Scars are the result of a biologic process designed to repair wounds in the skin and other tissues. With the exception of the most minor ones, many wounds eventually result in some level of scarring.
There are several different methods for treating scars, and depending on the method in which they formed, treatment immediately after an injury can be very important.
How Scars Form
When the dermis, a thick layer of deep skin, is damaged, the formation of scars begin. The body forms new collagen fibers to mend the damage—these are proteins that naturally occur in the body, and they cause the actual scar itself. The scar will have a different texture than surrounding tissue and won’t form until the wound has healed.
Scars are often flat and pale, but they can also be raised (called hypertrophic scars or keloid scars). Both of these kinds of scars are more common in younger and darker-skinned people. Scars can also look sunken or pitted, which happens when underlying support structures like fat or muscle are lost. They might also look like stretched skin, often as a result of pregnancy or growth spurts where the skin stretches rapidly.
Wound Care After Injuries
The appearance of a scar often depends on how well the wound heals before it forms. In the case of scars caused by injuries like skinned knees or deep scratches, there are several things you can do immediately to reduce the appearance of scars:
- • Keep the injury clean: Gently wash with mild soap and water to remove germs and debris.
- • Use petroleum jelly: This keeps the wound moist and prevents it from forming a scab, which causes wounds to take longer to heal. It also prevents a scar from getting too large, deep or itchy.
- • Cover with an adhesive bandage: After cleaning the wound and applying petroleum jelly, cover the skin with an adhesive bandage. Use hydrogel or silicone gel sheets if you’re dealing with large scrapes, sores, burns or redness.
- • Change the bandage daily: Follow any and all package directions, and use non-adhesive gauze pads if you have sensitive skin.
- • Follow doctor’s advice on stitches: If your wound requires stitches, follow all doctor advice to minimize scar appearance.
- • Apply sunscreen: Sun protection can reduce discoloration and help the scar fade more quickly.
Scar Treatment Techniques
Other treatments and techniques for reducing problematic scars such as keloid and hypertrophic scars include:
- • Surgery: Surgery cannot remove a scar, but it can alter a shape or make a scar less noticeable. Surgery is not recommended for raised scars due to the risk of recurring scars or worsening scars after treatment.
- • Steroid injections: Over a long-term course of steroid injections, scars may flatten out or improve in appearance.
- • Radiotherapy: A low dose of radiotherapy prevents recurrence of severe raised scarring.
- • Dermabrasion: This is the removal of surface skin with special equipment. It’s useful for raised scars, but less useful for sunken scars.
- • Laser resurfacing: This is a similar procedure to dermabrasion, removing the surface layer of skin with lasers. Newer types of laser resurfacing may be able to affect collagen in the dermis without removing layers of skin, which can result in less down time.
- • Filler injections: Treatments to raise sunken scars up to the level of normal skin. These are only temporary, though, and will need to be repeated regularly
Several over-the-counter topical products are available that claim to improve scars, but they are not generally effective.
If you’re dealing with persistent scarring, consult with your doctor.
Our physicians are board-certified with the American Board of Plastic Surgery, making them some of the most qualified providers in the nation to handle both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery procedures. Our staff will work with you to determine your options and goals and make sure you feel comfortable throughout your treatment.
“Scars and Your Skin.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/scars
“Proper wound care: How to minimize a scar.” American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/injured-skin/wound-care