Scars can have both a psychological as well as a physical effect on sufferers, and for smaller children and teenagers these can manifest in stubborn psychological problems and irrational childhood fears. Avoidance of scars is always best, however, sometimes life happens and finding effective means of removing them becomes the focus of many.
What is a scar? In short, any wound, for instance from surgery, repairs itself by creating collagen to reconnect the broken skin. In this process, a scab develops over the wound to protect the wound from infection. Once the wound has healed, the scab falls off. Unfortunately, a scar may remain.
There are various types of scars, ranging from normal fine-line scars, keloid scars, hypertrophic scars, sunken or pitted scars, to acne scars, or even scar contractures. All of these are caused by injury to the skin. Skin also reacts differently, whether it be sinking, overproduction of collagen, or leaving behind a visible, smooth, white patch. Other than applying makeup to camouflage the skin, there are techniques that can be used to conceal scars. Even though a scar never fades, there are ways of treating it by reducing its size as well as appearance, fading the scar. This procedure normally takes two years, after which it is unlikely that any more fading will occur.
What Are The Various Scar Treatment Options Available?
- Surgical scar removal
If the scar is deep or caused by a burn, a skin graft may be used to cover the area. Besides skin grafts, liquid skin grafts, the cellutome epidermal harvesting system, using of skin grafts from genetically modified pigs, dermabrasion (or microdermabrasion for smaller scars), or laser surgery may be used to minimize the appearance of a scar.
Steroid injections are useful for keloid and hypertrophic scars, in which the collagen has resulted in an overgrowth of this scar tissue. In cases in which there is a sunken scar, collagen injections may be used to fill the area, although the results may only be temporary.
- Micro needling
Other than injecting collagen into the skin, microneedling may be used. Tiny needle holes are made in the surface of the skin. This stimulates the production of collagen, which in turn helps to reduce the appearance of a scar.
- Prescription or over-the-counter topical treatments
These products include gels, creams, and ointments, using either commercial or natural elements such as Aloe Vera, emu oil, sunflower, vitamins C and E, cocoa-butter cream, or medical grade silicone. For instance, vitamin C serums assist in avoiding discoloration, and ameliorating a dark brown pigmentation scar. Such products may be prescribed by a plastic surgeon or dermatologist, although similar over-the-counter products are also available. Either way, this approach is a less invasive method of treating scars. Treatment such as this repairs and rejuvenates the skin, while reducing redness and inflammation. Collagen production is boosted, while skin elasticity is enhanced.
There are various techniques available for treating scars. However, a plastic surgeon or dermatologist would advise which treatment will work best for the type of scar you have. For instance, a facial peel and dermabrasion may work well for treating acne scars, whereas these techniques will not be prescribed for treating open wounds.
Are There Any Risks With Using A Scar Treatment?
There is always a risk when you undergo any surgical treatment or when applying a topical treatment. You should consult a professional and only use products that have undergone several clinical tests. For example, even though a skin graft may be recommended for some scar treatments, this itself could lead to new scar formation and an uneven appearance of the skin.
Chemical treatments could lead to either hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation. Natural treatments can produce allergic reactions, minor skin irritation, or even an infection. Still, with each type of treatment there are different levels of downtime and discomfort that may possibly be experienced. Also, the results may take longer for topical treatment than with a deep abrasive or laser treatment. However, with the latter, the risk of pigment problems may be much higher than applying a topical treatment. Furthermore, the type of scar will also dictate the healing time needed.
With each treatment method there are some risks involved. However, most of these risks may be avoided if you understand them and inform your health-care provider of your medical history. Nonetheless, once there is some damage to the skin after treatment it may be difficult to correct.
What Should You Do To Prevent A Scar?
Some scarring is unavoidable. On such, you should consult your doctor. However, you can dramatically reduce your chances of developing excessive scarring. The first step is to treat the area as soon as you can, i.e. as soon as the wound has completely closed. Place constant pressure on the area by bandaging it. A more effective way is to place a special silicone sheeting over the wound to assist in flattening the potential scar.
You can also gently massage the line of the scar which can help to enhance blood supply, but also assist in keeping the scar flat. Massage also helps to prevent thick areas of collagen from developing underneath the affected area.
In addition, avoid sun exposure as this may lead to pigmentation. Use sunblock lotions of 15 SPF or higher to protect the skin. You can avoid acne scars by not picking at the skin.
Also, eat healthy food and maintain a healthy body weight, as gaining weight or weight loss might lead to the scar stretching. Seek help from a health-care professional as soon as you can to deal with the root cause to prevent developing another problem.
By treating a wound as soon as it is closed, you can prevent some scarring. Ways to do that include: using silicone sheeting, gently massaging the perimeter of the wound, avoid sun exposure, eating healthy food and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Our Ultimate Take Home Message
The scar itself does not present any risk to your health. Psychological as well as some physical problems such as an itchy sensation and redness cause people to seek solutions. If scars cannot be totally eliminated, an attempt may at least be made to fade them. There are various types of treatment available, ranging from invasive treatment to topical treatments which may help to soothe and fade the scars.
However, the type of scar will determine the type of treatment best for you. Your doctor should be able to advise you on your best options. Do remember that every scar treatment poses a degree of risk. You will need to understand the risks before making your final decision on treatment options.
Finally, if possible, it is best to avoid scarring in the first place. Squeezing or scratching pimples or cuts can lead to scarring, and is therefore avoidable. There are, nevertheless, many options available for scar fading.