The skin is the largest and most vulnerable organ of the human body. Along with protecting internal organs and tissues from injury and regulating body temperature, healthy skin is also a symbol of beauty.
Scars, which represent the aftermath of the healing process that skin goes through after trauma, flaws skin’s appearance by causing unevenness and discoloration.
There are several secondary causes of scarring, which include surgery, burns and accidental and intentional trauma to the skin.
As skin heals, it increases the production of protein (collagen), a compound called fibroblasts and blood supply, which strengthens tissues at the site of trauma. However, when the healing process happens aggressively, excess collagen and proteins form scars that appear as red, raised and lumpy skin.
Permanent scars are typically caused by damage to the dermis or hypodermis (deep, thick tissues) of the skin. Scarred skin does not sweat, grow hair or protect itself adequately from sun damage.
Once the healing process is complete, blood supply to the tissues returns to normal. Some of the excess collagen is also broken down, causing the skin to regain its normal color while flattening scars in the process.
Here are some additional facts about scars and scarring:
- They are incredibly common, with most individuals getting at least one scar during their lifetime.
- Factors such as heredity, age, sex and ethnicity can influence the tendency for scarring.
- The type of wound (including how deep it is and its location on the body) influences the kind of scar that develops.
- They can happen both inside (due to surgery) and outside the body.
- Scars become wide and stretched when they happen to skin located joints of the body such as knees and elbows.
Most scars are considered to be permanent. However, they can fade and become less noticeable for two years after the initial trauma. After this amount of time, they are less likely to continue to show improvement.
Areas of the body that are prone to scarring include the shoulders, back, chest and earlobes. However, every individual’s skin reacts differently to trauma and the eventual formation of scars.
While scars are not usually considered to be attractive, they serve an important purpose for protecting and healing the body.
Types of Scars
Scars can be classified in several groups, which include the following:
- Keloid Scars
A common type of scar among people with darker skin tones, keloids happen when skin heals too aggressively.
Keloids are raised scars that also grow outside the immediate area of skin injury. Depending on its location and size, a keloid can cause mobility issues.
If treated with pressure from silicone sheets or gel pads immediately after injury, skin prone to keloids can be spared from their formation.
While cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen treatment) is ideal for small keloids, larger scars can be treated with steroid injections, silicone sheets and surgery.
- Contracture scars
Usually a result of burned skin, contracture scars shrink the skin and make it tighter, which can impair mobility. This type of scarring can also cause issues for nerves and muscles because they go deep into layers of the skin.
- Hypertrophic scars
Very similar in appearance to keloids, hypertrophic scars are raised, however they do not extend outside the area of injury. They happen when there is excessive tissue produced by skin’s healing process and often remain raised and red several years after the initial injury.
Silicone sheets and steroids are the best treatments for this scar type, as they flatten scars while also addressing inflammation.
- Acne Scars
Individuals who suffer with moderate to severe acne usually have scars after the acne heals. Scarring related to acne comes in three main forms:
- Flat and pale or hyper-pigmented scars: Flat scars are the most common and usually appear initially as red and raised areas of skin. However, they are usually not permanent and fade relatively quickly, getting flatter and paler within two years.
- Deep pitted scars (also known as atrophic or “ice pick” scars): These scars have a sunken appearance and typically form on cheeks after dealing with cystic acne.
- Wave-like, angular scars: These scars are typically caused by extensive and prolonged cystic acne and require aggressive treatment for bringing the skin back to its original texture.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Scars
The following are home remedies proven effective for healing scars and reducing the appearance of scar tissue.
- Vitamin E
Many individuals report improvements in scars after applying vitamin E oil or cream on a regular basis. However, studies show that putting vitamin E directly on scars can actually prevent them from healing as quickly as they should.
In fact, for the vast majority of people in the study, vitamin E either made no improvement to scarring or made it worse, with a third of all study participants developing contact dermatitis as a result of treatment.
Contrary to this, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests that Vitamin E is great for skin and helps in fading scars and marks. The best solution is trying it out, as different people have different responses to the same treatment. Experimenting with vitamin E oil is harmless, and in the event that undesirable effects do develop, discontinue use immediately.
- Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is a natural moisturizer that penetrates deeply into dry skin helping to make it smoother and softer. Rich in Vitamin E, cocoa butter helps to repair skin, treat scar tissue and fade discoloration.
It is especially effective for preventing stretch marks during pregnancy when applied to the body several times a day on a regular basis.
- Exfoliate skin thoroughly using a coarse, wet washcloth.
- Using firm circular motions, rub a generous amount of cocoa butter into the skin.
Repeat this treatment three times daily for several weeks for best results.
Lemon juice is rich in alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) which help to rejuvenate the skin and improve its elasticity. AHA’s also remove dead and damaged skin cells, which allows new skin cells to emerge.
The juice lightens skin discolorations and acne scarring gradually due its gentle bleaching action.
- Clean the affected area of skin thoroughly.
- Use a cotton ball to apply a teaspoon of lemon juice to the scar.
- Let the juice remain on the skin for up to ten minutes before rinsing it with water.
Drinking water with lemon juice twice daily for fifteen days also has a positive effect on the health of the skin.
Warning: Apply sunscreen to skin treated with lemon juice to decrease sun sensitivity.
- Raw Honey
With regular use raw honey (particularly maunka honey with high UMF factor) is an effective natural moisturizer and anti-bacterial compound that fades and removes scars and heals skin while also facilitating skin regeneration.
- Combine two tablespoons of raw honey and two tablespoons of baking soda.
- Apply to scars and massage it in for approximately three minutes.
- Dip a washcloth in hot water and wring out the excess before placing it over the affected skin.
- Let the washcloth cool completely before wiping the area clean.
Repeat the treatment twice daily for best results.
Warning: Treatment with honey is not recommended for individuals with oily skin.
- Onion Juice Extract
The anti-inflammatory compounds in onions help to prevent and reduce scarring by slowing the formation of collagen.
- Rub onion juice extract (in gel form) directly into scars each day.
Results typically become apparent after several months of treatment so this method requires patience and consistency.
- Aloe Vera
The anti-inflammatory compounds in aloe vera help to soothe and heal skin while reducing swelling and the appearance of scars. It also helps by removing dead skin cells and reducing irritation, while regenerating and fortifying new tissues.
Available in several applications that include gels, ointments and lotions, aloe vera is most effective when it is applied two to three times a day in its unprocessed natural form.
- Cut an aloe vera leaf in half before scraping the gel from it.
- Apply the gel to the scar and massage it in thoroughly.
- Indian Gooseberry
Rich in vitamin C, Indian gooseberry (also called Amla) helps to reduce the formation of scar tissue if applied shortly after the initial skin trauma.
Available in a ready-to-use paste and in powder form, the Indian gooseberry treatment is very simple to make.
- Combine Amla powder with enough water to make a smooth paste.
- Apply the paste to the scarred skin and massage it in thoroughly.
Cucumber paste (which can be purchased or made at home) helps to soften and hydrate scarred skin.
Along with being made up of ninety percent water, cucumbers are affordable, readily available and non-irritating to most skin.
- Put a slice of cucumber (raw) or cucumber juice directly onto a scar.
- Blend one cucumber (remove the skin and seeds first) with four or five mint leaves and one beaten egg.
- Apply the mixture to the affected skin and let it sit for twenty minutes.
- Rinse and dry the skin thoroughly.
Repeat this treatment several times a week for best results.
- Tea Tree Oil
The anti-bacterial properties in tea tree oil help to remove acne and surgical scars gradually.
- Combine warm water and a few drops of tea tree oil to make a rinse.
- Apply the rinse to scarred skin, before washing it away with clean water and drying with a towel.
Warning: The antibacterial compounds in tea tree oil may cause a stinging or tingling sensation. Always dilute tea tree oil with water to reduce its potency and the chances of skin irritation. Perform a patch test before use and see a dermatologist immediately if the sensation lingers.