August 01, 2018

Scars

From prevention to long-term care

It's hard to get through life without at least a few scars. And each scar carries a story, whether it's one of joy, struggle or another day lived. While some people wear their scars with pride, others dislike the appearance or location of their scars. There may be ways to prevent and minimize scars.

Causes of scars

Anytime your skin is injured, your body goes to work to repair the wound. How this process occurs depends on the depth of the injury. With an injury that damages only the top layer of skin (epidermis), a new layer of skin will simply form with time. But if the damage goes into deeper layers (dermis), your body generates new fibers of a specific protein (collagen) to heal the wound. Collagen is produced quickly, but is thicker and less flexible than regular skin tissue, resulting in a scar.

Most scars flatten with time. However, some may remain raised (hypertrophic scar). Rarely, scars can grow larger than the original wound and appear months after the injury. These are called keloid (KEE-loid) scars.

Proper wound treatment

Whether a scar appears — and how noticeable it becomes — often depends on how well a wound heals. To properly treat a wound at home:

  • Keep the wound clean — Rinse the wound with water to remove any debris. Wash the area around the wound with mild soap and water.
  • Apply an ointment — A thin layer of petroleum jelly or other ointment will keep the wound moist.
  • Cover the wound — Apply an adhesive bandage — or a nonstick gauze pad covered by an adhesive bandage...