• How to make unsightly scars look better

    How to make unsightly scars look better

    If a cat's claw accidentally grazed your face, a knife slipped through your fingers, or a piece of coarse gravel fell on you, your knee will hurt and a few stretch marks will appear. Unfortunately, as you may have heard, scars never completely disappear. The body tries to heal by forming new collagen fibers, but these fibers do not heal in the same way as normal skin. Instead, they are regulated in such a way that they produce scars, says Christina Goldenberg, M.D., a dermatologist based in New York City.

    But that doesn't mean you can't improve its appearance with a little time and TLC. As part of wound healing, new blood vessels develop within the scar, effectively delivering oxygen and nutrients to the scar tissue. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said this is what gives scars their red appearance. This redness usually disappears spontaneously within two years. After an injury, some patients, especially those with darker skin, may develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, essentially a stain on the skin rather than a true scar. This hyperpigmentation will also disappear naturally within a few years, but in some cases, lightening creams or in-office procedures may be needed to lighten the dark areas.

    Here, Topderm shares tips for saving skin. This will help heal the wound enough to prevent it from forming in the first place. Additionally, there are ways to minimize the scars that have already formed.

    1 Deal with the wound quickly.

    Immediately clean the cut with water to physically remove any bacteria or debris. Next, keep it moist. New York City-based dermatologist DinaStrachan, MD, says to apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline or Aquaphor, to the wound. Some people prefer to use topical antibiotics, but Skin usually advises against them because these products have a high incidence of allergic contact dermatitis and can exacerbate scarring. If the incision is deep, see your doctor to make sure that no stitches are needed.

    2. Cover the cut.

    According to Zeichner, wounds heal a little slower, but much better if they are covered from the start. Creating an occlusive barrier on the skin reduces oxygen levels on the wound surface and allows new skin cells to migrate to the area for optimal healing.

    3. Leave the wound alone.

    Some people believe that massaging the wound will help prevent scarring. However, there is no evidence that skin manipulation improves the appearance of scars, Goldenberg said. In fact, rigorous massage may actually interfere with the natural process of healing, causing further trauma and worsening the appearance of scars.

    4. Consider over-the-counter scar minimizers.

    There are many over-the-counter products available on pharmacy shelves that can eliminate scars. According to Goldenberg, most of them, with one exception, may have little or no effect. Several studies have shown that there are benefits to using silicone-based gel sheets, which aid healing by moistening the wound, protecting it from infection, and promoting healthy collagen production. However, it is important to start using them immediately after the trauma has occurred.

    5. Apply natural remedies.

    Cocoa butter, lemon juice, vitamin E, aloe vera, coconut oil, cucumber, olive oil, honey, potato slices, sugar scrub, onion extract - these are just a few of the natural scar treatments that promise to minimize scarring. Do they work? There are no conclusive clinical scientific studies that show that any of these ingredients promote scarring, says Zeichner. However, most of these ingredients rehydrate and protect the skin after a new wound has occurred. The sooner a healthy environment for wound healing can be promoted, the better the skin will heal and the better the scar will look.

    6. Try a fading cream.

    Ingredients such as hydroquinone, vitamin C, kojic acid, retinol, and berry extracts can reduce the surface skin pigmentation associated with scars, but they don't address the scar itself, Zeichner says. However, some may help with wound healing. For example, retinol promotes cell metabolic turnover, reduces inflammation, and stimulates the healthy production of collagen, while vitamin C and berry extracts can fight free radicals. All of these ingredients may be more effective when used as part of a combination approach to improve the appearance of scars, Zeichner adds.

    7. Cover with sunscreen.

    Because the skin around scars is usually weaker than normal skin, it is more prone to sun burns, which can further worsen the appearance of scars, Goldenberg says. Sunlight can also increase the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is darkening of the skin caused by increased melanin. Always apply sunscreen with SPF 50+ to cover the area.

    8. Disguise scars with makeup.

    For facial scars, look for a cream-based concealer that matches your skin tone, not the color of the scar. All scars can be different colors, but to hide a scar, you need to blend the scar with your skin color, says Rachel Short, a New York City-based makeup artist. Because the texture of scars can vary, she recommends warming up concealer between your thumb and ring finger, then dabbing the scar to blend the edges into the surrounding skin for a seamless look. For larger scars, such as stretch marks on the stomach, try moisturizing liquid body makeup that absorbs well into the skin. Using a blending sponge, dab the liquid over the scar and add more product as needed. Secure with solid powder to prevent smudges and product from transferring to clothing.

    9. Research in-house treatments that can help minimize scarring.

    All of the following steps can help reduce the appearance of scars, but it is recommended that you wait six months before doing anything. Giving the scars a chance to fade naturally first will allow for optimal results, says Goldenberg.

    Optimal Use: Acne Scars

    A punch graft is essentially a small cookie cutter that cuts away scar tissue and replaces it with healthy skin of the same size taken from an adjacent area. The new graft is then sewn into the area where the scar used to be.

    Best used for: indented or wide scars.

    For excision, the skin around the scar is removed and it is stitched closed to create a straight line. The new scar will heal in a straight line without any thickness.

    Ideal for: All types of scars

    Lasers such as Fraxel and CO2 stimulate the production of healthy collagen by driving microscopic holes or channels into the skin. By creating controlled scars, the laser takes advantage of the skin's ability to heal itself in a more cosmetically appealing way.

    Best Applications: Itchy Scars

    Cordoran Tape is a topical steroid in a tape formulation that helps to soften and flatten scars and reduce itching and thickness.

    Best used for: depression or acne scars

    Fillers such as collagen and Verafil are often used for acne scars that appear as craters in the skin. Fillers replace the lost tissue by raising the depressions and minimizing the appearance of scars.

    Best used for: Dark colored scars.

    Chemical peels remove dead skin cells from the surface layers of the skin, minimizing discoloration. They create a controlled wound that leads to new collagen production that can improve superficial depressed scars.

    Optimal use: firm and thick scars.

    In cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is used to reduce the size of scar tissue. When sprayed, it also helps to minimize discoloration and soften the scar.

    Cortisone injections consist of injecting steroids into the skin to cause atrophy of the scar tissue, resulting in a softer and flatter scar.

    Best used for: depressed scars and old pigmented scars.

    Micro needling uses tiny needles to make tiny holes in the skin to form collagen and even out the scar skin.