10 Ways To Address Scar Tissue
Scars — we all have them. Whether it’s from an accident, surgery, acne, or even stretch marks, scars are a natural part of life. Still, you may feel self-conscious about them, and it’s okay if you want them to be less noticeable. However, scar tissue is very different from our normal tissues, and depending on its location, a scar can even cause pain.
The good news is that there are now many treatments that effectively reduce the appearance of scars and repair the skin matrix, which means you don’t have to put up with unsightly or uncomfortable scar tissue anymore.
What Is a Scar?
Scars are part of the body’s healing process. They form to replace lost or damaged skin or other tissue. Most wounds result in some degree of scarring.
There are several types of scars, including:
- Keloid scars: thick, irregular, and rounded bands of scar tissue that develop directly at the site of the wound and beyond the edges of the wound
- Hypertrophic scars: similar to keloid scars, but their growth is limited to the area within the boundaries of the wound site
- Contractures: occur when large areas of skin are damaged or lost; the scar tissue pulls the edges of the skin towards each other to create a tight area of skin
Scars form as the result of cuts or damage to the deep, thick layer of skin, known as the dermis. The skin repairs itself by growing new tissue that pulls the wound together and fills in any gaps. This new tissue is quite different from normal skin – scar tissue is a strong collagen-based matrix of material. Collagen is an essential and abundant protein that provides structure to keep skin from sagging.
In healthy skin, the collagen fibers are oriented randomly from each other, somewhat like a basketweave. In scar tissue, though, the collagen fibers are oriented in a single direction so that they are parallel to each other; this arrangement of collagen allows the skin to strengthen and heal. New collagen forms for several months, which causes the scar to become raised and lumpy. In time, collagen production at the wound site slows, and the existing collagen breaks down, making the scar less visible.
Scars often fade over time, but if you are like many people, you may not want to wait for two or more years for a scar to go away – this is especially true if your scar is in a prominent place or causes itching, pain, or other symptoms. Fortunately, dermatologists have many state-of-the-art tools available to help them reduce the visible appearance of scars.
Dermatologists determine which approach to use by considering several factors, such as:
- Patient’s age, medical history, and overall health
- Severity of the scar and its symptoms
- Type and location of the scar
- Patient’s tolerance for specific procedures, therapies, or medications
- Patient’s expectations
- Patient’s preferences or opinions
10 Ways To Minimize Scar Tissue
It is impossible to erase scars completely, but various dermatology treatments can minimize scar tissue to the point of making scars unnoticeable.
Dermabrasion is a skin resurfacing procedure that uses abrasion to remove scar tissue. The dermatologist uses a handheld rapidly-rotating device that sands off the top layer of skin. As it heals, the scar tissue looks smoother and fresher and begins to resemble healthy skin.
2. Chemical peels
Chemical peels are similar to dermabrasion in that they remove the top layers of the scar tissue, and the healing tissue looks more like healthy skin. This treatment works best for superficial scars; it can also minimize the appearance of sun-damaged skin and irregular pigment.
3. Collagen injections
Dermatologists often administer collagen injections just beneath the patient’s skin to minimize the appearance of scar tissue. Collagen injections replace the natural collagen lost when the scar was formed. Skincare professionals also use collagen injections from purified cow collagen or other materials to treat wrinkles and facial lines.
4. Cortisone injections
Cortisone is a type of steroid. When injected directly into a hypertrophic scar or keloid, the steroids in cortisone shots break the bonds between collagen fibers to help soften and shrink these hard scars.
Cryosurgery works by freezing the top layers of scar tissue, which causes the keloid-forming cells in the scar tissue to die. The treatment usually involves the application of liquid nitrogen at temperatures as low as -320℉ or -196℃. Dermatologists often reserve cryosurgery for smaller keloids, like those resulting from acne scars. Cryotherapy is most effective for newly-formed scar tissue.
6. Punch grafts
Punch grafting replaces scar tissue with healthy tissue. To perform a punch graft, a dermatologist uses a small instrument to punch a small hole in the skin, remove the scar tissue, and replace it with a plug of healthy tissue. Dermatologists may recommend punch grafts to address deep acne scars.
7. Surgical scar revision
In this procedure, a surgeon removes the entire scar and rejoins the skin. While a new scar will form following the procedure, the goal of surgical scar revision is to create a scar that is less obvious. Dermatologists may recommend surgical scar revision for scars that are long, wide, in obvious places, or that have healed in an unusual way.
8. Silicone gel sheeting
The silicone in these gel sheets hydrates and softens scar tissue and reduces collagen buildup to shrink and fade scars.
Topical creams can flatten and fade scars by hydrating the tissue, which plumps up the skin to reduce the appearance of scars. Some creams contain mild exfoliants that scrub away scar tissue
10. Laser resurfacing
Laser resurfacing uses wavelengths of light energy to remove damaged skin and scar tissue. The therapy works by stimulating energy production within cells to speed up healing. Laser therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, boosts collagen production and improves the distribution and organization of collagen fibers to help support the appearance of healthy skin tissue once the damaged skin tissue is removed.
Dermatologists may recommend laser resurfacing to refine hypertrophic scars. Little preparation is needed before laser resurfacing other than cleaning your skin with a gentle, non-drying cleanser.
For more information on ways to address scar tissue, consult with a dermatologist.