Scars can be a real distraction and make you feel self-conscious. There are a few tips to help you minimize the visibility of a scar on your skin. Here is valuable info to share on how to keep your scars out of sight.
My mother is preparing for an upcoming surgery, which could leave her with a significantly visible scar. She asked me if I could share with her the steps in which I’ve reduced the appearance of scars on my skin. Several years ago, I had surgery to remove part of my thyroid through an incision in my neck. The doctors told me to prepare for a sizable scar that covered half the distance from one side to the other. I was busy coming up with all kinds of funny stories I could tell people for how I got this scar (Head transplant, bad-ass bar fight, you know the drill ;). Meanwhile, I did a bit of research into treatments that might make the scar a little less noticeable.
What is scar tissue?
Scar tissue is made up of the same tissue as regular skin but looks different due to the way the fibers are arranged. When the skin is injured, it first forms blood clots in the area. After the blood has clotted, the body sends in fibroblasts, which are a type of cell that break down the clot and replace it with proteins, mainly collagen, which forms the scar tissue. In regular skin structure, the collagen is layered in a random pattern, but in scar tissue, the collagen proteins line up in one direction causing a different appearance. This tissue doesn’t have the same blood supply, flexibility or sweat glands that normal skin has. WebMD has a pretty good article on scars that gets a bit more into the technical aspects.
How to minimize scars?
There are three main tips in keeping scars from forming noticeable marks on your skin and are pretty affective if start caring for the scare when the wound has just begun healing.
Tips to minimize scars
- Keep scars away from sunlight. When the scar is in the healing phase (3-6 months), UV exposure in sunlight can lead to pigmentation. Any coloration that the scar takes on during this time, it will likely keep. It’s the ultimate suntan! BUT not the kind you want so cover up! I did this effectively by wearing scarfs for the better part of a year. Anytime I was in the sun or outside, I covered my healing scar with a scarf. Additionally, for long trips or extended time on the beach, I made sure to liberally apply the SPF. Eventually the scarf wearing became a habit and gave me something fun to accessorize with. I even took a 3 week sailing trip in the summer and kept my scar under wraps the entire time!
- Massage daily. Massaging the healing scar tissue will increase the blood flow to the area helping the skin to heal faster and stay pliable. Rubbing the area will also help to break up the collagen and adhesions. My routine included massaging the area at least twice a day for a minute at a time. Rub in a figure eight motion, switch directions, and then circular motions. I would incorporate this into part of my other morning tasks like waiting for the morning kettle to boil or later in the day at the check-out line (make sure your hands are clean!). While your scar is in the immature phase, skin can be very sensitive. You will want to make sure to have your doctor’s approval before massaging the delicate skin on a scar area. Be cautions not to irritate the area and discontinue the massage if it increases pain or presents lasting redness to the tissue.
- Mederma. This ointment is fantastic. The main working ingredients in this gel are allantoin, allium cepa bulb extract and other salt acids. I used this gel when performing my daily massages and have seen definite results of smoother skin with less visible scars. Mederma is a little pricey, but it is certainly worth a shot and one tube should last your for the duration of your healing scar. Checking the Mederma website, there is often a coupon available which will help bring down the price a bit.
It is worth noting that there are some concerning ingredients in Mederma if you tend to lead a natural lifestyle. Among other ingredients, it does contain parabens to help preserve the product. This is a factor you will have to weigh for yourself and determine if short-term use of this ingredient is worth long term the benefits of minimizing the scar. I personally try and avoid these additives as much as possible in my daily life but do occasionally and mindfully use products on a short-term basis if they have great benefits.
So I may never get to use all of the tall tales to explain the franken-scar I expected across my neck, but I am pleased with its’ healing and I now have a minimal, pain-free scar. If you have other great tips and tricks to minimize scars, please share with me in the comments. I would love to hear what has worked for you.