Everyone experiences bumps, bruises, cuts or scrapes throughout their lifetime.
As much as we’d like to avoid them, they are inevitable. While some
wounds are minor and heal without scarring, when you suffer a wound that
damages the deeper layer of the skin, known as the dermis,
the normal healing process of the body tissue typically leaves scarring.
“The good news is many scars fade over time,” says
Hong Nguyen, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at
Mission Heritage Medical Group. “They never go away completely, but they gradually become
smoother, paler, softer and less noticeable. The exception is a keloid scar — a scar that
keeps growing even after the wound is healed.” More on that later.
5 types of scarring
Scars may be diagnosed as a pitted hole in the skin, a fine line or an
abnormal overgrowth of tissue. Here are common types of scars:
Normal fine line scars
Fine-line scars are typical after a wound or surgery. They begin as a
red, raised line that softens, flattens and pales over time.
Keloids are raised scars that occur when too much collagen is produced
at the site of the wound. This results in an overgrowth of tissue that
may be itchy, painful or restrict movement if it’s tight and near
a joint. This type of scar can continue to grow after the wound is healed.
Keloids can form over cuts, burns, acne, tattoos and piercings.
Some people have keloid-prone skin in which any injury may result in keloids.
Like keloid scars, hypertrophic scars occur when there is too much collagen
at the site of the wound. The main difference is hypertrophic scarring
does not extend beyond the size of the original wound.
Atrophic (pitted or sunken) scars
Pitted or sunken scars are left behind after an injury has caused a loss
of fat tissue. The most common sources of atrophic scarring are
acne, chicken pox and
Often the result of burns, scar contractures occur when the skin shrinks.
This often leads to tightness and restricted movement.
Tips to minimize scarring
The appearance of scars depends on the size, depth and shape of your wound
as well as your skin color and thickness.
“After suffering a wound or injury, it is important to reduce the
amount of work your body has to do to heal it — especially when
it is susceptible to scarring,” says Dr. Nguyen. “If you have
a wound you think may need stitches, don’t wait. Go to your doctor
or urgent care immediately for treatment. This will help lessen the risk
of introducing germs and bacteria into the wound and give your doctor
the ability to stitch the wound before any partial healing starts. I also
first-aid kits fully stocked with wound care essentials in your house and car —
because you never know when you might need it.”
- Keep the wound clean to avoid germs and bacteria.
- Keep the wound moist with petroleum jelly to help speed healing and minimize scarring.
- Cover the wound with gauze or a non-adhesive bandage and change it regularly
to keep it dry.
- Get stitches as soon as possible, if needed.
- Massage the wound daily with vitamin E to help promote a less visible scar.
Stay out of
sunlight to help minimize discoloration.
- Avoid the urge to pick off scabs.
Use sunscreen once the wound heals to avoid further discoloration.
Finding the scar treatment that’s right for you
Dermatologists have a number of scar treatment options depending on the
type, size and severity of your scarring.
For keloid scarring:
- Ablative laser
- Steroid injections
- Silicone sheeting
- Surgical excision
- Topical creams
For hypertrophic and atrophic scarring:
- Chemical peels
- Fillers (e.g., Restalyne, Juvederm, Radiesse)
- Lasers (e.g., Smoothbeam, MedLite, Fractional)
- Steroid injections
- Topical creams
Concealing existing scars
If you have an existing scar that you’d like to conceal, there are
safe, effective make-up options available. Here are a few tips for concealing a scar:
- Apply a primer to clean skin to help the foundation go on smoother and
- Blend in a green color corrector to neutralize red tones or a yellow color
corrector to neutralize purple tones with a damp makeup sponge.
- Cover the color correctors with a light, long-lasting, full-coverage foundation.
- Set your foundation with a translucent powder (and setting spray if desired).
If you have concerns about scarring, please
contact a St. Joseph Health dermatologist in your area. They can help reduce the visibility of your scars using
safe, effective, nonsurgical solutions.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.