How To Make Acne Scars Look Better Overnight

It’s a hell of a paradox: Zits certainly pop up overnight, but their shadows — dark or red scars — seem to last an eternity. In an era in which we can plump lips, erase wrinkles, brighten complexions, and fix loads of other skin concerns in a matter of days, shouldn’t we be able to diminish acne scars with a swiftness, too? It’s a question we took to New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, who immediately corrected us on one major technicality.

It turns out, the stuff we’re calling acne scars (red or dark marks that fade over time) aren’t even scars to begin with. “A brown or a red spot is not permanent and usually resolves in several weeks to months,” Dr. Zeichner explains. “A true scar, on the other hand, is permanent and caused by collagen damage that leaves behind a depressed or raised bump in the skin.”


We’re feeling better already. If you're looking for instant results, Dr. Zeichner tells us that in-office treatments like Fraxel, can help blast away pigmentation. But those of us with lighter wallets are also in luck. From mattifiers and primers to active serums and creams, find the MD’s ultimate guide to stamping out acne scars once and for all, ahead.

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Instant Fixes For Scars

“Skin primers, mattifiers, and pore-refining products may help improve the appearance of acne scars,” Dr. Zeichner explains. “The silicone-based products sit on the surface of the skin and fill in the scars to temporarily provide a smooth appearance.” This mattifying primer contains a silicone derivative and tint to help hide dark spots.
Dr. Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner Primer, $45.00 Buy
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Unlike many serums, which have a goopy texture, this one wields the consistency and mattifying finish of a primer (thanks to the included silicone), while delivering a swift dose of skin-brightening vitamin C.
Zo Skin Health C-Bright Serum 10% Vitamin C, $93.00 Buy
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Long-Term Fixes For Redness

“For red blotches, what’s known as post-inflammatory erythema, my best recommendation is to continue treating the skin with your acne medication,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Continue to use products that contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to help treat inflammation under the skin that contributes to the red blotches.”

These peel pads contain a potent, 20% cocktail of acids to tackle inflammation (salicylic acid), soothe skin (oleanolic acid), exfoliate (glycolic, lactic, and phytic acid) and even tone.
Kerstin Florian Correcting At-Home Professional Peel - 20 percent (50 piece), $78.00 Buy
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This resurfacing treatment contains both salicylic acid and niacinamide (two ingredients that can help reduce red spots caused by acne, according to Dr. Zeichner), along with 25% alpha hydroxy acids (including glycolic, lactic, and tartaric) to smooth and brighten skin. Just be sure to spot test it first; it's incredibly effective and mild for most people, but some of our testers did find it irritating.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™, $80.00 Buy
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Our beef with many overnight masks? Their thick, creamy formulas often seem to seep into our pillowcases more than our skin. This lightweight gel quickly absorbs and contains both of Dr. Zeichner’s star ingredients (salicylic acid and niacinamide) for fading lingering red spots. What’s more, it’s also built with glycolic and hyaluronic acids to hydrate as it brightens.
Allies Of Skin Bright Future Overnight Facial, $120.00 Buy
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Long Term Fixes For Dark Spots

“If your acne has resolved leaving behind a brown spot, you can look for skin lightening ingredients like niacinamide or vitamin C,” Dr. Zeichner advises. This colorless, liquid-gel serum contains both of Dr. Zeicher’s recommended ingredients along with ferulic acid and vitamin E.
Goldfaden MD Brightening Elixir, 30ml, $80.00 Buy
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Designed to be used as a last step in a nighttime skin-care routine, this silky mattifying cream contains a potent 25% vitamin C to help minimize dark spots and is packaged in a travel-friendly tube so you won't skimp on your routine when you're away.
Paula's Choice C25 Super Booster, $55.00 Buy
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This concentrated cream made with 10% vitamin C and 2% Ferulic acid (something that has been shown in studies to help stabilize vitamin C) is geared as a spot treatment to help fade dark patches on the skin.
Peter Thomas Roth PETER THOMAS ROTH Potent-C™ Targeted Spot Brightener, $58.00 Buy
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Preventing Scars

“Topical retinoids enhance cell turnover and can help brighten the skin as well,” Dr. Zeichner says. Retinol joins vitamin C in this milky treatment that smells like a green juice (its ingredients were cold-pressed) and is super gentle on skin.
Kat Burki SPACE.NK.apothecary Kat Burki Retin-C Treatment Complex, $165.00 Buy
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Licorice, niacinamide, retinol — the whole party of dark spot reducers can be found in this derm-created formula created for those working to ward off hyperpigmentation, whether caused by the sun or a long-gone zit.
Specific Beauty Intensive Skin Brightening Serum, $60.00 Buy
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After finally ridding ourselves of a blemish, the last thing we want to do is pile on an oil-rich cream to fade dark spots. This oil-free formulation doesn’t feel greasy on skin and is dispensed from a narrow tube, allowing for more targeted application where we need it.
RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, $24.99 Buy
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Sunscreen is key for preventing everything from hyperpigmentation and scarring to fine lines and, you know, skin cancer — but this is not just any sunscreen. If you want your preventative sun protection to come with antioxidant-rich moisture and a lush, dewy finish that leaves skin bright and smooth while nourishing it in the long run, this luxe formula is for you.
Vive Sana Serum Crema SPF 20, $75.00 Buy
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