It seems that scars are just one of those things humans can obsess about. Many of us have a sort of love-hate relationship with our scars; some remind us of an amazing adventure we had even though it ended painfully, and some bother us so much we can’t even look at them.
Whatever your relationship to your scar, it’s good to keep in mind that we all have them, whether big or small, hidden or not. They’re there as constant reminders of our life journey whether good or bad. And sometimes, many of us kind of wish they’d disappear.
If you’ve been wondering what you might be able to do about a recent or long-time scar that’s been bothering you, we’ve compiled some useful info and tips care of our amazing surgeons.
What are Scars?
Scar tissue is how your body heals injuries. Anytime you have an injury to the skin or body it heals it back together with scar tissue. This happens with all scars whether they be surgical scars or cuts and scrapes.
When we think of scars we usually think about what they look like visually, or the portion on the outer surface of the skin where we can see the effect of a previous injury and how the body has healed it.
What are the Different Types of Scars?
Everyone heals differently, and every scar is different in appearance depending on what injury it healed from and where on the body it healed. There are two types of scars: typical or normal scars and pathologic, problematic or abnormal scars.
The appearance of normal scars can vary. Scars in high tension areas, such as the back and shoulders heal more spread out compared to scars in lower tension areas like on the face and arms.
When it comes to problematic scars there are hypertrophic scars and keloid scars. Hypertrophic scars are fixed scars within the area of a previous injury, where the body lays down slightly more scar tissue than normal.
And keloid scars are similar to hypertrophic scars except the body forms an excessive amount of scar tissue, which can extend beyond the area of injury, leading to an often larger or raised scar.
How long does it take for a Scar to Heal?
What a lot of people don’t know is that the scar healing process is dynamic. Scars evolve and change for 12-18 months after surgery or injury. The things we do to take care of our scars, such as scar massages or silicone treatments, is a method to encourage the scars to heal and mature. A mature scar should be soft and thin with minimal pigment and colour.
When Should Someone Consider Scar Revision?
Because the healing process for a scar is so extensive, at The Plastic Surgery Clinic we normally wouldn’t consider scar revision until about a year following surgery or whatever injury caused your scar in the first place.
That said it is never too soon to address and treat a scar especially via non-surgical options. The sooner you take care of and treat a scar the better the chances it will heal correctly.
There are a number of non-surgical scar management treatments that we will try before opting for surgical scar revision such as scar massage, silicone treatments, topical creams (or specialty products, like Miracle 10 Fade Out, which is available at our clinics), steroid injections, Botox injections, as well as skin resurfacing treatments like Morpheus8 and Venus Viva Nano Fractional (that are also very effective in improving the appearance of acne scars).
For most scars, but especially for surgical scars it’s also important that you don’t expose them to the sun, as scars with too much sun exposure can go permanently lighter or darker than the rest of your skin.
If all the nonsurgical options have not improved your scar, or if you have a pathologic scar, like a hypertrophic or keloid scar then in some cases these may require scar revision.
What is Scar Revision Surgery?
Scar revision is when we intervene surgically in order to correct a scar. At The Plastic Surgery Clinic we will cut out your old scar and suture it back together with a special technique. The key is to try to reduce or eliminate the factors that may have been causing your scar to heal badly, such as the scar being in a high tension area, or an infection, for instance; whatever was making the scar not heal as it should. We then try to create a new scar, and treat it as needed with the scar management measures previously mentioned.
Are Scars Permanent?
Yes, unfortunately scars are permanent. Once you have a scar you can’t get rid of it, you can only make it heal as well as possible. That said, scars that heal well can be barely perceptible.
As plastic surgeons our main focus is not only making the perfect scar and making it heal perfectly for it to be imperceptible, but also hiding scars in natural creases and folds so you can’t see them.
Do Some People Scar More Easily than Others?
Everyone scars differently. Some people form fine thin scars and others form thicker scars or keloid scars, which can be genetic. The circumstances under which a scar is formed matters as well as where the scar occurs. A neat surgical scar that is strategically placed in the natural creases and fold of your skin will heal much differently than a scar that you got from tearing up an elbow by falling off your bike.
Can A Scar be Harmful?
Scars are typically not harmful but in some cases they can be uncomfortable or itchy or even hurt. Early scars especially can be sensitive and their nerve endings can get injured. We will often recommend scar massage in order to desensitize a fresh scar so that it causes less discomfort.