Why Could a Scar Still Form? continued...
"Scars tend to develop more frequently in areas of skin that are under tension or pull," says Valerie D. Callender, MD, a dermatologist in Maryland. For example, your chest, shoulders and back are common places for scars to form. To prevent scars in these areas, avoid upper body exercise and lifting heavy objects while your wound heals.
When scars do form, they are usually pale and flat, although some can be raised. Called hypertrophic or keloid scars, these occur when the body produces too much collagen.
Reducing Scars: What Works and What Doesn’t
Once you have a scar, there are many strategies and products for minimizing scarring. Here’s the scoop on how they work.
- Sunscreen. Sun protection is vital for minimizing a scar and preventing hyperpigmentation, says California dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD. She recommends a sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide -- blocking agents protect against UVA and UVB rays. Look for a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Badreshia-Bansal also suggests massaging around a wound to help prevent the development of thick scars.
- Fancy creams. Skip pricey creams, says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. You'll find many creams that claim help healing because they contain vitamin E or cocoa butter, but there's no hard evidence that they work. To keep a scab moist -- and hopefully free from itch -- dab on a little petroleum jelly instead, Tanzi says.
- Silicon gel sheeting. Putting a sheet of silicon gel on a scar every day may help it fade or keep it from getting worse. The sheeting is available at pharmacies or from dermatologists. Florida dermatologist Andrea Cambio, MD, says gel sheeting should be used for at least three months for best results.
- Concealer. This can be a good temporary way to make a scar go undercover. Pick a shade that is most effective with the color of your scar. "If the scar is red or pink, try a concealer with a green undertone,” Cambio says. “If the scar is brown, try a concealer with a yellow undertone. If the scar is lighter that your normal skin, pick a concealer that matches your skin tone." Cambio also suggests using a concealer that is waterproof.
- Bleaching creams. These may help fade some dark scars, also called hyperpigmentation. Some hyperpigmentation is permanent, however. Ask your dermatologist for suggestions.
- Injectible fillers. Injecting substances such as collagen or fat can immediately raise sunken scars. However, this treatment doesn’t last permanently and may need to be repeated.
- Steroid injections. These may help flatten raised scars, but a long-term course may be needed.
- Dermabrasion. This procedure uses special equipment to remove the surface of the skin, helping to reduce the look of raised scars. Microdermabrasion, a less invasive process, can help superficial scars.
- Laser resurfacing. This is done two ways: The skin surface is removed with lasers, or lasers are used to work on the collagen in the dermis without removing the upper layer of skin.
- Surgery. You can’t remove a scar entirely with surgery, but you can alter its size, depth, or color. Surgery isn't suggested for hypertrophic or keloid scars because it can make them worse.