HOW TO OPTIMISE SCAR HEALING
(AND HOW TO SPOT IF SOMETHING’S WRONG)
Fresh scars need special care to ensure an optimal result. To look after yours, follow a few simple steps:
- Gently clean your scar daily with a cleansing gel designed to optimise the scarring process
- Avoid stretching the skin as this can make the scar wider or “pop your stitches”
- Make sure you get your stitches out on time
- Use a cream suitable to be applied on scars to massage at least once a day
- Protect your scar with very high SPF
- Seek medical attention in certain situations: heavy bleeding, oozing pus, spreading redness, or excessive pain.
THERE ARE 4
BASIC TYPES OF SCAR
- NORMAL OR “GOOD” SCARS which are soft, flat and close to your skin colour.
- ATROPHIC OR “PITTED” SCARS where the tissue is hollow and indented. Typically caused by acne scars or chickenpox and can affect anyone.
- HYPERTROPHIC SCARS which are hard, red and raised or swollen.
- KELOID SCARS which are hard, bulky and extend beyond the confines of the original wound.
Hypertrophic and keloid scars are more common in people of African descent, although anyone can get them, especially on the chest and ears. If your scar falls into one of these last two categories, scar treatments are available, so see your doctor for advice. In all cases, a good scar care routine will help you get the best possible result following surgery or an injury. Read on for the details, or to skip to red flags to watch out for, click HERE.
YOUR IDEAL SCAR RECOVERY ROUTINE
1. Keep your scar clean to avoid infection
When it comes to scar care and prevention, cleanliness is imperative. Once your stitches are off, gently clean your scar at least once a day or whenever it is exposed to a dirty or dusty environment. Use a cleansing gel designed for fragilized skin, which is hypoallergenic and gentle enough.
Don’t dowse your scar in disinfectants like hydrogen peroxide as this can kill new skin cells and actually delay scar recovery.
2. Avoid stretching the skin during the scarring process
Scar healing takes time. To prevent unsightly scarring, there are certain activities you should avoid. Pulling on skin can result in a wide scar or even “pop your stitches” causing your scar to reopen. Avoid activities that place excessive tension on your scar (like lifting heavy weights, certain sports) for several weeks after surgery. You should also avoid clothing that rubs on the healing skin.
3. Make sure you get your stitches out on time
Stitches are a crucial part of the scarring process. A key aspect of your scar routine is making sure they are removed at the appropriate time. Too early and your scar could re-open, too late and they could leave marks. Don’t leave your doctor’s office without clear instructions on when and how to have your stitches removed (assuming they’re not dissolvable).
Click HERE for a quick guide to how long stitches should stay in. [ART-H018]
4. Use a good scar cream to help your skin feel better
As part of your scar care and prevention routine, choose a reputable scar cream from your local pharmacy. The kind of cream you are looking for will help soothe, promote restoration and protect against sun. You can start using it as soon as the scar is closed and dry.
5. Combine your scar cream with massage techniques
Scar massage can optimize the scarring process: make sure you do it at least once a day. Massage will improve the chances of a result you’re happy with by stimulating neat, healthy healing.
6. Keep your scar out of the sun
SPF is at the heart of your scar care routine. Fresh scars are prone to dark pigmentation if exposed to UV radiation, so opt for a soothing cream with very high sun protection (SPF50+). Click HERE to learn more about protecting scars from the sun.
IS MY SCAR HEALING NORMALLY?
Scar healing is a process that involves several steps. Read on to discover what’s normal and what’s a red flag.
My scar is bleeding
It is normal for a healing wound to ooze a small amount of blood. Simply apply pressure with a clean piece of gauze until the bleeding stops – if it won’t, you will need to see your doctor or go to A&E as you may need stitches. If your wound already had stitches and has reopened (this is called dehiscence), you will need to see your doctor to avoid a wide scar. If old scars re-open and start to bleed, this could be due to a nutritional deficiency, so see your doctor for advice.
My scar is oozing
It is normal for healing wounds to ooze clear liquid called serous fluid for several days, or even weeks, depending on the area. But if your wound starts to ooze white/yellow pus, this is a sign of infection and you will need to see your doctor for advice on whether you need antibiotics.
My scar is itchy
Healing wounds can itch for several years. In the early stages of scar formation, the wound is inflamed, releasing inflammatory mediators (chemical messengers) including the itch molecule histamine. These stimulate nerves in the surrounding skin. As the scar “knits” together, the mechanical pull also stimulates itch receptors. Over time, this sensation will slowly wane away, but daily massage with a suitable scar cream will speed up the process.
My scar is painful
When a wound is deep enough to leave a scar, nerve fibres can also be damaged. This can lead to burning sensations or pain, in a phenomenon known as “neuropathic pain”. Massage with a scar cream may help, but this will usually fade away on its own as the nerve fibres heal and regrow. It can also be treated with certain drugs such as amitriptyline. See your doctor if you are uncomfortable.
My scar is pink or red
It’s normal for new scars to be pink or red, that’s part of the body’s natural healing process. As the tissue regenerates, increased blood vessels are formed around it to feed the healing tissue and the influx of cells. The redness should fade away on its own, but if your scar is still red after several months, you may want to try a reputable scar cream to promote healing. In more extreme cases, you may want to see a doctor to ask about the best scar treatments such as silicone patches, steroid shots, intense pulsed light (IPL) and laser treatments. Surgical scar revision is also possible.
My scar is black
The body’s natural response to a wound is to generate intense inflammation, with the release of multiple inflammatory mediators (chemical messengers). These substances can stimulate the activity of pigment producing cells called melanocytes, resulting in brown or black pigmentation in or around the scar (Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation, PIH). This phenomenon is more common in darker skin types, but it can be avoided or reduced by using a high SPF on the healing scar.
Click HERE to learn more stitches and scarring ART-H018]