Expert Advice on Treating Scars
Warmer weather means more outdoor activities – and probably more scrapes and cuts. Even a minor injury can lead to a scar, the American Academy of Dermatologists says, and that’s a natural part of the healing process. But no one likes the look of a scar, and the AAD is offering some hints on how to care for scrapes and reduce the appearance of scars:
“The appearance of a scar often depends on how well your wound heals,” says board-certified dermatologist Ellen S. Marmur, MD, FAAD, associate clinical professor of dermatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City. “While scars from surgery or over joints like the knees and elbows are hard to avoid, scars caused by minor cuts and scrapes can become less noticeable by properly treating your wound at home.”
To reduce the appearance of scars caused by minor injuries, Marmur recommends the following tips:
Always keep your cut, scrape or other skin injury clean. Gently wash the area with mild soap and water to keep out germs and remove debris.
To help the injured skin heal, use petroleum jelly to keep the wound moist. Petroleum jelly prevents the wound from drying out and forming a scab; wounds with scabs take longer to heal. This will also help prevent a scar from getting too large, deep or itchy. As long as the wound is cleaned daily, it is not necessary to use anti-bacterial ointments.
After cleaning the wound and applying petroleum jelly or a similar ointment, cover the skin with an adhesive bandage. For large scrapes, sores, burns or persistent redness, it may be helpful to use hydrogel or silicone gel sheets.
Change your bandage daily to keep the wound clean while it heals. If you have skin that is sensitive to adhesives, try a non-adhesive gauze pad with paper tape. If using silicone gel or hydrogel sheets, follow the instructions on the package for changing the sheets.
If your injury requires stitches, follow your doctor’s advice on how to care for the wound and when to get the stitches removed. This may help minimize the appearance of a scar.
Apply sunscreen to the wound after it has healed. Sun protection may help reduce red or brown discoloration and help the scar fade faster. Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply frequently.
“Although no scar can be completely eliminated, most scars do fade over time,” Marmur says. “If you’re worried about the appearance of a scar, see a board-certified dermatologist. A dermatologist can answer your questions and talk about ways to make your scar less visible.”
For injuries that are deep, very painful or become infected, Marmur recommends seeking immediate medical attention from a dermatologist or local urgent care facility.
These tips are demonstrated in “Proper Wound Care: How to Minimize a Scar,” a video posted to the Academy website and the Academy’s YouTube channel. This video is part of the Dermatology A to Z: Video Series, which offers videos demonstrating tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails. A new video in the series posts to the Academy’s website and YouTube channel each month. Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations.