How To Minimise Scarring: Wound Care + Scar Treatments

So you have a wound in a visible place. How do you help it heal in a way that it leaves as little scarring as possible? Here is what I have learned from my doctors and from experience:

Disclaimer: I am talking about smaller wounds here. If you have a bigger wound, especially one over a joint, your doctor might give you very different advice because his goal will to keep the growing scar tissue supple. Also, the way we scar depends very much on the way our individual bodies work, on how healthy our lifestyle is, and on our age. One of the benefits of getting older is that the body gets better at healing skin.
Also, I am neither demonising nor glorifying scars. I'm just sharing some methods that might be useful for those looking for such information.
Finally, this post is titled How To Minimise Scarring, not How To Prevent Scarring, because unless you were genetically blessed with magically healing skin then the only way to avoid scarring is sitting still all your life.

How to minimise scarring:

Close incisions, preferrably professionally

   I once split my lip completely open after an unfortunate accident involving a sharp table edge. Fortunately I decided to go to a hospital and get it sewn, and was lucky to get a doctor who did his very best to sew it well. If I had let it heal on its own I would have ended up with a cleft and an irregular lip outline, but thanks to his skills I have just an extremely faint white line where the wound was and the lip outline hasn't changed. If you can't get someone to sew your wound closed, surgical tape will help to close the fissure.
   Of course not everyone is as skilled or as considerate as the doctor I got, some of them are really ham handed. I have firmly decided (and suggest you do the same) that if I ever get cut open again I'll ask the doctor to take extra care when swing things up. It may come off as a bit vain, but I do have a scar where I ask myself if the doctor could have done any worse a job of sewing up a small clean cut than he did.

Keep the wound dry!

That will help it to heal cleanly. When you wet a wound, the scab softens and sometimes even falls off. And obviously don't touch the wound, don't pick at the scab.
Ask your doctor to recommend you a silicone-based gel for your wound, especially if it's a bigger one. Or buy a silicone scar sheet. From what I have gathered silicone really helps the wound to heal cleanly by trapping just the right amount of moisture in.

   Ok, so your wound is healed. What now?

Protect the scar from the sun

Once the wound is healed, the scar tissue will be very photosensitive at first. This means that it can burn quickly when exposed to direct sun, and get discoloured -- especially if you have a darker skin tone.
So it's worth covering it up and applying sunscreen with a high SPF on it for the first year, maybe even wearing a band-aid over it if it's summer and the scar is on an exposed part of the body.

Act when the scars are still fresh

Scars (including stretch marks) that are still red are "fresh" and respond well to treatment. Mechanical exfoliation (scrubs or dry brushing) + heavy duty massage and keeping things moisturised with just about any basic oil or cream works quite well, but you have to be regular and persistent. I talked about that in this post. A friend of mine highly recommended the scar gel from Wala, I have also heard really great things about using Helichrysum oil (thinned with a carrier oil) or extract on scars.

Give them time to fade

Scars take time to fade, over the years they get less visible on their own. Also, you get more blasé about it, as life throws real problems at you and / or you get more comfortable in your own skin.

Treating older scars

Older scars are white or silvery. The methods I listed for fresh scars might help here, but don't raise your expectations too high. And again you need to be regular and persistent to see any results.
Acid peels, microdermabrasion and laser help with the skin unevenness (grooves and bumps) but not with the colour (white). If you need to conceal your scars for any reason, theatrical concealer or tattoo cover-up products do the job pretty well.

Rock your scars

Scars make you unique and are a part of who you are. There are plenty of amazing, talented and beautiful people out there with scars. A few celebs -- Harrisson Ford's chin, Padma Lakshmi's Arm, Joaquin Phoenix's lip, Seal's cheeks, Andy Warhol's torso, Queen Latifah's forehead. They don't make these people any less awesome. And of course in many cultures scars are seen as a thing of beauty.
If you find yourself focusing too much on your scars, try focusing on other things which will make you much attractive, scars or no -- be a kind person, do interesting things and be reasonably fit and healthy.

That's it from me. I'd love to know about your scars, the ones you like and the ones you've learned to live with. If you know of any good ways of minimising scarring, let me know!

photo credit: Day 227 - Tetanus Shot via photopin (license)

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