Even though I’m not a plastic surgeon, I often see patients that are concerned about scars they have on their bodies. I reassure them that scars are not a bad thing because it’s a sign that you’re body has helped the wound heal.
For many people, however, scars are unsightly reminders of an injury, accident or illness. These feelings are completely understandable, so I do everything in my power to help patients treat their scars as gently and naturally as possible.
Different Kinds of Scars
The most common scars are pale and flat in relation to the surrounding skin. Many people find these scars tolerable to live with. Other scars have an indented appearance, due to the loss of fat or muscle that acts as support structures. These scars often result from acne or surgical procedures. Stretched skin, as in “stretch marks” from a pregnancy, is another form of scarring.
Scars that are red and raised are called “hypertrophic” or “keloid” scars and form when the body produces excess collagen, perhaps after a severe injury. In my practice, I’ve found that these scars are most bothersome. Though most scars are permanent, there are ways to minimize them and treat the skin for a more attractive appearance.
Caring for Scars Naturally
Most of us can’t predict getting a scar due to accident or injury. For pregnant women, however, avoiding stretching scars is a common concern. I suggest keeping the area well moisturized to minimize pulling and tension that causes scarring. Various natural products like vitamin E, cocoa butter and other topical moisturizing agents are available to do the job.
Those dealing with other kinds of scarring might also benefit from moisture treatments – although studies have shown that creams or ointments with vitamin E do not significantly alter the appearance of scars. Yet, their moisturizing properties are still very important.
A scar forms when the thick deep layer of skin called the dermis is damaged. The body’s defense mechanisms kick into gear and form collagen fibers to close over the area. These new tissues are delicate and need to be treated with care. Whether you use vitamin E, a petroleum ointment or other moisturizer to minimize stress and pulling, wait until the wound is completely closed to avoid infection.
Allium cepa, or onion extract, is another natural scar remedy. Though its potency is debated when it comes to improving hypertrophic scars, onion is known to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It may also aid in collagen formation. If you find this helpful or soothing to the injured area, I would encourage you to continue treatment.
New Technology To The Rescue!
As a dermatologist, I sometimes perform procedures like microdermabrasion and laser resurfacing for scar patients. Microdermabrasion is a simple treatment that can improve minor raised scars by polishing away the top layer of skin.
A laser resurfacing works in a similar fashion, stripping away the top layers of skin to reveal smoother, newer-looking skin below the surface. With new technology comes improvement and accuracy. The newest lasers allow us to sometimes target only the scarred dermis without also treating the surrounding healthy skin. This may be promising for some scar patients.
If you have been living with a scar that affects your daily life, I recommend a visit to your doctor. If your scarring is minor, explore the various topical moisturizing formulas until you find one that works for you. Taking the first step is the most important thing you can do in finding a solution that you can feel good about!
Photo Credit: Michal Marcol