There can be few things more unsightly on the skin than an ugly, puckered scar – maybe from old acne attacks or a nasty graze from a fall or even a burn wound. But this doesn’t mean that you will have to live with these ugly marks forever. Scars can be encouraged to heal faster and fade more quickly with the right treatments.
What is a scar?
To understand how a scar can be encouraged to fade faster, it helps to first understand what a scar actually is. Scars are created as a result of the extra collagen that is produced following an injury. It is essentially the skin’s way of healing and replacing damaged or lost tissue. The fibroblast cells in the skin react to injury by producing extra collagen to fill the wound. This tissue that is produced is more fibrous than normal tissue and also functions less well, so is more noticeable’. In fact, scars come in a variety of types, from the classic raised line to sunken pits or pigmented areas. Acne in particular can cause facial scarring ranging from deep pits (“pock marks”) to flat, discoloured pots.
In actual fact, most scars will fade naturally over time. However, you can speed the process along and help the skin heal more smoothly through several applications and treatments.
Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E oil is an age-old remedy for fading scars. While there is no scientific evidence to prove that it does work, it is supported by a large body of anecdotal evidence. In fact, many doctors will suggest applying Vitamin E oil after surgery to help the healing process. Vitamin E oil can be purchased in various forms, such as in capsules or bottles. Be sure also to check the level of potency as this can differ significantly between products. Ideally, it is best to apply Vitamin E oil at night just before going to sleep. This is especially true for the face area as it can be very oily. And don’t forget that a small dab of oil goes a long way!
Lemon juice is nature’s bleach – it has a mild whitening effect and is a natural skin whitener, helping to fade the appearance of red or darkly-pigmented scars. It also contains Vitamin C and Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) which help to exfoliate and remove the upper layer of dull, dead skin, revealing the newer skin beneath – and also helping to boost skin regeneration. When applying lemon juice to scars, it is best to use a cotton-bud, especially if the scar is in the face area. Be careful when applying near the eyes as lemon juice can really sting and burn.
While aloe vera may not have any strong active ingredients, this gentle balm can help to soothe the scar tissue and moisturise the skin which will encourage the skin to heal faster. Dry skin easily forms scabs that can be picked and increase scarring so keeping skin moisturized, smooth and hydrated is a vital step in allowing scars to heal nicely.
Another natural chemical, onion extract has anti-inflammatory properties and even seems to inhibit the over-production of collagen which can result in an ugly fibrous scar. Onion extract can be purchased in cream or gel form in pharmacies, often as a “scar treatment cream”. However, be warned that it requires consistent use over several months to produce any noticeable effect.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s)
These are natural fruit acids which have an exfoliating action, thus removing dead skin cells. This not only reveals a fresh layer of new skin but also promotes skin regeneration, thus speeding up the healing and fading of scars. AHA’s also come in various strengths and it is best to start with the mildest, particularly as many people with sensitive skin may suffer stinging, irritation and other problems with its use.
Scar Treatment Creams
There are now many over-the-counter treatments, creams and medicines specifically aimed at reducing and fading scars. Many of these contain some of the ingredients mentioned above, although you have the advantage of buying them in the appropriate concentrations and combinations in a “scar treatment cream”.
Like many of the other substances, scar treatment creams require consistent and regular use over a long period – often months – before they show any effect. Old scars may take much longer to improve. Furthermore, research has shown that such scar treatment creams are only effective in about 25 to 50% of cases, which means half of all people who use them may not see any change. Don’t forget – always wait until the wound has healed completely, such as no scabs, oozing or open raw areas, before applying the treatment cream.
You can also buy silicon gel or silicon sheets in pharmacies and these have been found to flatter and lighten scars when applied on the scar or the scar is covered with a silicon sheet. No one knows how the silicon seems to help but it does seem to have a distinct effect in reducing the size and visibility of a scar.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of general skin nourishment – which comes from a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep – in helping scars to heal and fade.