Many people — women and men — have issues when it comes to scarring. Regardless of your skin tone, a scar can be a pronounced mark; one that could take months or years to go away. So it is far easier to prevent scars rather than try to fade them once they’ve appeared.
What is a scar?
Scars form when an injury on the body breaks through the top layer of skin. Within the second skin layer is a protein known as collagen, and a serious injury allows this collagen to access the skin’s surface. Scars are a natural part of the healing process; the body uses collagen to rebuild the skin layer after a cut.
Most scars fade or improve within two years of injury, but severe injuries may always have a mark present where hair follicles and skin glands were irreparably damaged. Scars that are red in appearance are still undergoing changes and may vanish on their own. White scars, on the other hand, are considered permanent and can only be covered by a tattoo artist or removed with a laser.
How to prevent scars
Since it is easier to treat a fresh cut properly rather than deal with a difficult scar later on, knowing the proper methods of care is essential.
Three main guidelines for scar prevention:
- Don’t pick scabs: every time you pick a scab, you are re-opening your wound and encouraging the body to create more collagen fibers.
- Wash the wound thoroughly: Clean wounds with soothing cool water and avoid using harsh soaps or topicals like peroxide or alcohol.
- Keep the wound covered: This practice may not be the best method for every type of wound; however, in the context of preventing scars, keeping a wound covered will help keep the tissue moist and healthy.
Additional advice to keep scars away includes:
- Don’t treat with vitamin E: Recent studies have shown that vitamin E applied to a wound may actually impair healing.
- Use pressure: Placing pressure on a wound helps prevent collagen from sneaking up to the skin’s surface.
- Avoid the sun: You may think exposing your wound to the sun will help keep your skin tone even, but the reality is exposure to ultraviolet rays may reduce healing and could discolor your injury more.
- Massage the injury: Stimulating the area will help break down collagen and restore blood flow.
What about acne scars?
Acne scars can be a very emotionally trying issue for people of all ages. Unfortunately, many acne scars are permanent because of damage to the skin from the pimple itself.
The best ways to prevent acne scars are to:
- Treat acne immediately: Treating acne before it becomes too inflamed can make a difference in how it leaves your skin once it has resolved.
- Avoid irritating your skin: Some people feel the need to scrub their skin if an acne breakout is particularly bad. Doing this only inflames the skin more, aggravating existing pimples.
- Never try to pop a pimple: Most people acknowledge this is the worst thing for your skin; however, some just can’t resist popping pimples. Picking at skin only results in far more damaged tissue and deeper scars.
- Seek medical intervention: If you have sensitive skin or deep, cystic acne, seek professional help before scarring gets out of control.