If you have struggled with cystic acne, you are undoubtedly familiar with the aftermath this inflammatory condition leaves on the skin.
Not only does it wreck your confidence while there, but it also continues to do so long after it’s gone.
This is because it leaves behind scars, some of which can be just as difficult to get rid of as acne itself, and others that are permanent unless you take action.
The good news is that there are a number of ways that can help reduce the appearance of acne scars, such as light-therapy treatments, microneedling, etc.
However, we all know these treatments can be expensive and usually require multiple sessions and additional downtime to give decent results.
So, while they are ultimately the most effective against acne scars, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve this skin concern at home and on a budget.
This is why, in this article, I will talk about a brand that makes fantastic and affordable products to target acne scars: The Ordinary.
The Ordinary is a skincare brand known for its affordable, no-frills approach to skincare.
They are vegan, cruelty-free, and use simple, efficacious ingredients clinically proven to work at a fraction of the price of other luxury skincare brands.
What’s not to love about that?
Now, let’s get into the best The Ordinary products for acne scars.
How I Reviewed Each Product?
Having used many of The Ordinary products myself, I know they are high-quality and effective even though they are approachable on every budget.
However, not every product is suitable for everyone, and while some might work for one skin type, they might not work as well for someone with a different skin type, even if the skin concern is the same.
So, to find the best The Ordinary products for acne scars, I took into consideration the following factors:
- Their ingredients.
- How well each product works on acne scars and different skin types.
- How well each product works on other skin concerns often associated with acne scars (such as redness, inflammation, and texture.)
- & of course, reviews from users with similar skin concerns.
Based on these criteria, I have compiled a list of what I believe are the ten best The Ordinary products for acne scars.
Best The Ordinary Products For Acne Scars Summary
|Best||The Ordinary Products for Acne Scars|
|Overall||Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum|
|For Post-Inflammatory Red Spots||Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream|
|For Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation||Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Hyperpigmentation Serum|
|For Sensitive Skin & Acne Scars||Lactic Acid 5% + 2% HA|
|For Dry Skin & Acne Scars||Mandelic Acid 10% + HA|
|For Oily Skin & Acne Scars||Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Blemish Serum|
|For Boxcar Acne Scars||Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution|
|For Ice Pick Acne Scars||Hyaluronic Acid + B5 Hydrating Serum|
|For Hypertrophic Acne Scars||100% Plant-Derived Squalane|
|For All Type of Acne Scars||Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion|
The Ordinary – Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum is a gel-like serum designed to brighten the skin, even out skin tone, and reduce the appearance of blemishes. The serum has a lightweight texture easily absorbed by the skin and is suitable for those with ultra-sensitive and reactive skin.
Hydrating and antioxidant niacinamide helps balance out oil production and reduce pore-clogging
Sensitive, oily, combination, normal. acne-prone, and mature skin
Niacinamide + Concentration of Zinc
To balance visible aspects of sebum activity, thereby reducing the appearance of textural irregularities, enlarged pores and visible shine
Alchohol-free, oil-free, silicon-free, vegan, gluten free, and cruelty free
The Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum is one of The Ordinary’s most popular products due to its efficacy and lightweight consistency that’s easily absorbed by the skin.
It contains the superstar antioxidant niacinamide, a fantastic component for all skin types that helps brighten and even out the complexion, fade dark spots left after acne has healed, and calm inflammation.
Additionally, niacinamide also helps strengthen the skin barrier, and this will help heal the broken blood vessels under the skin that often manifest themselves as red spots after a pimple has healed.
Furthermore, the serum contains zinc PCA to help soothe active inflammation on the skin and reduce redness, making the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum ideal for all skin types dealing with acne scars, including sensitive skin that’s prone to inflammatory reactions.
Lastly, the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum is so gentle that it can be used up to twice a day and combined with other active ingredients such as vitamin C and retinoids to target various skin concerns.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum Pros:
- Lightweight consistency that’s easily absorbed.
- Helps brighten and even out skin tone.
- Reduces the appearance of blemishes.
- Suitable for ultra-sensitive and reactive skin.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Oil Control Serum Cons:
- It can pill on the skin if used along with silicone-based products.
Best for Post-Inflammatory Red Spots:
The Ordinary – Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream
Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream is a lightweight cream formulated to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone and texture, as well as reduce the appearance of post-inflammatory erythema or red spots that remain on the skin after acne has healed.
Features Azelaic Acid
To help diminish post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Excellent for soothing acne, redness, and post-inflammatory red spots
Can be used by all skin types, including sensitive and reactive skin
Dries down into a matte finish
The Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream is a fantastic product for those dealing with post-inflammatory red spots.
It comes in a tube with a lightweight cream consistency that spreads on the skin easily and provides a matte finish once it’s dried.
The product works for all skin types, and its goal is to help brighten and even out the complexion, fade pigmented acne scars, reduce enlarged pores, and calm inflammation.
It’s also perfect for those who are dealing with permanent inflammatory conditions such as rosacea and dermatitis, as it will help soothe the skin and reduce redness.
Lastly, the Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream is one of those products that can be used both morning and evening, and it works great with any other active ingredient.
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream Pros:
- Matte finish.
- Reduces the appearance of post-inflammatory red spots.
- Suitable for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin.
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension Brightening Cream Cons:
- It can pill when used with other silicone-based products.
Best for Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation:
The Ordinary – Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Hyperpigmentation Serum
Melanin-inhibiting alpha arbutin
To help fade dark spots left from old acne
Tone and Texture
Excellent for evening out the skin tone and texture
Hydrating hyaluronic acid
To help the skin retain moisture
Helps reduce environmental and UV damage to the skin
The Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Serum comes in a small bottle and has a lightweight watery texture that’s easily absorbed by the skin.
The main active ingredient inside the formula is alpha arbutin, a pigment-inhibiting agent that helps neutralize the enzymes that are triggering excess melanin production and fade dark spots while evening out the skin tone.
Additionally, the serum also contains hyaluronic acid, a molecule that can hold 1000x its weight in water and is known for its ability to deeply hydrate the skin and keep it plump.
This makes the Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA serum an ideal choice for all skin types, including those with dry and dehydrated skin prone to acne.
It can also be used up to twice daily and followed up with sunscreen in the morning for maximum benefits.
The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Hyperpigmentation Serum Pros:
- Has a lightweight, watery texture that absorbs easily.
- Fades dark spots and evens out skin tone.
- Suitable for all skin types, including those with dry skin.
The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Hyperpigmentation Serum Cons:
Best for Sensitive Skin & Acne Scars:
The Ordinary – Lactic Acid 5% + 2% HA
Evens Skin Tone
Moisturizing lactic acid gently exfoliates the skin to even out the skin tone and fade hyperpigmentation
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidants
Help restore the skin’s moisture barrier
Hydrating hyaluronic acid
For maintaining smoothness and suppleness
Can be used on its own or alongside other active ingredients
The Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% Exfoliating Serum is an excellent option for those dealing with dry, dehydrated, acne-prone skin and acne scarring.
Lactic acid is a type of AHA known for its ability to hydrate and soften the skin and improve the appearance of dryness and flakiness.
It does this by working on the superficial skin layer and encouraging the skin cells that are tightly packed together to shed naturally and reveal a brighter and more uniform complexion.
The formula also contains 2% hyaluronic acid, which only adds to the hydrating properties of the serum.
However, even though gentle, moisturizing, and softening, the Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% is still an exfoliating serum and shouldn’t be used more than 2-3 times a week. It’s also best used in an evening routine and followed up with sunscreen in the morning.
Lastly, the Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% Exfoliating Serum has a gel-like consistency that can feel a little tacky on the skin if not followed up with a moisturizer, so that’s something to keep in mind when using it.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% Exfoliating Serum Pros:
- Provides gentle exfoliation.
- Hydrates and softens the skin.
- Reduces hyperpigmented and red acne scars.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% Exfoliating Serum Cons:
- Can be tacky on the skin.
Best for Dry Skin & Acne Scars:
The Ordinary – Mandelic Acid 10% + HA
Mandelic Acid 10% + HA is a lightweight serum with a silky consistency formulated with gentle ingredients that work to soothe and exfoliate the skin and improve the appearance of dryness, dehydration, enlarged pores, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmented scars left from acne.
Has an ultra-nourishing and softening consistency thanks to the presence of moisturizing emollients.
Mandelic acid gently lifts impurities off the skin’s surface and unclogs pores
Instantly reveals a brighter, smoother, glowier complexion
Delivers humectant activitiy to help the skin retain moisture and remain hydrated and supple
The main active ingredient in the Mandelic Acid 10% + HA serum is mandelic acid, an AHA known for its ability to increase cellular turnover and promote a healthier, glowier, and blemish-free complexion.
The formula has a lightweight consistency that leaves somewhat of a silky feeling on the skin that fully dissipates after a little while, thanks to propanediol which acts as a solvent, moisturizer, and softening agent in the serum.
Suitable for all skin types, and especially for dry, sensitive skin, The Ordinary’s Mandelic Acid 10% + HA can be made a part of an evening skincare routine and can be used up to three times a week for best results and no irritation.
The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA Pros:
- Gentle and hydrating.
- Lightweight and silky texture.
- Exfoliates the skin without overdrying it.
The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA Cons:
- Can be a bit tacky and greasy for oily skin.
Best for Oily Skin & Acne Scars:
The Ordinary – Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Blemish Serum
Is a beta hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin and helps reduce red spots left from old acne
Master exfoliator salicylic acid helps dissolve pore-clogging gunk and push impurities out of the skin
This formula should not be used on sensitive, peeling or compromised skin
Strengthens Your Skin
By encouraging healthy flow of natural oil
The Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Blemish Solution is a water-based serum with a runny, liquidy consistency that instantly absorbs into the skin and leaves a natural, slightly matte finish on the surface.
Formulated with 2% salicylic acid, a BHA known for its ability to exfoliate the skin’s superficial layer of dead cells but also unclog pores, dissolve cellular debris that’s causing pimple formation, and reduce inflammation on the skin, the Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Blemish solution is quite a multitasking serum.
Excellent for anyone dealing with active inflammation, blotchiness, frequent breakouts, and hyperpigmented or red scarring from previous breakouts, the serum can be used morning or night up to three times a week depending on the severity of the blemishes and scars.
It’s also important not to forget to follow it up with sunscreen in the morning, as salicylic acid can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Blemish Solution Pros:
- Treats active blemishes and reduces inflammation.
- Helps unclog pores and prevents future breakouts.
- Exfoliates the skin to brighten the complexion and improve the appearance of scarring.
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Blemish Solution Cons:
- May dry out the skin if used too frequently.
- Can cause a purge in the beginning.
Best for Boxcar Acne Scars:
The Ordinary – Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution
Makes it absorb easily into the skin and deliver instant results
Dissolves dead skin cells
To reveal a brighter, smoother, and more uniform complexion
Antibacterial and anti-fungal
Activity helps neutralise bacterial and yeast overgrowth on the skin and reduce breakouts
Dark spots, uneven skin tone, and rough skin texture
The Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution is a water-based toner with a runny, liquidy consistency formulated with glycolic acid, an AHA known for its ability to exfoliate the skin’s superficial layer of dead cells and improve the appearance of uneven skin tone.
But another thing glycolic acid does very well is smoothing out uneven skin texture, especially depressed types of texture, such as boxcar scars left from acne, due to its ability to speed up cellular turnover and thus promote collagen production.
However, since glycolic acid is a potent active ingredient, the skin might need some time to get used to it. This is why The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution is best used once to twice weekly as a part of an evening routine.
It’s also important to be diligent with sunscreen application as glycolic acid can cause the skin to become more sensitive to the sun and susceptible to sunburns.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution Pros:
- Treats uneven skin texture and brightens the complexion.
- Can be used on both raised and depressed scars.
- Water-based and lightweight.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution Cons:
- Can be irritating and drying in the beginning.
- Makes the skin more susceptible to sunburns.
Best for Ice Pick Acne Scars:
The Ordinary – Hyaluronic Acid + B5 Hydrating Serum
Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum is a lightweight serum with a gel-like consistency formulated to plump the skin and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and areas of the skin where severe acne has occurred and has led to collagen loss and the formation of ice-pick depressions.
Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid
Gives the complexion a beautiful glow and helps strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier
Antioxidant Vitamin B5
Helps nourish the skin and reverse damage done by environmental aggressors and excessive UV exposure
All skin types and combined with other active ingredients
Excellent for filling out atrophic skin scarring due to past acne or injury
The Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum is a water-based serum formulated with hyaluronic acid, a humectant known to hold onto water and plump the skin.
But besides being excellent for replenishing lost moisture in the skin, hyaluronic acid can actually improve the appearance of depressions such as atrophic acne scarring, particularly ice-pick scarring, which occur when there is a loss of collagen in the skin due to severe inflammation.
The hydrating serum also contains vitamin B5, which helps soothe active inflammation on the skin and speed up healing.
This is why the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Serum is suitable for all skin types and conditions and can be used both mornings and evenings after cleansing and before other actives.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum Pros:
- Helps improve depressions in the skin caused by collagen loss.
- Plumps the skin and holds onto moisture.
- Suitable for all skin types and skin conditions.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum Cons:
Best for Hypertrophic Acne Scars:
The Ordinary – 100% Plant-Derived Squalane
Squalane helps soften and nourish the skin and improve the look of hypertrophic scarring
Makes skin feel replenished and supple
Supports the formation of skin-restoring ceramides
Sustainably sourced, vegan, non-comedogenic, and cruelty-free
All skin types
The Ordinary’s 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is a lightweight oil that can be used after a moisturizer to soften the skin and help improve dryness while making the skin beautifully radiant and plump.
But what makes this particular oil so special is that it can actually help soften hypertrophic or raised scars that can sometimes form as a result of abnormal collagen production due to injury or trauma to the skin.
Squalane is a component naturally found in our skin oil and plays an important role in supporting a healthy barrier function and encouraging the skin to heal and repair itself.
And while squalane alone likely won’t get rid of the raised scar, it can drastically minimize it over a period of time with consistent use.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Pros:
- Lightweight and non-greasy.
- Softens and plumps the skin.
- Can help soften hypertrophic scars.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane Cons:
Best for All Type of Acne Scars:
The Ordinary – Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
The Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is the product that will help improve all types of acne scarring, including red and hyperpigmented scars but also atrophic scarring, due to its ability to increase cellular turnover and stimulate collagen production to fill in the depressions left on the skin due to collagen loss.
Gentle retinoid alternative
Helps improve the skin’s health and appearance without causing peeling and irritations
Helps purge clogged pores
Reduces the appearance of active acne
Clears red spots left from old acne
Helps unify the complexion
Evens out uneven skin tone, and smooths out rough, bumpy texture
The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is a gentle, oil-free formula that delivers a potent anti-aging and anti-acne powerhouse into your skin.
The Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR), which is the main active ingredient in this product, is an advanced form of retinoid, a non-prescription ester of all-trans retinoic acid.
This means that The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is a more gentle version of prescription retinoids that is also very effective but way less irritating than prescription strengths.
Besides being an excellent product for purging clogs and active acne, the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is also excellent for fading red and hyperpigmented acne scars and improving the look of atrophic acne scars such as boxcar and rolling scars.
Lastly, while this product is more suitable for oily skin, it can work with all skin types, as long as you have a deeply hydrating moisturizer that will prevent it from drying out your skin.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion Pros:
- Reduces the appearance of acne.
- Stimulates collagen production to improve atrophic scarring.
- Suitable for all skin types, especially oily skin.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion Cons:
- It will cause peeling and purging in the beginning.