Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/1/2021
It’s one of the hottest ingredients in modern skincare. Used in everything from facial creams to serums, scrubs and more, hyaluronic acid is a modern do-anything ingredient that you can find in a huge range of skincare products.
Over the last few years, hyaluronic acid has also attracted attention as a potential treatment for scarring left behind by outbreaks of inflamed, cystic acne.
Like many other hot skincare ingredients, separating the reality of hyaluronic acid from the hype isn’t always easy. That’s something we’ve covered in our Hyaluronic Acid 101 guide, which goes into detail on how hyaluronic acid works as a skincare ingredient.
Below, we’ve also looked at the specificity of how hyaluronic acid can work as a treatment for acne scarring. If you’ve got pit scars, boxcar scars or other common scars from acne, keep reading to learn how hyaluronic acid could be useful as a treatment option.
Dealing with scarring from acne can be a seriously difficult experience. Because acne scars can penetrate deep into your skin, repairing them is often just as much about filling the tissue under the scar as it is about smoothing out the surface of your skin.
Right now, the scientific evidence shows that hyaluronic acid can be effective as a treatment for acne scars. However, the results you’ll get from hyaluronic acid depend on the way you use it—as an injectable dermal filler, or as a topical treatment.
Hyaluronic acid is one of the most popular dermal fillers available. It’s widely used, generally with good results, as a facial filler to make wrinkles, nasolabial folds and other signs of aging less visible.
Studies show that hyaluronic acid works well as an anti-aging dermal filler. It also works very well as a treatment for acne scars. In a 2013 study, researchers found that patients with acne scars experienced an “immediate visual improvement” after getting hyaluronic acid injections.
The side effects of hyaluronic acid injections were limited, with the patients who received the fillers experiencing no adverse effects other than pinpoint bleeding at the injection site. In short, when used as an injectable filler, hyaluronic acid works instantly in some people and works well for making acne scars less visible.
Interested in learning more about using dermal filler to treat acne scars? We’ve covered the benefits of hyaluronic acid fillers, as well as other treatments, for fixing acne scarring in our guide to getting rid of cystic acne scars.
Unfortunately, there’s far less evidence that topical hyaluronic acid works as a treatment for acne scars.
In one study from 2017, researchers worked with 36 patients (26 women and 10 men) with atrophic acne scarring.
The patients were divided into two groups: One group received CO2 fractional ablative laser treatment, while the other received the CO2 fractional ablative laser treatment and a topical hyaluronic acid serum.
After three months of treatment, the patients who received hyaluronic acid in addition to the laser treatment had significantly enhanced results when compared to the patients who only received the laser treatment.
The researchers that conducted this study believe that topical hyaluronic acid could have a synergistic effect with Fractional CO2 laser treatment—a factor that could explain the better result in patients who received both treatments.
It’s important to remember that this study wasn’t of hyaluronic acid on its own, meaning the results can’t be attributed solely to hyaluronic acid. Despite this, it’s an interesting study that shows hyaluronic acid might have benefits as a topical treatment for acne scarring.
Used as an injectable filler, hyaluronic acid works very well as a treatment for acne scars. It produces an immediate, measurable improvement that can last for several months, helping people with acne scarring enjoy an improved appearance and increased confidence.
Used topically, it’s hard to say that hyaluronic acid works as a treatment for acne scars. While it might be an effective treatment on its own, there just isn’t enough scientific evidence to say this with any level of certainty.
This doesn’t mean that topical hyaluronic acid isn’t effective, just that there isn’t enough data to prove that it works right now.
In the future, when more study data is available, topical hyaluronic acid could become a widely used treatment for acne scarring. However, right now, it’s generally better to stick with proven, science-backed treatments if you’d like to get rid of your inflamed or cystic acne scarring.
Do you have scarring from inflamed or cystic acne? A wide range of treatments are available for scars left over from acne breakouts, from surgical procedures like punch excision and elevation to laser resurfacing, dermal fillers and more.
Our guide to getting rid of cystic acne scars goes into more detail on the most common types of cystic and inflamed acne scarring, as well as the most effective treatments for filling in scars and evening out the surface of your skin.