How to Reduce Scars and Pigmentation

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How to Reduce Scars and Pigmentation
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Scars are formed when the dermis, which is the thick layer of skin that lies below the surface layer, suffers from an injury. In order to heal itself, the body produces extra collagen fibers that have a different texture and appearance to the tissue around it, and this is how a scar is born. 

Just about everybody out there will experience a scar at some point in their lives, and while the majority of these will fade naturally relatively quickly, others can be slightly trickier to get rid of. 

What should you do if you have a scar that just doesn’t seem to want to go away? 

Here are some tips to help you to fade away even the most stubborn of scars…

Chemical Peels

For those of you who have never had one, chemical peels may sound frightening, but they can actually be extremely beneficial, especially when it comes to fading scars. 

What is a chemical peel? 

They are chemical solutions that are applied to the face and have an exfoliating effect. This causes the surface layer of skin to peel off, revealing the fresher and clearer skin cells beneath. For milder scars, meaning those that haven’t formed deep down within the skin, a chemical peel can be quite effective. 

Infographic on chemical skin peels

The chemicals used in the peel depend on how strong you want the effects to be, with some of the most common chemicals being:

  • Glycolic Acid – an alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid comes from sugar cane and provides a mild and light peel, with minimal side effects. Although they are quite gentle, this does mean that you will likely need multiple treatments in order for glycolic acid to have an effect on a scar 
  • Trichloroacetic Acid – also known as TCA, these peels are medium-depth, making them more effective at tackling scars 
  • Phenol Acid – this provides a deeper peel. While this does mean that there is a downtime to the treatment, a phenol peel is also the most effective at fading scars, and will only need to be carried out once in order for effects to be visible

If you are considering using a chemical peel to fade a scar, you may be disheartened to know that one of the side effects of chemical peels is scarring. 

Fortunately, these risks are minimized if you follow your dermatologist’s guidelines when it comes to preparing your skin for the treatment, as well as after-care. Make sure that you choose a reputable dermatologist to carry out the treatment, as these also keeps the chances of experiencing side effects to a minimum. 

Superhero Ingredients

There are so many creams out there that make claims to be able to fade scars in a matter of days, but, if you give these products a try, you will quickly find out that these claims are false. 

Scars are formed deeper within the skin, meaning that products that work on the surface of the skin are not going to be able to bring about any dramatic changes. 

However, with that being said, certain ingredients, when used over time, can definitely help to minimize the visibility of scars by speeding up the healing process and encouraging skin cell regeneration. 

Here are a few key superhero ingredients to look out for: 

  • Rose Hip Oil or Extract – packed with fatty acids, rose hip helps to build up the collagen in the skin, plumping it up and fading away scars 
  • Aloe Vera – regenerates damaged tissue and boosts the healing process. Topical aloe vera has been proven to be effective when it comes to healing wounds and removing scars
  • Vitamin E – incredibly moisturizing, which prevents dry skin and therefore reduces the visibility of scars 
  • Retinol – speeds up the skin cell turnover process, helping the skin to naturally shed scarred cells at a faster rate. However, research shows that retinol may only be effective when it comes to treating younger scars
  • Kojic Acid – derived from mushrooms, kojic acid is a natural skin lightening ingredient. However, while it can have an effect on the darkness of your scar when used in the long term, it won’t bring about any changes to the texture of the scarred skin 
  • Vitamin C – a popular skin brightener that works over time by slowly lifting pigment to treat discoloration 
  • Black Seed Oil – high in vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, black seed oil is incredibly moisturizing and also has the ability to help with the regeneration of skin and scar tissue 

Remember, when using topical ingredients such as the above to treat scars, don’t expect an immediate fix. Scars lie deep in your skin, and it will take a fair bit of time for the above ingredients to work their magic. The key is ensuring that you are regular and consistent with your use of whichever ingredients you choose, so that you give them the chance to have this long-term compound effect. 

Silicone Gel

Take a look at the ingredient lists of some of the many scar creams out there…

You will likely see silicone as one of the main ingredient. 

Why is this? 

Well, when used on a new scar, silicone hydrates the outer layer of your skin, preventing it from producing such tough collagen fibers. The resulting scar will be flatter and softer. 

Silicone also helps to rebalance the levels of collagen in your scar tissue and the rest of your skin, bringing these back to similar levels and therefore making scars less apparent. 

If your scar ever itches or feels uncomfortable…

Silicone can help too, soothing the skin and clearing the itch. 

Never tried using silicone on a scar before?

You have two main options – a silicone gel or silicone sheeting. 

They both work in pretty much the same way, so long as they are used consistently. This is the most important thing to remember when it comes to using silicone to treat a scar, as the silicone needs to be in direct contact with your skin for as long as possible for the treatment period, which is usually a few months.

The main advantage to using the sheets over a gel is the fact that the gel would require multiple applications throughout the day. You would also need to wait for it to fully dry before covering it over with anything, which could be frustrating if the scar is somewhere on your body that is usually covered with clothing. 

On the other hand, the sheets last for longer, and can even be re-used. However, the sheets are difficult to apply to certain parts of the body, such as the joints, and many do not like wearing them over scars on their face, as the sheets are visible while the gel is invisible. 

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each, so you would need to decide which option would work best for you. 

How long will it take for improvements to be visible? 

This all depends on how deep your scar is. However, studies show that it takes between one to three months of regular use of silicone for scars to begin fading, although this can sometimes be over six months depending on various factors.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a process that makes use of a stream of fine crystals, or a diamond tip, to exfoliate the skin. This removes the top layer of skin, revealing the smoother and healthier looking skin beneath.

It is a procedure that re-texturizes the skin, while also lightening any pigmentation and smoothing down the edges of a scar.

This is a treatment that can be carried out on older scars, although you will need to undergo multiple sessions in order for results to be visible. 

This is often a preferred alternative to the chemical peels mentioned earlier, not only because microdermabrasion does not have the same side effects, but also because it tends to be more cost-effective. 

Infographic of microdermabrasion on skin

Wondering if microdermabrasion actually works when it comes to fading scars? 

Yes. Multiple studies have been carried out on various types of scars, from post-acne to post-trauma, and all found that microdermabrasion can significantly minimize the appearance of the scar.

Laser Scar Removal/Reduction

Laser treatments are becoming increasingly popular when it comes to fading scars. Although they will not fully remove a scar, they can make a scar pretty much invisible. 

How do they work? 

To put it simply, they remove the outer layer of the scar’s damaged skin cells, helping to smooth out the skin and improve its overall tone. Lasers can also reduce any redness in the blood vessels that run through and around the scar tissue, while stimulating the production of healthy new skin cells. All of this results in a scar that is far less visible than it used to be. 

There are three main types of laser treatments available for scar removal, and these are: 

  1. Laser Resurfacing – this removes the skin’s outer layer, clearing away an damaged skin cells. Different lasers will be used depending on how deep the scar is 
  2. Fractionated Laser Resurfacing – this laser penetrates slightly deeper into the skin, targeting any darkened skin cells. Fractionated lasers also promote skin cell regeneration and the production of healthy collagen, both of which contribute to minimizing the appearance of scars 
  3. Non-Ablative Laser Resurfacing – these lasers make use of infrared heat to promote the production of collagen while also boosting the skin cell regeneration process

Since the lasers are removing the top layer of your skin, the procedure makes your skin extremely vulnerable to the sun, as well as other types of environmental damage. 

This is a treatment that you should only consider if you are willing to follow a strict after-care routine, including avoiding direct sunlight for up to six weeks after your procedure. 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t try laser scar removal?

Yes, if you fall under one or more of the following categories, then laser treatments may not be for you: 

  • You have active acne breakouts 
  • You have skin sores 
  • Your skin tone is dark 
  • You are taking blood-thinning medications 

If any of these are you, make sure that you seek the advice of a reputable doctor before considering laser scar removal. 

Sun Protection

Scar tissue is not only weaker than normal skin tissue, but it is also more susceptible to UV damage. 

When exposed to the sun, scar tissue will easily darken, and this change can often be permanent. Even small bouts of accidental exposure, such as walking from your house to your car, will build up in scar tissue over time, causing the same change. 

If you are trying to fade your scar, then causing it to darken is something that you definitely do not want to do.

This makes sun protection absolutely vital, and sunscreen alone is often not enough. 

Why not? 

Because research shows that most people do not apply a thick enough layer of sunscreen for it to work effectively, and re-application throughout the day is often not done frequently enough, resulting in a lack of protection for the skin.

As mentioned above, even accidental sun exposure can have quite the effect on a scar, so try to cover it up physically too, in addition to using a broad-spectrum sunscreen. You can do this by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and staying in the shade when the sun is at its peak. 

Young fashionable woman with white sun hat and sunglasses

How else can you keep a scar covered?

This depends on where your scar is…

If your scar is somewhere on your body, you will likely be able to use clothing to cover this up. For a scar located anywhere else, you may need to turn to a bandage, some tape, or even the silicone gel sheets mentioned earlier. 

When it comes to fading scars, the earlier you act, the better. However, no matter how old or deep your scar may be, you will no doubt be able to use one of the above methods to help fade your scar and make it less visible. 

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