As if an accident or surgery—and the resulting row of stitches—wasn’t bad enough, chances are good that you’ll also end up with an ugly scar as a memento for years to come. Or at least that’s how it used to be.“We used to think it was better to wait for the scar to form before starting treatment, but the thinking now is that early intervention can make scars less prominent more quickly,” explains Joel Cohen, M.D., director of About Skin Dermatology and DermSurgery, Englewood, CO, who has done extensive research on scar treatment. Thanks to advances in treatments and techniques, dermatologists are now able to help fade away existing scars and, in some cases, even stop scar formation in its tracks.Here, the latest scar solutions.
Pulsed dye lasers: This non-ablative laser has long been the first line of treatment for scars. It produces an intense, targeted burst of light, and the heat is absorbed by the melanin or blood vessels in the skin. It has been shown to improve the texture and thickness of scars as well as reducing redness.
Fractional ablative lasers: According to Cohen, this is now the preferred method of scar treatment for many doctors. “It pokes little holes into the scars which stimulate collagen production and helps remodel the scar,” he explains. He’s currently conducting a study in which one group will receive a combination of ablative fractional and pulsed dye lasers. “That combination is one direction that treatment may be going,” he says. There is even some pilot evidence that fractional lasers can be used on the same day as surgery, before the surface sutures are placed in the skin, to help prevent scar formation as the wound heals.
Latisse: This eyelash-enhancing drug may soon play a role in scar treatment, by helping to repigment the scar tissue. Recent research has looked at pairing fractional laser treatments with daily applications of Latisse on top of the scar. “In one study, over half of those using this protocol had greater than 50 percent improvement in white discoloration of the scar,” says Cohen.
Botox: In an area with lots of muscle contractions—like the forehead—Botox injections can be given after the stitches are put in place. “If those muscles can’t contract constantly, there’s less tugging on the wound, and that may help reduce scar formation,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., a New York City dermatologist and YouBeauty dermatology advisor.
Steroids: Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatories, making them a good choice for helping to make raised scars look less prominent. Over-the-counter topical creams aren’t strong enough to do the job—you’ll need to get a prescription-strength version from your doctor. For really thick scars, steroid injections directly into the scar tissue may be more effective than using a topical cream.
Silicone pads: While a wound is healing you have the opportunity to help prevent a scar from forming. One of the best solutions is to keep it covered with silicone. Wechsler recommends silicone sheets that can be cut to the shape of your wound. “The silicone helps flatten out the collagen and remodel it,” she says. ScarAway Silicone Scar Sheets deliver slight pressure to the scar and mimic healthy skin function, which helps soften scars and improve color and texture.
Vitamin E and aloe: These two topical ointments are the old wives’ tales of the scar treatment world. And while there may be plenty of anecdotal evidence for their efficacy, there isn’t much in the way of science to back them up. Wechsler says that the real benefit from rubbing on such moisturizing substances is the act of rubbing itself. “Massaging a scar twice a day is great because it gets the collagen to reform,” she says.
Sun protection: Keeping a healing cut—or newly formed scar—sheltered from the sun is essential if you want it to look less obvious. “Sun exposure makes scars stay red or pink longer,” warns Wechsler. “You can literally double your healing time if you don’t use good sun protection.” Cover it with a bandage or clothing, and when the skin is exposed, make sure to slather on sunscreen. Mederma Scar Cream Plus SPF 30 provides skin-healing treatment and full-spectrum UV protection.