Even if you care for a wound perfectly, you can still end up with a scar. That’s because some people are just more prone to scarring - and some places on the body are just more prone to scars. A wound doesn’t need to be deep or severe to leave a scar.
I found most of the information for this post on the American Academy of Dermatology website. But I also learned some of it when my little girl got a deep gash on her forehead - from jumping on the couch! (BAD daughter!) I took her to see a plastic surgeon to make sure she didn't get a scar.
Follow these steps to reduce the chance of a scar:
(They're ideal for injuries like skinned knees and deep scratches.)
- Always keep any skin injury clean. Gently wash the area with mild soap and water to keep out germs and remove debris. Because pools are full of germs, stay out of them until the wound has closed.
- To help 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 also prevents scars from getting too large, deep or itchy. As long as the wound is cleaned daily, it is not necessary to use anti-bacterial ointments. If a scab forms, don’t pick at it. Scabs are your body’s bandaid. Repeatedly picking at scab will slow healing and increase scarring.
- 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. They provide moisture to the wound by creating a moist healing environment. The high water content of hydrogel dressings cools the wound, producing pain relief that can last up to 6 hours, and promotes healing. Pain with dressing changes is reduced because hydrogels don’t adhere to the wound surface. Hydrogel dressings are not recommended for wounds with large amounts of oozing.
- 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 the bandage is adhered to the wound, thoroughly wet the bandage in the shower, then remove it.
- 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 for 6 months after it has healed. Sun protection reduces discoloration and makes the scar fade faster. Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF or 30 or higher and reapply every 2 hours.
Deep Wounds Require the Above Steps & More:
- Be patient. The first phase of healing takes three months, followed by a second phase that lasts three more months. A year after the injury, the scar has formed and will continue to change and improve year after year. Keloid scars will get worse unless treated by a physician.
2. Good tissue re-approximation can make a big difference in wound healing. Scars frequently develop in skin that is under tension. Therefore, wound edges should be pulled as closely together as possible when bandaging. And every effort should be made to keep tension off the area. The chest, shoulders, and back are places scars often form, so avoid upper body exercise until your wound heals.
3. Pressure is very beneficial in reducing scars. Scar tissue may become hard, raised and feel sensitive, tingle or hurt when touched. It can stick to underlying muscles, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and bones. Massage reduces sensitivity, softens, and flattens the scar tissue. It keeps the tissue flexible.
How do I massage a scar?
Scar massage should not start until a week after healing is complete. It's done 5 - 10 minutes at least 3 times a day. Do not massage open wounds. Usually a small amount of lubrication like baby oil or lotion is used. Lubrication keeps the scar and skin pliable and soft.
You may have heard that vitamin E or aloe can be rubbed on a scar to help it heal. But, there's no science to back these claims. Doctors think that people may be getting better results with vitamin E because of the rubbing during application, not the vitamin E itself. Rubbing may stimulate collagen production at the site causing the scar to improve.
To massage a scar, place the pad of your thumb or finger on the scar. Massage using a slow, small, circular motion so that the skin moves on the underlying scar tissue. Repeat this process across the entire scar. Use firm pressure, but don't damage the skin. Your fingernail tip will change from pink to white in color when the correct pressure is used.
What about burns? How do I prevent a scar then?
The Annals of Emergency Medicine published an Australian study on early burn treatment in children. The authors found that cool running water is the best immediate treatment for burns.
*Application of 20 minutes of cool running water within 3 hours of receiving the injury was defined as adequate first aid.
The study showed there was a time-dose relationship. So the children that got running water treatment for a full 20 minutes did better than those that had it for only 5 or 10 minutes. BUT any amount of cool running water treatment had a benefit.
You really need to run cool water over a burn for a full 20 minutes - it works for both adults and kids. The kids in the study who got 20 minutes of running water treatment within 3 hours of a burn needed fewer skin grafts (about 40% less!), had fewer hospital admissions, and needed fewer surgeries. And there was a reduction in full-depth thickness of the burn (meaning the burns didn't go as deep into the skin).
You can reduce the appearance of a scar by caring for your wounds properly. But if your injury is deep, very painful, or if your skin becomes infected, you should see a doctor.
If you do have a scar, micro-needling can reduce it’s appearance. The scar must be at least one year old. Learn more about scar reduction by reading our Scars and Stretch Marks page and our posts What is micro-needling? and Why is a micro-needling pen better than other methods of skin restoration?
Thanks for reading!
Amy Takken, RN
Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. She's also been quoted on Dermascope.com.
Masterpiece Skin Restoration is your online resource for all things medical aesthetics, skincare, beauty, and wellness. We keep you up to date on leading edge technology and the services available to help you restore your natural beauty.
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https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/generalinfectiousdisease/84782 Coronavirus Update; Treating Burns in Kids: It's TTHealthWatch! This week's topics also include CT for lung cancer screening and primary care physician visits
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0196064419305384 Cool Running Water First Aid Decreases Skin Grafting Requirements in Pediatric Burns: A Cohort Study of Two Thousand Four Hundred Ninety-five Children
The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin care products, and skin care treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some - like melanoma - can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!