A scar is the body's natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. A scar is usually composed of fibrous tissue. Scars may be formed for many different reasons, including as a result of infections, surgery, injuries, or inflammation of tissue. Scars may appear anywhere on the body, and the composition of a scar may vary--appearing flat, lumpy, sunken, or colored. It may be painful or itchy. The final look of a scar depends of many factors, including the skin type and location on the body, the direction of the wound, the type of injury, age of the person with the scar, and his/her nutritional status.
Specific dermatological procedures to minimize scars will be determined by your physician based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Severity of the scar
- Type and location of the scar
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the condition
- Your opinion or preference
Scars usually fade over time. Make-up can help cover the scar while it is healing. Some scars can be minimized by certain dermatological techniques. However, treatment can only improve the appearance of a scar; it cannot completely erase it.
The following are some of the more common scar-minimizing procedures:
Dermabrasion may be used to minimize small scars, minor skin surface irregularities, surgical scars, and acne scars. As the name implies, dermabrasion involves removing the top layers of skin with an electrical machine that "abrades" the skin. As the skin heals from the procedure, the surface appears smoother and fresher.
- Chemical peels
Chemical peel are often used to minimize sun-damaged skin, irregular pigment, and superficial scars. The top layer of skin is removed with a chemical application to the skin. By removing the top layer, the skin regenerates, often improving the skin's appearance.
- Collagen injections
One type of collagen, which is derived from purified bovine (cow) collagen, is injected beneath the skin to replace the body's natural collagen that has been lost. Injectable collagen is generally used to treat wrinkles, scars, and facial lines.
- Cortisone-like injections
These types of injections can help soften and then shrink hard scars.
Cryosurgery can help reduce the size of scars by freezing the top skin layers. The freezing causes the skin to blister.
- Laser resurfacing
Laser resurfacing uses high-energy light to burn away damaged skin. Laser resurfacing may be used to minimize wrinkles and fine scars.
- Punch grafts
Punch grafts are small skin grafts to replace scarred skin. A hole is punched in the skin to remove the scar, which is then replaced with unscarred skin (often from the back of the earlobe). Punch grafts can help treat deep acne scars.
- Surgical scar revision
Surgical scar revision involves removing the entire scar surgically and rejoining the skin. Although a new scar will form, the goal of the surgical technique is to create a less obvious scar. Surgical scar revision is usually reserved for wide or long scars, scars that healed in an unusual way, or scars in very visible places.
- Autologous fat transfer
An autologous fat transfer uses fat taken from another site on your own body and it is injected into your skin. The fat is placed beneath the surface of the skin to elevate depressed scars. This method is used to correct deep contour defects caused by scarring from nodulocystic acne. Because the fat may be reabsorbed into the skin over a period of months, there may be a need for the procedure to be repeated.
Abnormal scars sometimes form after a wound has healed. There are many different types of scars, including:
As with all surgeries, it is important to follow all instructions to help maximize recovery and healing. Your physician will advise you on all activity restrictions, depending on the type of surgery that was performed. Scars cannot be removed completely. Many factors will be involved in the degree of healing of your particular scar. Some scars take more than a year to show improvement in appearance following surgery.