4 Scar Care Dos and Don'ts

Allison Gilchrist, Associate Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
Patients with cuts and scrapes likely have questions about how to prevent or reduce the appearance of scars.
 
Scarring is part of the skin’s natural healing process and occurs in 3 steps: inflammation, tissue formation, and remodeling. Fibroblasts proliferate in the wound and produce collagen, which fills and closes the wound in a disorganized manner.
 
Because most patients want to minimize their scars, especially when they’re located in a conspicuous place, here are some dos and don’ts in caring for wounds and scars:
 
1. Do avoid the sun during the healing process
Keeping the scar out of the sun as it forms can help patients decrease the likelihood of red or brown discoloration. Clinicians can counsel patients to use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and to reapply it frequently to protect against dark scarring.
 
2. Don’t pick at scabs
Patients may pick their scabs because of itchiness, but removing a scab while a wound is healing will slow down the healing process and also increase the likelihood of hyperpigmentation in the scar.
 
The body starts healing the wound immediately after it’s incurred. White blood cells attack infection-causing bacteria while red blood cells, fibrin, and platelets create a clot to cover the wound—thus creating the scab.
 
Removing the scab can create a larger wound area and thus a larger scar.
 
3. Do keep the affected area moist
Clinicians can advise patients to apply petroleum jelly or antibiotic cream to the wounded area and cover it with a non-stick bandage. This may also hasten the healing process.
 
Contrary to what many patients believe, using hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound too often could cause continual irritation and slow the healing process, which will increase scarring.
 
4. Do use OTC creams (but don’t be disappointed if they don’t fully work)
Although no scar can be completely eliminated, clinicians can help patients properly treat the injury to reduce a scar’s appearance. Patients have several OTC options to try and minimize the appearance of a scar.
 
Aloe vera gel is used topically to promote wound and burn healing and to reduce pain and inflammation. Mederma, Scar Zone Topical Scar Diminishing Cream, and New-Skin Scar Fade Topical Gel are also nonprescription scar treatment products.
 
Patients should keep in mind that although many OTC products claim to work because they contain vitamin E or cocoa butter, there’s very little hard data to substantiate that claim.

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