Look in the “skin care” aisle of your local store and you will find several offerings for scar treatment. Many of us have scars from mishaps or surgeries and when they appear in noticeable places, we want them to be gone. For most people, it’s difficult to know which remedies might be quack cures and which produce real results. Here is some information to help you understand scarring better and available treatments.
WHY DOES SKIN SCAR?
Scars are the result of abnormal formation of collagen in the skin after an injury.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO AVOID A SCAR?
Keeping the wound moist is key. Letting the wound form a scab will cause a worse-looking scar. Using plain old Vaseline under a BandAid is an easy and inexpensive way to keep it moist. If you are looking to use moisturizers, know that the more ingredients they have, the higher the chance of an allergic reaction. Also, keep the wound covered. Exposure to sun will worsen any discoloration of the wounded area and cause the tissue to thicken. Scars are very sensitive, so they brown quickly. This discoloration and tissue thickening make any sort of treatment more difficult. If the area is on your face, liberally apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50.
DO DRUGSTORE REMEDIES WORK?
Most drugstore remedies do not have any effect on scars. Vitamin E is an ingredient in some scar-healing products. It’s known for properties that lessen inflammation, but it hasn’t been proven to do much for scars. When it works, it is likely the result of the moisturizing effect that simply keeps the skin hydrated. Some people develop allergic reactions or skin irritations to Vitamin E, thus making healing more difficult.
Onion extract is another ingredient found in drug store creams, but is not scientifically proven to help.
One over-the-counter product known to help is silicone. It is often found as an adhesive sheet that sticks to the scar. Some experts think this works on scars because of the pressure that is applied to the skin through the bandage. It’s a slow process when you use this product and can be very expensive, with estimates at $40/month. Silicone can require up to two full years of use for full healing, requiring patience and diligence.
ARE ANY HOME REMEDIES USEFUL?
None is a guaranteed cure. Stay away from folksy home remedies, such as rubbing lemons or onions on the scar. These can be irritating and kill the healthy cells. Honey is one home remedy that might be useful. It promotes healing, yet kills off other bacteria and fungi. This shouldn’t be considered superior to keeping the wound moist, however.
You can try massaging the scar: 1-after stitches have been removed, 2-after the scab has fallen off, and 3-there is no risk of reopening the wound. Scar massage can prevent scar tissue buildup, puckering of the skin at its edges, and help range of motion. For lubrication, use a quality lotion without added scent, like Nivea or Eucerin. Additives can cause skin irritation. Ask for guidance from your healthcare provider. Note that massage will not help old scars.
ARE MEDICAL PROCEDURES WORTH THE COST?
Laser therapy has been shown to help thick or red scars. Cortisone injections are used to flatten thick or raised scars. A certified Dermatologist can determine if either of these would be helpful. These can be expensive, sometimes up to $500 a treatment, and require more than one procedure for optimal results. With some scars, you might be replacing one scar with another that looks better if it cannot be eliminated, which can happen in with acne damage.
If you try any scar treatment and the area shows signs of infection, such as pain, redness, bleeding, tenderness, or drainage, consult your healthcare professional immediately.
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