigmentation better.

Citric Acid

Lemons and oranges are high in citric acid, which increases skin cell turnover and sloughs off discolorations, but lemon juice has the highest concentration. Citric acid is a natural bleaching agent and is one of the best ingredients for clarifying the skin and ridding it of the red marks left by acne.

Use lemon juice undiluted. Dab it on the red marks with a cotton pad and let dry. You can also keep the juice in a spray bottle and give the marks a spritz—but no more than three times a day.

red acne scars treatment

Microneedling

how to get rid of red marks from acne

Microneedling is also known as collagen induction therapy. Dermatologists have used it for decades to treat facial scars, but you now can do it yourself with the available and affordable dermarollers or microneedling devices on the market.

The device is covered with tiny, shallow needles that poke micro-channels (tiny holes) into the skin surface. The resulting “micro injury” signals the skin to heal itself, and the skin steps up collagen and elastin production in response. The process works wonders on discolorations and general skin rejuvenation.

You needn't be concerned that tissues are being destroyed during microneedling. The small channels close very quickly and begin healing immediately.

Note: This probably isn't necessary to point out, but if you’re afraid of needles, you'll want to pass on this treatment.

Silicone Gel Sheets

how to get rid of red marks from acne
how to get rid of red marks from acne

ScarAway Silicone Daily Discs, $45

Another option for getting rid of those red marks is silicone gel sheets. The sheets are sticky, often clear pads that speed up healing and restore discolored skin. They are especially effective with red marks that have been on your skin for a long time, which can be especially tricky to get rid of.

They're also easily applied with self-adhesive, and are latex and drug free. It takes the place of normal, healthy skin in increasing hydration and temperature at the site of the red mark. The sheet softens the red mark's tissue, curbs its development, and causes it to fade away in a very short time.

Silicone gel sheets are convenient and comfortable. They are breathable, flexible, and washable so you can put it on before you sleep (or whenever you're going to be home) and forget about it as it does its part to get rid of your red spots.

Arnica Cream

red acne scars treatment

Murad Skin Soothing Serum Redness Therapy, $26

Arnica is derived from the Arnica montana plant, which contains the ingredients thymol and helenalin, strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents, respectively. Full strength, arnica is toxic and causes many adverse reactions, including bruising. However, diluted hundreds and hundreds of times, it works in a way similar to how vaccines work—it cures what it could have caused. For our purposes here, it is a miracle worker in fading those bruises and those pesky post acne red marks.

Arnica cream has no odor or sting and leaves no greasiness behind. It is easy to apply and stays in place. An arnica oil is available, arnica combined with olive oil or sunflower oil, but application can get messy. Instead, we recommend a serum which has smaller particles that can deep into your skin to combat the redness. The best one? Murad's Sensitive Skin Soothing Serum - it's specially formulated for red marks and contains arnica as well as other beneficial ingredients to get rid of red spots fast. 

Note: Since the plant contains toxins such as helenalin, arnica must never be taken internally or applied to broken skin.

Onion Extract Gel

red acne scars treatment

Mederma Advanced Scar Gel, $11

The wisdom of putting raw onion on acne is not just some half-baked folksy remedy - not only does the sulfur in raw onion help to soothe and combat active acne, but certain bioflavonoids in onions - such as quercetin, kaempferol, and cepalin - have been found to be effective in improving the overall appearance, texture, redness, and softness of scars. 

​Of course, you don't want to go juicing raw onions to make an extract. Instead, opt for a ready-made cream like Mederma's Advanced Scar Gel, which contains both soothing allantoin as well as onion bulb extract.

Natural Oils

Everyone's heard of the skin benefits of coconut oil and olive oil but if that's where your natural oil collection stops - you're missing out, especially when it comes to acne scars.

The truth is, there are natural oil you may not have heard of that are remarkable for not just moisturizing skin, but helping your skin regenerate and repair itself. The best ones for getting rid of red marks? Here are our top 3 picks...

Sea Buckthorn Oil

Sea Buckthorn Oil is extracted from the seeds of the orange berries of the sea blackthorn shrub that grows in the mountainous and coastal areas of Asia and Europe.

But you don't care about that - you want to know what it can do for your skin.

For starters, it's super rich in antioxidants like Vitamin A, C, E as well as omega fatty acids that aid in alleviating inflammatory skin conditions and accelerate the healing of red marks and wounds.

Tamanu Oil

In the South Pacific, the tamanu tree produces fruit similar to apples. The fruit has seeds and those seeds contain the “magical” tamanu oil. So what makes this oil magical? For starters, it's incredibly healing with potent antioxidant, antineuralgic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antibiotic properties, which is why it's long been used to treat patients with extreme burns and ulcers.

It also contains a number of lipids not usually found in other oils, including calophyllic acid that works in healing acne and the residual red marks. The distinction of tamanu oil is its reputation as the best cicatrization (the ability to form new tissue). It repairs and restructures your skin and reduces the time of healing those marks.

Overall, tamanu oil is hands down one of the best skin regeneration oils around. And it works as well to heal acne scars and spots as it does for burns.

Rosehip Seed Oil

Also called "liquid gold," Rosehip Seed Oil boasts an impressively high concentration of retinoic acid, a derivative of Vitamin A and the “superstar” of skin care which is renowned for its ability to stimulate cell turnover and regenerate damaged skin.

Which is why Rosehip seed oil is one of the most powerful oils for eliminating acne marks once and for all. Vitamin A boosts the healing system of our body, speeding up the recovery process. In addition, rosehip stimulates blood circulation, which increases the process of forming new healthy layers of the skin. It is brimming with fatty acids and nutrients that contribute to its effectiveness.

Note: Use a high-quality rosehip oil: cold pressed, unrefined, organic, and from Chile. “Rosehip seed oil" and "rosehip oil" are the same thing. Rose oil is not.

Emu Oil

Emu Oil is a relatively new kid on the natural oil scene - except to the Australian aborigines who have been using it for thousands of years to treat skin conditions.

Before we go on, you should know that emu oil is the only natural oil on this list that's not extracted from plants and thus, not vegan friendly. In fact, Emu oil is extracted from the thick fat on the backs of emus, ostrich-like Australian birds.

Its claim to fame? Emu oil can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, while it's hypo-allergenic and non-toxic. Emu oil is rich in omega fatty acids, properties that minimize the appearance of scars and promote the skin’s natural healing process.

We hope that you will take these options and find which will work for you. There's no need to continue living with those red marks on your face. You will feel better and your skin will thank you.

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Benny - October 27, 2016

Lovely article! After 5 long months of battleing my acne is finaly gone! Next: the red underskin dots. Thanks for the tips.

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