With a little time and patience, it's possible to reduce the appearance of a scar so that it's flatter and less prominent or visible. While the initial scar will take time to heal over a period of weeks, the long-term appearance and texture can be improved using methods approved by clinicians, although results are governed by your genetics, your type of skin and how well it recovers from injury.
Massage the skin around the scar with moisturizing cream to encourage blood flow and to keep the underlying tissue mobile in the first few days after surgery. The University of Michigan Department of Plastic Surgery suggests that you massage in circular movements along the scar after 10 to 14 days following surgery, to keep the newly formed fibrous scar soft. Use firm pressure with your thumbs or your fingertips. During the first few weeks of scar formation, the scar is immature and pliable, so massage for five minutes at a time, three to four times a day.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet containing fruit, vegetables and proteins, and drink up to eight glasses of water per day to hydrate the skin and flush away waste products. A 2005 article in "Selected Readings in Plastic Surgery" stresses the importance of protein, vitamin C, zinc and iron in the formation of collagen for efficient wound healing. Ensuring that your scar heals well helps prevent infections that can distort and redden the scar, making it more difficult to minimize its appearance.
Keep your weight stable if the scar is on an area of your body that might stretch if you put on excess weight. Scars take at least a year to settle completely, during which time they are more susceptible to extra tension and stress and will remain stretched when you lose the weight again. If the scar is over a joint, such as your knee or your elbow, try to minimize bending the joint while the scar is healing.
Mobilize the areas where you are scarred if your scars are the result of burns, taking advice and direction from your clinician. Burn scars can form painful, raised contractures, resulting in restricted movement, so a program of movement therapy is usually advised to minimize the likelihood of contracture, as well as the appearance of the scars. A pressure garment worn 24 hours a day also helps improve the appearance of your scars over a longer period.
Keloid scars need specific treatment to reduce their appearance. Keloids are the result of an over-production of collagen during the healing process, resulting in growths that extend beyond the boundary of the original incision. Massage helps reduce the itching, but not the size of the raised scars. Do not over-expose your scar to sunlight while it is healing. Always use a sunscreen, but remember that sunlight helps your body manufacture vitamin D, a vital building block of skin health and repair. Researchers from the aforementioned "Selected Readings in Plastic Surgery" article advise against the use of Vitamin E oil or supplements when dealing with wounds, as they believe it undermines collagen production and limits the strength of the fibrous scar tissue.
- John Hopkins Medicine: Dermatology -- Scars
- University of Michigan: Plastic Surgery -- Scar Care Instructions
- "Selected Readings in Plastic Surgery"; "Wounds and Scars"; Dr. George Broughton et al.; 2005
- Rochester Medical Center: A Strategy for Scars
- Rush University Medical Center: Preventing Scars and Contractures