The Scoop on Scars and How to Treat, Minimize and Conceal Them

March 20, 2018 Providence Health Team

Properly caring for wounds can minimize scarring

Camouflage a scar with color-correcting makeup

Everyone experiences bumps, bruises, cuts or scrapes throughout their lifetime. As much as we’d like to avoid them, they are inevitable. While some wounds are minor and heal without scarring, when you suffer a wound that damages the deeper layer of the skin, known as the dermis, the normal healing process of the body tissue typically leaves scarring.

The good news is many scars fade over time. They never go away completely, but they gradually become smoother, paler, softer and less noticeable. The exception is a keloid scar — a scar that keeps growing even after the wound is healed. More on that later.

5 types of scarring

Scars may be diagnosed as a pitted hole in the skin, a fine line or an abnormal overgrowth of tissue. Here are common types of scars:

  • Normal fine line scars
    Fine-line scars are typical after a wound or surgery. They begin as a red, raised line that softens, flattens and pales over time.
  • Keloid scars
    Keloids are raised scars that occur when too much collagen is produced at the site of the wound. This results in an overgrowth of tissue that may be itchy, painful or restrict movement if it’s tight and near a joint. This type of scar can continue to grow after the wound is healed. Keloids can form over cuts, burns, acne, tattoos and piercings. Some people have keloid-prone skin in which any injury may result in keloids.
  • Hypertrophic scars
    Like keloid scars, hypertrophic scars occur when there is too much collagen at the site of the wound. The main difference is hypertrophic scarring does not extend beyond the size of the original wound.
  • Atrophic (pitted or sunken) scars
    Pitted or sunken scars are left behind after an injury has caused a loss of fat tissue. The most common sources of atrophic scarring are acne, chicken pox and stretch marks.
  • Scar contractures
    Often the result of burns, scar contractures occur when the skin shrinks. This often leads to tightness and restricted movement.

Tips to minimize scarring

The appearance of scars depends on the size, depth and shape of your wound as well as your skin color and thickness.

“After suffering a wound or injury, it is important to reduce the amount of work your body has to do to heal it — especially when it is susceptible to scarring,” says Dr. Nguyen. “If you have a wound you think may need stitches, don’t wait. Go to your doctor or urgent care immediately for treatment. This will help lessen the risk of introducing germs and bacteria into the wound and give your doctor the ability to stitch the wound before any partial healing starts. I also recommend keeping first-aid kits fully stocked with wound care essentials in your house and car — because you never know when you might need it.”

  • Keep the wound clean to avoid germs and bacteria.
  • Keep the wound moist with petroleum jelly to help speed healing and minimize scarring.
  • Cover the wound with gauze or a non-adhesive bandage and change it regularly to keep it dry.
  • Get stitches as soon as possible, if needed.
  • Massage the wound daily with vitamin E to help promote a less visible scar.
  • Stay out of sunlight to help minimize discoloration.
  • Avoid the urge to pick off scabs.
  • Use sunscreen once the wound heals to avoid further discoloration.

Finding the scar treatment that’s right for you

Dermatologists have a number of scar treatment options depending on the type, size and severity of your scarring.

For keloid scarring:

  • Ablative laser
  • Cryotherapy
  • Retin-A
  • Steroid injections
  • Silicone sheeting
  • Surgical excision
  • Topical creams

For hypertrophic and atrophic scarring:

  • Chemical peels
  • Dermabrasion
  • Dermapen
  • Dermaroller
  • Fillers (e.g., Restalyne, Juvederm, Radiesse)
  • Lasers (e.g., Smoothbeam, MedLite, Fractional)
  • Latisse
  • Retin-a
  • Steroid injections
  • Topical creams

Concealing existing scars

If you have an existing scar that you’d like to conceal, there are safe, effective make-up options available. Here are a few tips for concealing a scar:

  • Apply a primer to clean skin to help the foundation go on smoother and last longer.
  • Blend in a green color corrector to neutralize red tones or a yellow color corrector to neutralize purple tones with a damp makeup sponge.
  • Cover the color correctors with a light, long-lasting, full-coverage foundation.
  • Set your foundation with a translucent powder (and setting spray if desired).

If you have concerns about scarring, please contact a dermatologist in your area. They can help reduce the visibility of your scars using safe, effective, nonsurgical solutions.


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