Scars are a normal part of the skin’s natural healing process, but for many of us, those little telltale marks can hang around for a while as an unwelcome guest.
In a study conducted by professors of reconstructive and plastic surgery, it was estimated that many people are seeking to fix scars. And that’s just per year, and it doesn’t even account for the entire global population.Which means, whether it’s from an injury, surgery, burn, or a pimple gone awry, we pretty much all have scars of some kind.
What Causes Scars?
Scars occur when the dermis, the second deepest layer of skin, is damaged by injury, surgery, picking at a scab, etc. When a wound occurs, your skin goes into immediate healing mode and starts trying to close it up as quickly as possible.
First, a blood clot forms on the skin’s surface (the epidermis) and covers the cut to form a scab. Then, the dermis gets to work below sending out fibroblasts (the cells that make collagen) to start rebuilding tissue. Because your skin is in a hurry to repair itself and replenish tissue, the collagen may not get laid out in the neatly-organized lattice pattern that makes up the rest of your skin. This hasty approach can result in a scar. Too much collagen creates a raised scar, while a lack of collagen makes an indented one. Over the next couple years following an injury, your skin will work to replace that messy collagen with neater tissue, so a scar may be reduced, but may never completely fade or return to your skin’s original appearance.
Treatments to help improve the appearance of scars
Steroid treatments are often used for raised hypertrophic and keloid scars. Steroids may be injected directly into the scar tissue, causing the tissue to shrink or flatten, softening the scar tissue and improving the overall appearance. Corticosteroid creams and impregnated tapes (which are infused with a corticosteroid, applied over the scar and left on for several hours at a time) may also be used to treat hypertrophic scars.
A chemical peel is a relatively safe procedure whereby a chemical is applied to the skin. When the chemical is peeled away, the top layer of the skin is removed, revealing skin that is healthier, more vibrant and smoother. This procedure is used to treat a number of skin conditions, including acne, wrinkles, dark spots and scarring. A chemical peel removes the top layer of skin, exposing the layer below. If a scar is close to the surface of the skin, the peel will remove the layer that has the scar. Most scars, however, are deeper. For those scars, chemical peels can be done in phases, with as many as six in a certain period of time.
Laser treatments come in two forms: ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers resurface the skin by removing outer layers. Non-ablative lasers create changes in the dermis without causing damage to the skin’s surface. They are often called lunchtime lasers because they can be done quickly, such as over a lunch hour. Unlike ablative lasers, there is minimal to no downtime.
The most common ablative lasers used to treat acne scars are the carbon dioxide and erbium-YAG lasers. These lasers burn skin tissue in a controlled manner to a specific depth. The usual result is that “new” skin is smoother, atrophic scars are reduced in depth, and the overall look of scarring is softened. Skin generally heals within two weeks but can remain red for a period of time after healing. The redness fades over the course of several weeks to several months.
Non-ablative lasers tighten the skin and stimulate new collagen formation. These lasers are most beneficial for mild acne scarring and pigmentation problems, rather than deep, pitted scars. However, pulsed dye lasers are a form of non-ablative laser that are used to improve raised scars and keloids.
The type of skin laser treatment that will be most effective for you depends on the type of scar you have. Should you be suffering from any from of scarring and wish to diminish its appearance, we highly encourage you to talk to Dr Darryl Chew to discover the best treatment for you. Click here to contact us.