First came the acne and then came the fully-loaded pile of salicylic acid cleansers, benzoyl peroxide creams, and spot treatments. Now all that remains are the ghosts of pimples past: acne scars — and they can haunt you long after the initial breakout has gone away.
The hard truth is that nothing you can buy over-the-counter will be as effective for deep-seated scarring as a derm-recommended prescription or in-office procedure, but there are plenty of at-home skin-care products that do a damn good job of fading the dark spots faster.
Ahead, the best scar-lightening serums, peels, toners, and more that can help get you one step closer to the even-toned complexion you had before that massive breakout. Consider those ghosts busted.
These pre-soaked pads are a much more sophisticated, way less harsh version of the medicated Oxy pads you probably scrubbed your face with growing up. It’s loaded with salicylic and glycolic acids, plus a blend of antioxidants to clear pores and even out your skin tone — in just 60 seconds.
M-61 PowerGlow Peel, $28 for 10 treatments, available at BlueMercury.
This acne spot-fading gel does exactly what it says it will. It won’t make a huge difference on existing zits — you’ll need Rouleau’s other spot treatments for that — but it’s specifically formulated for post-breakout skin, to treat leftover dark spots straight away.
Renée Rouleau Post-Breakout Fading Gel, $38.50, available at Renée Rouleau.
Vitamin C is best known for its brightening abilities, and yes, the essential ingredient is great for making dull skin look more vibrant. But it also has a less-advertised perk, which is that it can work gangbusters on erasing redness. This serum features 20% of the stuff, so it works lightening-fast at fading discoloration.
Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Serum, $95, available at Sephora.
Because breaking up pigmentation with papaya and pineapple fruit enzymes and reducing overall discoloration with a potent brightening blend of vitamins and extracts wasn’t enough, this lightweight serum goes one step further, with a probiotic balancing complex that maintains the integrity of the skin’s pH.
Dr. Brandt Bright Biotic Dark Spot Minimizing Serum, $55, available at Dermstore.
Best known for their unparalleled ability to fight fine lines and acne in record time, retinoids also flex their muscle in the presence of acne scars. This one’s gentle enough for sensitive types, and features vitamin C — the perfect package deal.
MDComplete Citrus-C Healthy Complexion, $24.99, available at MDComplete.
This incredibly effective new moisturizer was made for brightening, but it goes above and beyond the call of duty with smoothing glycolic and lactic acids, exfoliating fruit enzymes, and naturally-hydrating squalane. It’s basically a one-and-done for all your dark spot-fading, dullness-fighting needs.
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Glow Moisturizer, $65, available at Kate Somerville.
A powerful acne-scar fighter that comes in toner form? Believe it. This one is infused with a peony extract, vitamin C, and licorice root extract to visibly brighten, plump, and hydrate.
Fresh Peony Brightening Moisturizing Facial Toner, $60, available at Fresh.
This cult-favorite product — which contains a potent mix of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin — really brings the big guns: It protects against free radicals, evens out the skin tone, and diminishes both dullness and dark spots.
SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Gel, $163, available at SkinCeuticals.
Disregard the name; this isn’t a skin-bleaching product. But, the kojic acid and licorice root in this mask do fade acne scars and age spots in record time.
Mario Badescu Whitening Mask, $24, available at Mario Badescu.
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