Non-Invasive (Non-Surgical) Ways to Improve the Appearance of Scars

Scars are the unfortunate result of a wound that has healed. The severity of the scar is directly related to the type of injury, the scar’s location on the body and your genetic background. Even a wound that heals well can result in a scar that unfavorably affects your appearance. Scars may be raised or recessed, different in color or texture from surrounding healthy tissue or particularly noticeable due to their size, shape or location. All scars go through the same healing process after the initial injury:

  • 1 day to 2 weeks: swelling, discoloration, discomfort
  • 2 weeks to 4 months: scar becomes raised, reddened and irritated
  • 4 months to 1 year: scar starts to flatten, becomes less reddened, appearance improves significantly

What non-surgical options are available to avoid worsening of the Immature Scar?

When scars have fully matured (8-12 months), what you see is what you get. The best time to avoid excessive scarring is during the initial healing process (3weeks to 6 months). Unfortunately, the most hyped ways of treating immature scars do not live up to their expectations. Products such as cocoa butter and Vitamin E really don’t improve or reduce the risk of excessive scarring. In my 30 year experience the best non-surgical way to avoid excessive scarring in the immature scar is as follows:

  • Light Steroid Cream. The application of a light topical steroid cream starting about 3 weeks after the injury. A common over the counter product is 1% Cortisone Cream. It can be applied once daily for the first 2 to 4 months after injury.
  • Avoiding Irritation. Irritation of the scar can worsen its appearance. The most common area that causes excessive irritation is the waist because of the irritation of tight fitting garments. We recommend the use of some type of paddings over the scar for the first 6 months in these areas. (Band-Aids’ seem to work quite well)
  • Silicone Topical Dressing. It is difficult to wear, but very effective in reducing scarring from 1month to 6 months after the injury.
  • Skin Care Program. I highly recommend this non-irritating skin care program for the treatment of immature scars:
    • Moisturizer: Look for a very light, water-based moisturizer that contains a natural anti-inflammatory, such as aloe, and the calming effects of chamomile.
    • Mild Cleanser: Look for ingredients such as natural plant extracts and mild moisturizing elements.
    • Serums: In the later stages of scar healing (after 7 months), I recommend a collagen boosting topical containing plant stem cell extracts. Try the Tri-Peptide Cell Activator, enza.com.
  • The immature scar is very sensitive to solar exposure.  The cells that produce pigment in the skin become over active during the healing phase and produce much more pigment than normal. This results in a darkened scar that stays darker for a much longer time. I strongly suggest that immature scars are protected for at least 6 months after injury.
  • Steroid Injections. These injections are usually reserved for persons that have developed significant scarring in spite of the more conservative treatments noted above. They are also used in those individuals that have demonstrated a history of developing significant scarring or in the mature scar that has remained raised, reddened and irritated.

For more on treatments for scarring, check out Dr. Rucker’s feature on Women’s Health

 

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