Just like a fine piece of silk, our skin starts off being almost flawless, until a burn, injury, surgery or similar trauma scars it. Some scars are small and can be hidden beneath clothes, but many are on the exposed areas of the skin and they can appear pretty unappealing.
Sure, scarred skin can be perceived as “sexy because it means you made a mistake that led to a mess”, as Angelina Jolie calls it. We can treasure those memories and experiences that led to the scars, but we’d still rather have flawless skin, wouldn’t we? It’s one thing to remember your experiences; it’s another to be reminded of those experiences every day by an unattractive scar on your body or even worse, face.
HOW DO INJURIES TURN INTO SCARS?
Cuts, skin conditions and surgical procedures can all leave scars. Scar formation is a natural part of the healing process. If the damage is only on the top skin layer, they are most often small and barely noticeable. However, the underlying, dermal layer of skin is affected; scarring can be unattractive and obvious. During healing, the fibrous skin protein collagen works from the outside epidural skin layer to the inside, dermal layer. Collagen first works to ensure that when the skin scab sheds or your stitches come out, your skin will stay together. It then works to fill in holes left by the wound.
CAN THESE BE REMOVED?
Various factors influence how your skin scars. The depth and size of the wound or incision and the location of the injury are going to impact the scar’s characteristics and what can be done. Deep scars are unlikely to completely go away, but there are ways to reduce its size and appearance markedly. Your age, genes even your gender or ethnicity, will also influence how your skin reacts to the treatments. Some will obtain better results than others.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF SCARRING?
Not all scars are the same and each is unique to the injury. But to categorise, you can say there are four main types of scars. Keloid scars are that result of an overly aggressive healing process because of which these scars tend to extend beyond the original injury. Another type of scar is hypertrophic scars, which are raised and red scars that are similar to keloids, but do not breach the boundaries of the injury site. Then there are contracture scars, which are often seen with burn patients. In this the tightening of skin can impair your ability to move and this type of scar may go deeper to affect muscles and nerves. And then of course there are acne scars, which many people experience. If you’ve had severe acne, those may end up in deep pits scars or those that are angular or wavelike in appearance.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO DIMINISH SCARS?
Each scar needs to be given special attention and treated uniquely. Mild scarring can be removed using chemical peeling, which is adding a chemical solution to the skin to remove the epidermis, enabling new, regenerated skin to appear, improving the appearance of the condition. For keloid type scars you can begin with using pressure treatment or gel pads with silicone when you sustain an injury. Smaller keloids can be treated using a freezing therapy using liquid nitrogen. Even a Yag laser can be used. Short pulses of the laser beam can smooth, sculpt and normalise the appearance of scars. If the scar remains, injections with steroids can be used. The same injections can be used for hypertrophic scars. If the scars appear depressed, then collagen-related fillers, polymer or fat fillers is injected in small quantities below the surface of the skin to elevate depressed scars.
WHAT ABOUT ACNE SCARS?
For mild acne scarring, again chemical peeling should do the job or needle rollers can be used to stimulate collagen on the surface. If you want real improvement for severe scars, then you have the choice of laser resurfacing. This is primarily used to get rid of nasty wrinkles and scars that appear on the surface of the skin. The laser emits a powerful beam of light that burns affected skin away. A more efficient technology is sublative rejuvenation, which can go deeper than traditional laser heat to your subcutaneous dermal tissue, breaking the sebum cycle that causes active acne to form. It also contracts and restructures collagen, resulting in skin tightening and improved skin quality.
HOW CAN WE PREVENT FUTURE SCARRING?
After an injury, avoid interfering with the healing process. Treat the wound to prevent infection but keep the following in mind. Keep the affected area moist with Vaseline or something similar and cover the cut for about a week. Do not let the injury dry out and scab over. After taking off the bandage, continue to keep the cut moist until new skin begins to form at the site. To prevent the scar from popping out, place pressure on the cut. You can use silicon sheets specially designed to keep the injury area flat. Once the wound has closed over, gently massage the newly formed skin with lotion in a circular motion for 15 to 30 seconds a few times a day as it will help to break down the dense bonds of collagen which will in turn minimise the scarring.