Scars can be as different from each other as the people who have them!
Some are dark. Some are light. Some are wide. Some are raised. Some are easily seen. And some are almost invisible.
One thing that we know for sure is that genetics play a huge role in the appearance of scars, but there are several professional treatments that can improve their appearance if your genes didn’t do as good of a job as you would have liked.
Keep Reading for The Top 6 Scar Treatments!
1. Silicone Therapy
Silicone scar therapy is widely used in the treatment of burn scars, and is one of most effective ways to prevent both keloids and hypertrophic scar formation, both of which are more common in scars from burns, scars over joints, and scars in darker skin types. Many plastic surgeons also use specially designed silicone sheets to improve the appearance of the scars associated with breast augmentation, breast lift, and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) surgery. In my practice, I routinely start silicone therapy at 2-3 weeks after surgery. I instruct my patients to wear ScarLine Rx ® Silicone Sheet which are extremely soft, thin, and comfortable. The ScarLine Rx® sheets are self-adhesive so it’s possible for patients to wear them for 2-3 months. I’m convinced that these sheets make a real difference in the final appearance of their scars, particularly after cosmetic breast surgeries like breast augmentations and breast lifts. No one knows for sure why silicone therapy works, but the leading theories suggest that a combination of hydration and compression play key roles in the success of silicone sheets.
2. Laser Therapy
Non-ablative laser treatments can help red and pink scars blend into the surrounding skin. Most patients need 3-5 treatments for an ideal result. The treatments themselves take less than 30 minutes. In addition to silicone therapy, which starts at 2-3 weeks after surgery, I also routinely start laser treatments at 3 months after surgery. It really helps scars fade more quickly, and it’s another easy way to ensure that you wind up with the nicest looking scar possible.
For scars that are much lighter in color than the surrounding skin (hypopigmented), which is a common appearance with healed burns, micropigmentation might be an option. Micropigmentation is essentially medical grade tattooing done by trained medical micropigmentation specialists. Careful and precise pigments are placed into the scar to match the surrounding skin and make it much less visible. Micropigmentation is also a very common technique in permanent makeup for eyebrows, lip color and lip liner, as well as in nipple areola reconstruction after breast cancer surgery.
4. Scar Revision
For most patients, a combination of silicone sheet therapy and a series of laser treatments are enough to give a satisfactory appearance to their scars, but these treatments are only effective if the scars are treated early (within 12 months). For scars that aren’t treated early, surgical scar revision might be the only option to improve the appearance. During a scar revision procedure, your plastic surgeon will remove the visible scar from the skin, and also remove the scar tissue underneath the skin. After all the scar is removed, the incision will be closed meticulously with specially designed suture materials that lead to a minimal amount of inflammation, which leads to more favorable scars. Most scar revisions can be done in the office under local anesthesia, and most patients can return to work the same day. I still use routine silicone therapy starting at 2 weeks after scar revisions, and laser therapy starting at 3 months. This is actually the most interesting part about scar revisions… they turn old scars into new scars so that silicone and lasers can be effective!
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is one of the most commonly used scar treatments, but probably not the best. There is no sound evidence that Vitamin E makes any difference in the appearance of scars, but it does lead to quite a few allergic skin reactions that may actually worsen the appearance. I’ve seen quite a few patients have allergic reactions to topically-applied Vitamin E, and I’ve also seen a few patients who wound up with hyperpigmented (dark) scars that resulted from severe rashes, or even blistering, around their scar. My advice… don’t use it. It probably won’t help, and it may actually end up hurting your efforts to improve the appearance of your scar.
Mederma is probably in the same boat with Vitamin E, but without such a high risk of an allergic reaction. I recommend Mederma to patients who can’t, or don’t want to, use silicone sheets after their surgeries. I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I know that it doesn’t hurt either.
SPF for Scars
One of the most important ways to keep your new scar looking good is to always, always, always use sunscreen for the first year after surgery or injury! Sun exposure is one of the leading causes of scar hyperpigmentation (darkening), which will not go away. The best sunscreens for scars contain zinc oxide, which blocks UVA and UVB rays, but it can be difficult to find sometimes. If you have trouble finding a zinc-containing brand, use the heaviest sun protection you can find (Neutrogena makes SPF 100). And remember, the suns rays are strong enough to penetrate most clothing and bathing suits, so you should still apply sunscreen even if your scars are covered!
Nicholas Vendemia, M.D. Plastic Surgeon, New York City MAS / Manhattan Aesthetic Surgery http://www.manhattanaestheticsurgery.com/
Photo Credit: istockphoto
NOTICE: None of the celebrities or individuals discussed here have ever received treatment, surgery, medical advice, or evaluations from any author, physician, surgeon, or representative of this blog. All images and photos in this article represent models only. No actual patients or clients are shown.