How to Get Rid of Scars When You're Accident-Prone
I have always scarred incredibly easily. I have a dent in my leg from where I bumped into a bed frame, an acne scar on my forehead has been around for at least 10 years, and there’s still a dark scar on my ankle from cutting myself with a razor one time.
OK, obviously I’m a bit clumsy. But even my most minor scratches end up scarring. Because I’m prone to injury, I’m meticulous about using scar-reduction products with ingredients like vitamins C and E. Yet it seems nothing helps, and now my body is like a roadmap of every bump and scrape. So I talked to a few skin pros to find out how to get rid of scars—if it's even possible.
I always chalked my easy scarring up to the fact that I’m mixed-race. I thought people with more melanin in their skin scar more easily. But the truth is more complicated. Experts understand why we get scars in the first place, but why some people scar more seriously than others is a mystery.
“Scarring is generally caused from any major inflammation or trauma to the skin,” Amanda Doyle, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, tells SELF. When you get a deep enough cut or bruise, the dermis is damaged (that’s the layer right under the visible skin). The body forms new collagen fibers to mend the damage. These fibers have a different texture and quality from the surrounding skin, and a scar is born.
“Some people form scars rapidly and aggressively, some people don’t,” Darrick Antell, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon, tells SELF. “People with darker skin are more prone to thicker scars, but that’s not universally true.” Dr. Antell explains that scars come in many forms. They can be elevated, discolored, or spread scars (where what started out as a thin line can become a patch).
If you know you’re prone to scarring, the best thing you can do is fastidiously treat a cut or wound as soon as you get it, so it heals as neatly as possible. If your injury is serious, you might need to see a medical professional for stitches ASAP. For milder scrapes and cuts, keep the wound clean and covered, and use an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. Dr. Doyle recommends using a basic petroleum jelly like Vaseline to keep the skin around the wound moisturized. For larger scars, consider wearing a bandage or compression sleeve. “We also know that pressure can make scars flatter,” Dr. Antell says.
Mark E. Gold M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon, recommends massaging a scar as well. “After…three weeks (and starting at six weeks for taped incisions), I would recommend twice-daily, five-minute scar massage with a moisturizing cream or ointment,” he writes on his website. “I believe that the massage will help the scar mature quicker.”
There are multiple scar-reduction creams and gels available for purchase, touting the benefits of silicone, vitamin E, and onion extract, but experts are not convinced that they work. A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatologyfound that often-pricey over-the-counter scar products promise big results, but clinical evidence doesn’t back them up. One exception: There is some evidence that silicone gel sheets, the type used to treat burn victims, can improve the appearance of a scar after surgery.
Most scars will fade with time, provided you do nothing to reopen or aggravate the area. Drs. Antell and Doyle agree that exposure to sunlight can make scars significantly worse. Dr. Antell recommends covering the wound with a bandage or Scotch tape for up to six months. Once any scabbing is gone, wear sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher until the scar fades.
If you have older scars that still bother you, Dr. Antell says you can minimize their appearance. He can inject scars with a steroid called kenalog to soften them. A topical version of this treatment is cordran tape, which has cortisone embedded in it. Dr. Antell has also seen some success with laser technologies to treat scar discoloration. And he regularly performs scar revision surgery, typically under a local anaesthetic, where he removes serious scar tissue to leave a smaller, neater scar.
Overall, experts say your best bet is to treat any wound immediately, keep it moist and covered, and avoid the sun. “All scars get better with time,” Dr. Antell says.