Scars

Scars are permanent marks left on the surface of the skin after an injury or wound has healed. As a natural part of the healing process they are not uncommon, with causes including surgery and certain skin conditions such as acne. Despite being commonplace, the severity & the areas affected can result in individuals to feel self-conscious & lacking in confidence. There are, however, a range of cosmetic treatments to help reduce the appearance of scars.

Young woman pointing at the scar on her tummy

Scars

The areas of the body most susceptible to scarring are the chest, back, ear lobe & shoulders. If a scar has formed over a joint such as on the shoulder, knee or elbow, it tends to appear larger than if it were elsewhere on the body. This occurs because of the constant joint movement, stretching the scar & making it appear larger over time.

When the skin is injured & there is a break in the tissue, the body begins to produce more collagen to heal the affected area. The collagen then builds up in the area where the skin tissue has been damaged to help heal & strengthen it.

At around three months, the collagen continues to form around the affected area causing the blood supply to increase, which in turn causes the scar to become raised, coarse & red in colour.

For common flat/pale scars the collagen then starts to break down, reducing the increased blood supply leading to the scar becoming smoother, softer & paler. Other scars can keep producing collagen leading to a worse appearance over time until medical treatment is sought.

Types of Scars

There are five main types of scars:

Keloid Scars – Are characterised by a raised & lumpy appearance with a purple colouring. Keloid scars are typically irregular in shape & can continue to increase in size over time. Skin affected by keloid scars is unlike to return to its original state.

Hypertrophic Scars – Typically red in colour & slightly raised, hypertrophic scars can become itchy & some individuals can experience pain from this type of scar. Unlike keloid scars, hypertrophic scars do not spread away from the area of injury & can improve in appearance year-by-year.

Pitted Scars – Also known as Ice-Pick Scars or Atrophic scars, these scars have a sunken appearance & are commonly due to acne, chicken pox &/or surgery complications.

Contracture Scars – These are the scars that appear after a second or third degree burn. The contracted appearance occurs due to the connective tissue & muscles beneath the skin pulling together which can lead to restricted motion. This type of scar does not improve with time & if left untreated can get worse.

Flat/Pale Scars – These are the most common type of scar, brought on by the body’s natural healing process. The appearance of these scars is typically a lighter pigment to the individual’s skin hence why they are sometimes named ‘Pale Scars.’ When this type of scar first develops, it may be slightly raised or dipped, however over a short space of time they become the same level as your skin. These scars normally occur due to surgery &/or pregnancy (the latter appear as stretch marks).

Scar Treatments

As there are a range of different types of scars and their severity, the effects of treatment can vary. The most common treatment types are outlined below:

  • Gel Sheets/ Skin Peels – Silicone Gel Sheets are ideal for hypertrophic type scars, as when applied to the skin they help to flatten and reduce the appearance of the scar more quickly.
  • Skin/Chemical Peels – like gel sheets can also be used to reduce the appearance of scars by enhancing & smoothing the surface of the skin by removing dead skin cells. As the peels typically contain alphahydroxy or betahydroxy acid, it helps exfoliate the skin so when the peel is removed smoother skin is left behind. 
  • Prescription Creams/Ointments/Gels – Products that contain antihistamine can help soothe scars that become itchy. Otherwise products like Bio Oil that contain natural ingredients such as vitamins A and E, Chamomile Oil, & more, are designed to improve the appearance of scars, stretch marks & uneven skin tones while maintaining the elasticity of skin tissue.
  • Corticosteroid Injections – For the more complicated scars such as hypertrophic & keloid scars, steroid injections to the affected area can help reduce the appearance of the scars considerably by softening the scar. However, before undertaking the procedure, it is advisable to wait until the scar has matured, as undertaking the procedure with a relatively new/young scar can cause disappointing results as it is still developing.
  • Surgery – There are a range of surgical options for scar removal of any type, including skin grafts, excision, dermabrasion or laser surgery. Surgical options for scar removal are not usually recommended unless the scar is causing mobility or functional problems, or if the scar is due to severe burns to which the skin graft is the most common procedure for.
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