If you have lived life, you have scars. It might be a leftover memory from that bike crash when you were 6 or a battle wound from defending your better-half’s honor. Although scar prevention isn’t always possible, there are several things that can be done to help minimize their appearance and their functional affects.
Scar Prevention and Moisture
Your Grandfather may have encouraged you to let a wound “air out.” This can actually make a scar worse. One of the best things you can do for any wound is keep it moist by liberally applying vaseline or over-the-counter Bacitracin ointment to the area 3-4 times a day after a good cleansing with warm soap and water. The moisture helps to keep the body’s natural protective layer intact and helps prevent newly formed skin cells from being damaged or drying out. Keep the wound clean and moist for the first 10 days.
If a wound gets pulled or stretched, the chances of a permanent scar are much greater. Pulling forces damage early collagen and interfere with the natural healing contraction process. If a wound pulls apart, the scar will be worse. This is why whenever I suture a wound, I use several layers of stitches in the deeper and superficial layers to make certain the edges stay together nicely. In the absence of stitches, products such as Steri-strips or butterfly bandages can be very helpful to minimize scars. Botox has also been proven to reduce new scars when used on areas subject to motion: by keeping the wound still and secure, healing is improved.
Topical or Oral Medications
There are literally thousands of different products which make claims to reduce scarring, and the choices can easily be overwhelming. In his experience, Dr Shaw has seen good results with silicone based products such scar sheets or ScarGel. Silicone acts as a wonderful barrier and is very effective in helping the remodeling process. Dr Shaw also uses silicone in treating large scars known as keloids.
It is critical to avoid exposure to the sun during the healing process. The pigment cells in a wound are very sensitive and sun exposure can cause permanent darkening of a scar. Dr Shaw recommends using sunscreen products which are at least SPF 50.
In addition to its other risks, smoking can result in poor healing. Smoke causes the new, small blood vessels critical to healing in a new wound to shrink, depriving the wound of its critical supply of healing cells and oxygen.
Dr. Travis Shaw, M.D. is a double board certified facial plastic and reconstructive/ ENT surgeon serving Richmond, Fredricksburg, Midlothian and Williamsburg.