Scars form on your skin after an injury as part of your body’s healing process. The size of the scar you’re left with depends on the severity of your injury and how well it heals. Shallow cuts and wounds that only affect your top layer of skin usually don’t scar at all.
Some scars fade over time even without treatment, but they don’t disappear completely. After your injury, cells called
Hypertrophic scars. Hypertrophic scars raise above your skin. They generally have a red appearance and don’t extend past the boundaries of your original injury.
Keloid scars. Keloid scars jut out from your skin and extend beyond your original injury.
Acne scars. All types of acne have the potential to leave either shallow or deep scars.
Contracture scars. This type of scar is usually caused by a burn. Contracture scars lead to tightening of your skin that may restrict joint movement.
Keep reading to find out how you can lower your chances of developing a scar after an injury. You’ll also learn ways to improve the appearance of scars you may already have.
Damage to your skin caused by burns, acne, scrapes and cuts, or surgery can lead to scarring. It may be impossible to avoid scarring completely if your injury is severe. However, following good first aid habits such as the following minimizes your chances of developing a scar.
- Avoid injuries. Taking precautions to avoid injuries can help prevent wounds that might scar. Wearing proper safety equipment when physically active, such as knee pads and elbow pads, can protect commonly injured parts of your body.
- Treat injuries immediately. Whenever you have a cut, it’s a good idea to treat it right away with basic first aid to prevent scarring. Serious wounds may need stitches and require attention from a medical professional.
- Keep your injury clean. Cleaning your wound daily with mild soap and water can help you keep your wound clean and remove debris build-up.
- Use petroleum jelly. Applying petroleum jelly helps keep your wound moist and reduces your chance of developing a scab. Wounds that develop scabs take longer to heal and may get itchy.
- Cover your wound. Keeping your cut or burn covered with a bandage can protect it from re-injury and infections.
- Use silicone sheets, gels, or tapes. Research suggests that covering a wound with silicone can help improve a scar’s appearance. Sheets, gels, and tapes all seem to be effective.
- Change your bandage daily. Changing your bandage daily can help you keep your wound clean and allows you to monitor your healing.
- Leave scabs alone. Avoiding picking at scabs can help reduce irritation and bleeding. Scratching or touching your scabs can also introduce bacteria that can cause an infection.
- See a doctor for deep cuts or serious injuries. If your wound is particularly deep or wide, it’s a good idea to see a doctor for advice on how to best manage it.
- Follow a doctor’s guidelines for stitches. If your injury requires stitches, it’s a good idea to follow your doctor’s recommendations on how to best manage your injury.
Treating burn injuries with the following protocol may also help prevent scarring:
- Rinse your burn in cool water and let it air dry.
- Apply antibiotics with a sterile tongue depressor.
- Cover the burn with a nonstick bandage and gauze.
- Stretch the burned area for a few minutes each day to avoid skin tightening.
- Avoid popping blisters.
- Avoid direct sun exposure.
Cuts and scrapes take longer to heal if they develop a scab. When your scab falls off, it’s a good idea to follow the same protocol you would with other types of wounds. Try to avoid touching the pink wound beneath your scab and keep it bandaged to avoid irritation and infection.
Here’s how a dermatologist can treat your scars:
Dermabrasion is an exfoliating method that helps reduce the appearance of scars. A dermatologist will use a wire brush or diamond wheel to remove the top layer of skin over your scar. People generally see a 50 percent improvement in their scar after dermabrasion. However, it may not be a good choice for people with sensitive skin or autoimmune disorders.
A chemical peel may be an option for acne scars. The treatment involves removing the outer layer of your scar. The skin that replaces it is usually smoother and appears more natural. It can take up to 14 days to heal from a chemical peel.
Laser treatment uses concentrated beams of light to remove your outer layer of skin. It can’t completely remove a scar, but it can improve its appearance. It generally takes about 3 to 10 days to heal from laser therapy.
Intralesional steroid injection
An intralesional steroid injection involves injecting a corticosteroid into your scar to improve its appearance. It’s appropriate for keloid and hypertrophic scars. The injections may be repeated over several months.
Scars form after an injury as part of your body’s natural healing process. Scars never completely disappear, but they fade over time. You can give your wound the best chance of healing without a scar by immediately treating it with first aid. If you have a deep wound that may require stitches, it’s a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible.