It’s difficult to prevent a scar from forming, but if you have unsightly scars, you can learn to love them or reduce their appearance through treatment and feel comfortable in your skin. Literally.
Let’s get ‘topical’
Topical treatments, lotions and creams that can be applied to the skin are the simplest scar treatments. There isn’t a lot of evidence for the use of creams like vitamin E or zinc, but they are often used to minimise scarring. Cosmetics can be used to cover scars, and sunscreen protects from pigmentation. Didn’t Mum tell you that you should be using sunscreen anyway!?
There are also stronger topical agents: corticosteroids and azelaic acid (not the Timothy Leary kind). Just remember to ask about side effects. Topical treatments won’t make you grow a second head, but you need to be properly informed about the risks and benefits.
Injections: Fuel-inject your scar treatment
It’s also possible to reduce scarring by injecting solutions around scarred tissues. Different solutions are appropriate for different types of scarring. Corticosteroids may soften, shrink and flatten scar tissue; and a collagen, fat and gelatin matrix can be injected to fill indented scars.
But there are side effects, including pain, infection, allergic reaction, and others – your doctor will give you the full list. Bear in mind that the results are often temporary – you may experience the side effects twice if repeat injections are necessary.
Need a stiffer drink? Stronger treatments on the menu
Chemical peels can be used to remove old layers of skin around shallow scarring and re-grow ‘nicer’ skin. Just be aware you may look like Frankenstein for a couple of weeks. Laser treatment is similar but will leave you a little pink, so don’t make plans for a photo shoot.
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion are techniques that remove uneven skin surfaces. There’s also radiation (it’s been used to treat scars for donkey’s years, although success varies) and cryotherapy or cryosurgery. No, that doesn’t involve freezing your head in a chamber. Only the upper skin layers are frozen. It’s a fairly hardcore scar treatment procedure, but unfortunately hardcore evidence of its effectiveness is lacking.
Skin surgery: Going the full monty
Technically, scar surgery is considered "minor" – still, be prepared for the doc to use punch excision or grafting, scrape away dead skin with a special ‘cookie cutter’ or move your scar to a different location. Don’t worry, you’re not a human biscuit and they do stitch you back up. Just remember, there are risks.
Being cool with your ‘pinker’ bits
All sound like too much pain and effort? Professional help is available to help you learn to feel good about the skin you’re already in. Scars often appear much worse to the wearer than they do to others, and talking to a counsellor can help you accept your scars.
It’s your skin – feel good about it. If scars are affecting your self-image, try talking. You may find you can learn to feel good in the skin you’ve got. If you can’t, other treatments can improve the appearance of the skin you’re in. Speak with your doctor for further information.
For more information on treating scars, including different procedures and preventing scars from occurring, see Scar Treatments.