What exactly is a scar?
When you injure your skin, your body naturally repairs the damage. How your body repairs this damage depends on how deeply the injury penetrates your skin.
If the injury damages the top layer of your skin, you’ll likely see new skin when the wound heals. To repair damage that goes deeper than the first layer, your body makes a tissue that’s thicker than your skin. This thicker tissue often becomes a scar.
New scars have a pink to reddish color. As a scar matures, it often turns lighter or darker than your skin.
Most scars are flat, and the skin on top tends to look wrinkled.
If your body makes lots of extra tissue, you’ll see a raised scar. Sometimes, the body makes an excessive amount of extra tissue and you see a raised scar that is bigger than the original wound. This type of raised scar is called a keloid.
You may see a sunken scar if something causes a lot of inflammation in your skin, such as acne or chickenpox. This happens because the inflammation destroys collagen in your skin. This type of scar tends to appear when acne or chickenpox heals.
The right wound care can prevent or lessen some scars
How you care for a wound affects how your skin heals. With the right wound care, it’s possible to minimize scarring. Sometimes, you can prevent a scar from forming.
When caring for a wound, it’s important to keep it clean. When cleaning a wound, use soap and water. Never use hydrogen peroxide, which can further damage your skin.
It’s also important to get stitches when you need them. This can help your skin heal and lessen scarring.
To find out how to care for minor wounds, go to Proper wound care: How to minimize a scar.
Treatment can make a scar less noticeable
If you develop a scar, it may become less noticeable over time. Some scars, such as keloids and sunken acne scars, don’t fade.
Not every scar requires treatment. You may want to consider treatment if a scar makes you feel uncomfortable. Treatment can reduce symptoms, such as pain and itch. When a scar reduces your ability to move, treatment can often help you regain some movement.
A board-certified dermatologist can tell you what type of treatment may diminish your scar. Treatment varies for each type of scar.
Image 1: Used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.Image 2: Getty Images References:Garg A, Levin NA, et al. “Approach to dermatologic diagnosis.” In: Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick’s dermatology in general medicine (7th edition). McGraw Hill Medical, USA, 2008:27.Gold MH, McGuire M, et al. “Updated international clinical recommendations on scar management: Part 2—Algorithms for scar prevention and treatment.” Dermatol Surg. 2014;40(8):825-31.Stier MF, Hirsch RJ. “Rejuvenation of scars and striae.” In: Hirsch RJ, et al. Aesthetic rejuvenation. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2009:210-24.Tziotzios C, Profyris C, et al. “Cutaneous scarring: Pathophysiology, molecular mechanisms, and scar reduction therapeutics Part II. Strategies to reduce scar formation after dermatologic procedures.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012;66(1):13-24.