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Scars and Scarring

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Scars may be endearing on rugged rugby playing types but they will be unlikely to charm the judges on Britain’s Next Top Model. Actually when you’re young scars can be a real bummer, affecting your confidence and sometimes even causing discomfort and pain. Though there are no ‘quick fixes’ for getting rid of scars. Scars are for life but there are steps you can take to reduce scarring and to minimize scar tissue and we think it’s well worth the effort and, if necessary, the expense. We’ll walk you through what you can do to at different stages of the healing process.

+   What is a Scar?

astroturf

Scarring is part of the healing process and every cut or wound or burn (fire or astro, and both equally nasty) will lead to some type of scarring. Whenever the body tissues are damaged the body produces new tissue to replace them, but it often doesn’t do it exactly seamlessly. So scars are what are left behind after the healing process is complete. This includes surgical and internal wounds so think post-op stuff too, although these days surgeons work particularly hard to avoid scarring, using techniques like keyhole surgery wherever possible.

Surface scars caused by burns, cuts or infections occur when the dermis (the thick layer of skin) is damaged. After the initial healing process of clotting and infection fighting the body starts to produce collagen to reform the skin. Although you might not think it this collagen is the same as in normal skin but it looks different due to the way the fibres line up. In regular skin the tissues are randomly weaved together, whereas in scar tissue the fibres all line up in a single direction.

The result is red or purple skin that may be bumped up or sunken in. That’s not all – it’s important to also realize that his new skin is more sensitive to UV light and will not have sweat glands or hair follicles. Basically a scar is for life.

+   How Bad Is It?

The severity of the scar will depend on a number of factors:

  • Size of the cut, wound or burn
  • Where the scar is
    • Certain skin scars worse, such as on the back and chest
    • Scars to the face will be more obvious
    • Scars on knees and elbows will likely stretch and could limit movement
  • How long the wound takes to heal
  • Your skin
    • Your genetic make-up will affect what the scar ends up looking like and how obvious it looks
    • In general darker skin pigments tend to scar worse

Wounds that only damage the epidermis (the superficial top layer of skin), those that we probably think of as a ‘graze’ (nothing to do snack eating), should not really leave behind a scar. The fact is that all of us when young get the odd cut or injury and can work out from how that reacts how we might scar if it’s a bit more serious. The extremes here are probably things like car crashes, getting into some sort of physical scrap, or something sporty – Astroturf is a major problem (see more here).

+   Types of Scar

Scars are basically composed of the same stuff but for those who want to know the smart medical stuff the three main types of scarring are hypertrophic, atrophic (or pitted) and contractures:

Hypertrophic

  • These scars are raised or bumped above your normal skin
  • This happens when your body overproduces collagen
  • In rare cases you may get a keloid scar where the scar grows bigger than the originally wound site
  • Can be most noticeable with darker skin

Atrophic

  • These scars are sunken below your normal skin
  • This happens when some of the fat and muscle below the skin is lost, causing the skin to lose some of its structure
  • Acne is a typical reason for pitted scars (yet another joyous memory of those teenage years)

Contractures

  • These are scars where the skin shrinks at the scar site, making the skin tight
  • They may reduce mobility and cause more discomfort than other scar types
  • They are most commonly caused by burns where the tissue has basically been destroyed rather than just disturbed or cut up

+   Treatment of Scars

Particularly if you’re a bloke you can choose not to treat scars and just tough it out – most will never notice and hey, ‘chicks dig scars’ – wear them with pride bro. However some scars may be itchy or sore. If you are a girl and they’re apparent they may affect your confidence, even though you can wear make-up. Just remember the scar will gradually improve over the first year so be patient before you rush into anything. The colour of the scar will also improve after a year or two from a red or purple to a lighter white skin tone.

Corticosteroid Injections

  • This is the industrial treatment if things are really quite bad. These injections are used to reduce inflammation in the scar. They can help improve the appearance and flatten out the scar tissue but won’t remove scars. Usually you will get an injection every 4-6 weeks for a few months.

Dermabrasion or Laser Resurfacing

  • As you can probably imagine lasers cost money and this sort of treatment is limited on the NHS. These treatments work by removing the top layer of the skin. Dermabrasion uses special equipment and laser resurfacing uses a laser for this process. Typically these are used on hypertrophic (raised) scars but you may have to pay to have it done privately.

Surgery

  • Though surgery cannot get rid of a scar it can alter a scars appearance to make it less obvious or neater or to adjust the position. Just remember that surgery will leave a new scar and in some rare cases the scar may end up worse.

Filler Injections

  • There are a few options for filler injections, which are used to raise pitted scars up to the level of the surrounding skin. These are temporary and will need to be redone regularly. They can also be expensive.

+   Prevention

By looking after your wound properly you can reduce the severity of your scar. There are 4 things to keep in mind:

1. Keep the wound clean. By preventing infection you stop any extra inflammation which could lead to a bigger or more severe scar. Check out or clinic page on Cuts and Grazes for more information.

2. Get the wound/cut/burn looked at by a doctor, especially if its deep, big and you’re worried about scarring or if it’s on your face. Going ASAP is important and if it needs to be stitched they can minimize scarring.

3. Don’t pick at scabs and if they get dry use Vaseline or some other moisturizer.

4. Silicone gel sheets, such as those produced by our page sponsor Kelo-Cote. They are recommended by doctors worldwide and are proved to reduce scarring. You need to pay for them but hey, to our mind if it’s a scar you don’t want to advertise to the world and wear with pride (like you would?), it’s a really good value option for feeling good about your looks

You typically use silicone gel sheets after the new skin grows in. You’ll apply them to the skin for at least 12 hours a day for up to 3 months. Your doctor can give you more information.

A word about our sponsor Kelo-Cote

If you’re happy with your scars no problem (and you’re probably a bloke!). If you’d rather not have a scar, wherever it is and whatever the reason, then Kelo-Cote gives you the chance to make it a whole lot less conspicuous. Actually there are not too many things you can do about scarring but Kelo-cote can really help sort it and we think it rather brilliantly clever super cool (despite the rather weird name) and on that basis Doctor Wellgood happily recommend it to you. It comes in gel form or as a spray. You can buy it online too.
Click on the logo below for more detail.

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