The Skinny on Scar Therapy and How It Heals
The lowdown on at-home and cosmetic procedures to minimize the look of scars.
Looking at a woman's scars is like taking a walk through her history: There's the one she got when she fell off a bike as a kid, the one left by a cesarean section. Although some scars are barely noticeable or covered up most of the time, prominent scars—especially on the face—can be problematic. Scars from injuries, surgeries, acne, and other traumatic effects are likely unhappy reminders as well as cosmetically unsightly. And while in the past people had to live with their scars, today, there are many options for making yours less noticeable. Here, some of your choices.
The method: Silicone sheeting
What it's good for: Raised scars and keloids (overgrown scar tissue)
How it works: Silicone sheeting is placed over a scar and surgically taped down. Dermatologists believe that the combination of the occlusive layer over the scar and the friction from the silicone sheeting actually reduces raised scars over time. And in fact, silicone sheeting can take weeks or months to work (and can make your scar itchy when you wear it).
The method: Mederma ointment
What it's good for: Smaller scars and new stretch marks
How it works: Mederma uses an ingredient derived from onion skins to help treat scar height and discoloration. Its manufacturer claims it will soften hardened scar tissue, too. Mederma comes in a gel formula, so you can apply during the day and no one has to know. Visible results, however, can take awhile to show up.
The method: Microdermabrasion
What it's good for: Raised and slightly pitted scars
How it works: Microdermabrasion uses tiny crystals to aggressively slough off the top layers of skin. By sloughing off enough skin, microdermabrasion can help even out differences in tissue, thereby smoothing out a raised scar or making a pitted scar less deep. If you have very sensitive skin, however, microdermabrasion may not be for you. The process naturally irritates the skin, which can cause further discoloration if you're particularly sensitive.
The method: Lasers
What it's good for: Large, discolored, and raised scars
How it works: Usually used in conjunction with microdermabrasion, lasers penetrate deep into the skin, helping break down excess skin tissue that forms scars and smooth out scars that are lumpy. What's more, discoloration absorbs the laser's light, so it can make red or brown scars match the rest of your skin.
The method: Surgical scar revision
What it's good for: Wide or long scars, or those in prominent places
How it works: A dermatologist surgically removes the scar tissue, then rejoins the surrounding skin in a smoother, more even way. While you'll still be left with a scar, its severity and lumpy texture will be much less than that of the previous scar. However, the revision is a surgical procedure, so it requires a stronger commitment than some of the at-home methods.
The method: Cortisone injections
What it's good for: Raised, overgrown scars
How it works: Your dermatologist injects cortisone, a steroid, into the scar tissue. The cortisone helps the scar tissue shrink and flatten out, so it's a bit less noticeable.
The method: Soft tissue fillers
What it's good for: Depressed, pitted scars
How it works: Using the same material used to plump up lips and wrinkles, a dermatologist injects collagen or fat into pitted scars to help build up the tissue underneath the depression. You'll need to redo the injections every few months to maintain the change.