A scar is skin that forms over a wound as the skin heals. There are 5 main types of abnormal scars:
A scar is part of the normal healing process. The scar is made of the same material as the surrounding skin but it is made a little differently. As a result, the scar tissue appears different than the surrounding skin.
Factors that may increase your chance of having a scar include:
A scar may first look red and thick. It may may feel numb, itchy, painful, or sensitive. Some scars may also cause physical difficulties. For example a scar on the face may affect movement of the eyelids, or restrict motion, especially at a joint.
Over time, the scar will change. It may become raised/thick, flat, depressed, dark, or light in color. The type of the wound will affect how noticeable the scar is.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a skin specialist.
Most scars will fade over time, although they rarely go away completely. Some types of scars do not fade at all. Some people may feel self-conscious about their scars. This can affect their quality-of-life.
There are many treatments that can improve the appearance of a scar. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you:
Over-the-counter and prescription products can be used for scars caused by surgery or injury. Some examples include:
Dermabrasion uses a special tool to remove a layer of the scar tissue. It can make the skin appear smoother.
This treatment may be used for minor problems on the skin's surface. This may include acne scars or surgical scars.
A chemical peel uses specific chemicals to remove the top layer of skin. It can create a smoother appearance and even color.
This treatment is best for treating scars that are not deep or small acne scars.
Cryotherapy freezes the scar tissue with liquid nitrogen. The scar tissue will then blister and fall off.
Cryotherapy may be used to treat protruding scars, like keloids.
Steroid injections into the scar may shrink scar tissue. It may be used for scars that stick out, like keloid and hypertrophic scars.
The appearance of soft, indented scars, may be reduced by injecting fillers. The filler may make them appear more even. Fillers used include:
This effect is not permanent. Filler injections often need to be repeated.
Pressure bandages may be applied around the scar. The pressure may help to flatten the scar.
Surgery can improve the appearance of some scars. It may help to change the scar's size, location, color, or depth. However, surgery may not be able to erase the scar completely.
Some surgical options include:
The scar is cut out. The area is then closed in a way that leaves a new, less noticeable scar.
A skin graft surgery is removes healthy skin from one part of the body and moves it to another area. A skin graft may be taken from the inner thigh, buttocks, near the collar bone, in front of or behind the ear, and the upper arm.
A depressed scar is punched out from the skin, much like a cookie cutter. The punched out tissue is then placed back but is lifted up to match the surrounding skin.
In a punch excision, the tissue is not placed back in. Once the scar is removed, the wound is closed with stitches. This treatment works best for deep or pitted acne scars.
If you have a wound, follow your doctor’s wound care instructions. Proper care may reduce the appearance of a scar.
To minimize scarring from acne:
To minimize contracture scarring (after injuries like burns):
If you are prone to keloid scars, pressure treatment and silicone gel sheeting may help prevent them.
The American Academy of Dermatology
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
Canadian Dermatology Association
Keloid and Hypertrophic scar. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114293/Keloid-and-hypertrophic-scar. Updated April 6, 2015. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Preventing scars and contractures. Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters website. Available at: http://www.chkd.org/healthlibrary/content.aspx?pageid=P01754. Updated May 26, 2013. Accessed August 11, 2015.
Scars. National Health Services website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Scars/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Updated September 4, 2014. Accessed August 11, 2015.
Facial scar revision. American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery website. Available at: http://www.aafprs.org/patient/procedures/facial_scar.html. Accessed August 11, 2015.
Tips for taking care of your skin. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/take_care/skin_tips.html. Updated June 2014. Accessed August 11, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.