Skin is a seamless organ, like a fine cloth protecting valuable assets. Imagine a piece of silk. Just one small tear can make a big difference in how it looks. And it's the same with skin. Any burn, injury, or other trauma, such as surgery, can cause a scar.
Now a scar isn't bad if it's small or in a location that's easy to conceal. But when it's not, you may wonder if there's a way to treat it, other than hiding it under your clothes, that will make it go away or at least change how it looks.
The truth is the scar will never completely go away. But there are some methods that can help reduce its size and change its appearance.
How Does Scarring Happen?
Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after an injury. Its appearance and its treatment depend on multiple factors.
The depth and size of the wound or cut and the location of the injury matter. So do your age, genes, sex, and ethnicity.
What Are The Types of Scars?
These are several different types of scars including:
- Keloid scars. These scars are the result of an overly aggressive healing process. They extend beyond the original injury. Over time, a keloid scar may hamper movement. Treatments include surgery to remove the scar, steroid injections, or silicone sheets to flatten the scar. Smaller keloids can be treated using cryotherapy (freezing therapy using liquid nitrogen). You can also prevent keloid formation by using pressure treatment or gel pads with silicone when you are injured. Keloid scars are most common among people with dark skin.
- Contracture scars. If your skin has been burned, you may have a contracture scar. These scars tighten skin, which can impair your ability to move. Contracture scars may also go deeper, affecting muscles and nerves.
- Hypertrophic scars. These are raised, red scars that are similar to keloids but do not go beyond the boundary of the injury. Treatments include injections of steroids to reduce inflammation or silicone sheets, which flatten the scar.
- Acne scars. If you've had severe acne, you probably have the scars to prove it. There are many types of acne scars, ranging from deep pits to scars that are angular or wavelike in appearance. Treatment options depend on the types of acne scars you have.
What Are Possible Treatments for Scars?
Scar treatments may include:
- Over-the-counter or prescription creams, ointments, or gels. These products can be used to treat scars that are caused by cuts or other injuries or wounds. If you are under the care of a plastic surgeon and your scarring is from cosmetic or plastic surgery, ask your surgeon if over-the-counter treatment is an option. If not, there are prescriptions that may help. Often, treatments can include steroids or certain antihistamine creams for scars that cause itching and are very sensitive. Likewise, if you have scarring from severe acne, ask your dermatologist for advice. Your doctor can also recommend or use pressure treatment or silicone gel sheetings to help treat scars or as preventive care.
- Surgical removal or treatment. There are many options to treat deeper scars depending on your particular case. These include skin grafts, excision, dermabrasion, or laser surgery. In a skin graft, the surgeon uses skin from another area of your body. This is often used with people who've had burns. If you've got scarring that impairs function, surgery can help address the functional problems. If you've recently had surgery that has caused scars, it is best to wait at least one year before making a decision about scar treatment. Many scars fade and become less noticeable over time.
- Injections. You may get steroid injections to treat scars that stick out, such as keloids or hypertrophic scars. Your doctor may use this on its own or with other treatments.
Other types of injections, such as collagen or other "fillers," may be useful for some types of pitted scarring, although these are not usually permanent solutions.
Does Insurance Coverage Apply to Scar Treatments?
If your scar physically impairs you in any way, you may be able to get coverage from your health insurer. Ask your doctor to write a letter detailing your particular case. Your doctor can also take photos to support your case.
If you are undergoing scar treatment for cosmetic purposes, you will most likely have to pay for it all yourself. If you have scars from cosmetic surgery, make sure you know what your insurer will cover. Health insurers usually don't pay for any cosmetic surgery that isn't medically necessary.