Scars can form on the body from just about any trauma to the skin. But it’s the psychological scars they sometimes cause that make them most troublesome.
Scarring results from an over or under-production of collagen during the healing phase of wound repair; it’s a biological process of four stages that, depending on the severity of the injury, can take up to two years to fully develop.
A scar presents no health risk. Indeed, it signifies that your skin has repaired the layers of issue involved in the injury. Your body has healed – but that history remains visible in the form of a scar.
While it’s difficult to get rid of a scar completely, you can reduce the appearance of scarring with surgical, cosmetic, and even natural methods, which we’ll discuss in this article. You can also reduce, and sometimes prevent scarring with proper wound care, which makes it important to recognize how scars form, and what you can do to reduce visibility of the scar that develops.
Think of scarring as ’emergency repairs’ that your skin performs to heal a wound. Any trauma, be it something superficial like a scratch, or something more serious, like a burn or injury, can develop into a scar.
Some of the more common reasons you may develop a scar include:
illness (such as chicken pox)
Scarring forms as your wound heals, during the skin remodelling phase. This is a four step process, the first being hemostasis, in which blood clots over the wound. During inflammation, the second stage, the body removes bacteria and foreign particles. The greater the severity of the wound in question, the longer these steps will take.
In proliferation, skin cells multiply and cover the wound. It’s during this phase that visible develops over the wound – a function completed during remodelling, in which the new collagen matrix cross-links and organizes. This is the final stage in scar development, in which it fully develops its characteristic appearance.
Bear in mind this is a simplified version of the scar formation process. But you can see that the body has a remarkably efficient skin healing process. This is an important concept – as most natural scar removal techniques involve regular exfoliation of scarred skin cells.
Another question you might have. Why do scars look different than the rest of your skin? The answer lies in the different types and functions of collagen. When skin is damaged, your body goes into damage control and lays down skin-healing collagen type III, later strengthened with the stronger collagen type I, and linked across tension lines different than the cross-linked structure of normal skin.
Though repaired, this scarred area is now weaker than the rest of the skin on your body, with about 80% the strength of normal skin. Given the free radical activity, the surrounding skin may age faster as well.
Scars develop from many causes, but they tend to form according to the nature of the wound. The different kinds of scarring include:
Hypertrophic scars – These are raised scars that develop when the body produces too much collagen during the healing process. They’re usually red and often occur within four to eight weeks of the injury or event.
Keloid scars – A more serious form of scarring, keloid scars can develop when the body aggressively tries to heal the wound. The result is a raised scar that extends well beyond the wound that caused it. Keloid scars are most common in people with dark skin.
Contracture scars – Characterized by tightened skin, contracture scars can hamper movement and affect the muscles and nerves. They often develop from burns.
Atrophic scars – A pitted appearance that develops from loss of muscle or fat, an atrophic scar may develop from illness, acne, injury, accident or other causes.
Acne scars – An unfortunate remnant of acne, these can show up in a variety of ways, from a pitted appearance to boxcar-shaped.
Scar prevention starts with the wound responsible. To prevent a scar – or at least reduce its future appearance, consider the following steps:
Clean the wound – Soothe and clean the wound with cool water. Remove any splinters or pebbles with alcohol-sterilized tweezers. Then gently wash the wound with mild soap and a clean cloth. Avoid harsh soaps, hydrogen peroxide, iodine and alcohol, which can hinder the healing process.
Cover the wound – This prevents bacteria, dirt and other irritants from making things worse. As well, it helps to keep the wound moist, which can make it heal faster. An antibiotic cream or ointment can further help with this, while keeping it clean, both of which will reduce the appearance of the future scar.
Don’t pick at scabs (!) – Your body starts the healing process immediately after the injury with white blood cells that attack bacteria, after which red blood cells, fibrin and platelets form a clot. If you pick at the ensuing scab, you may introduce bacteria to the wound and create a larger scar.
Scars tend to develop in areas with constant tension or pulling, like the chest, shoulders and back. As a further precaution, you may want to avoid exercising your upper body while your wound heals.
Also, scars tend to develop in areas with constant tension or pulling, like the chest, shoulders and back. As a further precaution, you may want to avoid exercising your upper body while your wound heals.
Please note that the above steps are recommended for minor injuries. It’s time to see a doctor if the wound is:
bleeding profusely after five to ten minutes of direct pressure
deeper or longer than half an inch
near your face
dirty (or was caused by a dirty or rusty object)
from an animal or human bite
On the latter point, you should also see a doctor if the wound shows symptoms of infection, like warmth or tenderness, redness, yellow or green fluid, swelling, fever, chills, aches or swollen nodes on the armpit, neck or groin. Your health comes first – you can deal with scarring later!
Even with proper wound care, it’s not impossible that a scar will develop regardless of your care and attention. That’s just the way it goes sometimes – some people are more genetically prone to scarring than others.
In any event, there are scar removal methods that can reduce visibility or alter the shape of your scar if it bothers you. These methods include:
OTC and Prescription Ointments and Gels – These work best for light scars from cuts and superficial wounds. They’re available over the counter or, higher in strength, with a prescription. Variations of scar removal creams include topical steroids and antihistamine creams to relieve itching.
Steroid Injections – Sometimes prescribed to treat raised scars – like keloid and hypertrophic – steroid injections may reduce the visibility of scarring.
Surgery – There are many surgical and cosmetic ways to reduce a scar, from dermabrasion to skin grafts, excision and laser surgery. Your treatment will depend on the kind of scarring you have. Skin grafts are a common treatment to reduce burn-related scarring. Speak with your doctor for further information about this more intrusive but generally effective way to reduce scarring.
Other treatments, including collagen fillers, may reduce pitted scarring, though results may be temporary.
You can also try natural methods to get rid of scarring. This is Natural Health Source, after all, and in many cases you’ll find that natural products can reduce the appearance of light scars and, with enough time, fade them without some of the more invasive scar removal techniques.
Aloe Vera Gel – You know it as that thing you apply to the skin to reduce a sunburn. But you can also use aloe vera to heal damaged skin and reduce a developing scar – just apply at least twice a day.
Honey – Winnie the Pooh’s greatest vice is also a natural antibiotic and has more than a few beauty applications. Use raw honey, preferably from a health store, gently apply to the wound and leave on for at least half an hour.
Onion Extract – They make you cry when cooking, but onions are powerful little creatures. In fact, chop one up, press it and apply its juice with a cotton swab to the affected area several times a day and you’ve got the makings of a natural scar remover.
Lemon Juice – A natural exfoliant, lemon juice encourages turn-over of dead skin cells and is especially good for reducing acne scars. Add a little water, then apply the solution with a cotton swab to the area several times a day.
In addition to these techniques, you can also use a natural-based scar removal serum like Dermefface FX7. While not completely natural, this is a convenient and non-intrusive way to reduce the appearance of stretch marks over time.
The secret to Dermefface is in the formula – a closer look at the ingredient list reveals a combination of natural ingredients like beta glucan and bilberry fruit extract with peptides, including DI-Panthenol and Pro-Coll-One+ that work with the skin’s natural 28 day regeneration process to exfoliate scarred cells and encourage new, unscarred skin cells to take their place.
Dermefface is also formulated to support your skin through the remodelling phase we discussed earlier in this article, which assists wound healing and reduces the size and visibility of the ensuing scar that develops.
Use it on a light wound and it’s possible you can avoid a scar completely.
Try Dermefface FX7 in addition to some of the other non-intrusive techniques we’ve reviewed here today. And you’ll be amazed just how quickly marks fade from your skin.