Most people have a few battle scars such as lifelong reminders of the time you wiped out your bike at age 6 or a recent run-in you had with a paring knife. Scars are a growth of collagen that forms as a natural human response to injury such as trauma, infection or surgery. They are unavoidable when the body needs to heal, but they can also be source of embarrassment!
There are a few factors that determine the severity of a scar, including the size and location of the wound, as well asthe age, gender and ethnicity of the patient. Each scar has its own peculiarities. Common types of scars include:
Keloid scars - These scars are the result of an overly aggressive healing process. They extend beyond the original injury. Over time, a keloid scar may hamper movement.
Hypertrophic Scars – When a scar becomes red, raised and thick it is called a hypertrophic scar. They are similar to Keloid scars but do not go beyond the boundary of injury.
Acne Scars - If you've had severe acne, you probably have the scars to prove it. There are many types of acne scars, ranging from deep pits to scars that are angular or wavelike in appearance.
Burn Scars – If your skin has been burned, you may have a contracture scar. These scars tighten the skin, which can impair your ability to move. Contracture scars may also go deeper, affecting muscles and nerves.
Stretch marks - Stretch marks occur when there is a break in the collagen structure in the dermis.
Pigmentation scars - Dark spots and uneven skin tone is known as hyperpigmentation.
A scar will never completely go away, however there are some methods that can help reduce its size and minimise the appearance of a scar. The best way to minimise the appearance of scars is prevention. Treating wounds promptly and properly will go a long way in decreasing the appearance and development of scars. Options for the prevention and treatment of scars include:
Oils and Creams – Some oils and creams may help to reduce the appearance of scarring and help keep skin nourished. Scars need time to heal, so if a scar is fresh using a cream is a good start. If you are vulnerable to stretch marks (through puberty, pregnancy or weight gain and loss), use deeply hydrating oils to support the stretching skin. Examples of oils and creams that can be used are Bio Oil, Busby Pure Tissue Oil, Trilogy Rose-hip Oil, Scar Esthetique, Mederma.
Scar Removers – Silicone sheets are a small piece of adhesive sheet that is fitted around the scar and attached to the skin. Silicone sheets or gel envelops the scar and exerts pressure on out, reducing its size. Examples of Silicone sheets and gel include Cica Care, Dermatix Silicone Gel, ScarSil Silicone Gel, Scar Fx Silicone Sheet, Palmer's Scar Serum.
Medical Treatments – If a scar is quite severe or raised, fillers, surgery, cortisone injections and lasers can all help to significantly reduce the scarring. Speak to a dermatologist to find out treatment options for you.
There are a number of important habits that should not be ignored to prevent scarring. Firstly, limit exposure of new scars to the sun. Ultraviolet rays can slow the healing process as they stimulate melanocytes (the cells that produce pigment), which can cause dark discoloration. When you're outdoors, always slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Secondly, gently massaging the mark once the surface is completely healed helps break down the dense bands of collagen that attach to underlying tissue. Once skin has grown over the site, gently massage the area with lotion in a circular manner for 15 to 30 seconds a few times a day. Applying Mederma, an ointment that contains onion extract, has been shown to inhibit the formation of collagen.
Lastly, keep the wound moist. Moisture prevents the formation of a hard scab, which acts as a barrier to the development of new tissue. Allowing a fresh cut to "breathe" is an old wives' tale that will actually delay healing. Treat the affected area daily with an antiseptic (which will prevent infection, another hindrance to healing), wash if off before covering the wound with a bandage. Continue this until new skin grows over the wound.