Getting rid of scars is a common desire for many patients with numerous or large scars. Knowing what's possible when it comes to scar reduction can help you set realistic expectations for your treatment.
by Featured Provider Susan Rhyan on Monday, December 20, 2021
Scars happen. In a number of ways, over a number of years, most people develop some amount of scarring. Sometimes this scar tissue develops internally as a result of injury, but often a scar can be visible on the skin as well. A scar’s placement, size, or source can all cause an individual to seek scar removal, and understandably so. No matter how your scar came to be or why you want to get rid of it, there are some things you should know before you seek treatment.
Is it Possible to Get Rid of Scars?
First and foremost - is it even possible to truly get rid of a scar? In short, no, not really. However, that doesn’t mean the prognosis is hopeless. Instead of hoping for complete scar elimination, specialists at The Iowa Clinic urge patients to consider scar reduction the real goal. Reducing the appearance of a scar is often a much more realistic goal and can achieve what you were hoping for.
“The key word is improvement. It’s about improving the appearance and lessening the appearance [of scars],” Susan Rhyan, PA-C said of the process.
The most frequent types of scars that The Iowa Clinic sees requests for scar removal for include acne scarring and post-surgical scars. Treating these scars with the goal of reducing their appearance allows for a safe and healthy approach. For most patients, reducing the appearance of acne scars or post-surgical scars is more than enough to improve quality of life or achieve the desired outcome.
Hallmarks of Scar Appearance Improvement
So, if the aim is reducing the appearance of scars rather than getting rid of them entirely, what can you expect from treatment? When it comes to improving the appearance of your scars, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Know Your Body
“Some people do scar more easily than others. It doesn’t really depend on your skin type. You can be Caucasian or dark-skinned and scar. It’s just an inflammatory response that happens,” says Rhyan.
Understanding whether or not you scar easily will help you and your provider know what to watch for and, to an extent, what to expect from treatment. For example, if you are more likely to scar, it’s possible that the area being treated will re-scar more easily, or that more scars may pop up nearby over the years, depending on your life and experiences.
There Is No Catch-All
Deciding what works best for your scars may be a trial-and-error process. You may see more improvement with one treatment method over another. Working closely with your dermatologist or plastic surgeon will be an important part of finding the correct process for you.
Fading Is Key
With scar “removal” out of the equation, focusing on reducing the appearance of scars means just that. Over time, you should see a fading of the scar, to a point where it is significantly less noticeable or nearly invisible to the naked eye. When judging your scar’s fading, keep in mind that you are most familiar with the scar, and you see it every day. Initially, fading may seem slower to you than it does to others.
As with most health concerns, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. While not all scars are avoidable, scar prevention is worth taking into account. After all, scarring is not only cosmetic. Buildup of scar tissue in the same area over time can create mobility issues or cause chronic pain depending on the location, size, and severity of the scar. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to prevent scarring while still living an active lifestyle.
Things to Avoid
Prevention is all about avoiding major scarring triggers whenever possible. Here are a few easy steps you can take:
- If you have acne, avoid picking or popping at all costs. See a dermatologist to help treat your acne as soon as possible as this will greatly reduce your chances of scarring.
- If you undergo surgery, it’s very important to follow all post-surgical care instructions given by your surgical team. These instructions will help reduce the chance of scarring as well as other side effects like reduced mobility.
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. While it is not the only cause of scarring or very visible scars, adding harmful UV rays to the scarring equation does no good. Sun exposure on a scar that may otherwise fade quickly on its own can cause a sort of hyperpigmentation that makes reducing the appearance of your scars later that much harder.
There are a number of myths surrounding what actually prevents scarring.
For example, the idea that a particular kind of injury treatment may cause less scarring holds little water. Stitches, butterfly tape, and glue are all varying methods that can produce the same amount of scarring depending on the person handling the procedure, the location of the injury, and more.
In short, butterfly tape won’t reduce your chance of scarring compared to stitches compared to glue or vice versa. What matters most is having an experienced team that understands how to reduce inflammation and provide minimal scarring via their technique.
Treatments That Work to Reduce the Appearance of Scars
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of what to expect, what to look out for, and whether or not getting rid of your scars entirely is even possible, let’s talk treatments.
As mentioned before, there are a number of treatments available, but not all treatments will work for all patients. Work with your medical care team to create realistic goals and determine the best treatment to get you there. Your goal should always be improvement, not complete clearing.
Depending on your scar’s size, thickness, location, and other health factors, you may experience laser treatment, topical treatment for discoloration, microneedling with an esthetician, silicone scar gels, an injection of Kenalog, or some combination of these.
Laser treatment and microneedling are typically go-to’s in the case of acne scarring whereas Kenalog injections are usually reserved for thick, ropy scarring that may occur after surgery or serious injury.
When a scar is minor and healed, scar gel is often the way to go.
One thing Rhyan notes is seeking treatment sooner rather than later for scars you’d like to reduce the appearance of. “If the scar is old and white and healed up — there’s usually not a lot you can do for those,” she said.
The Iowa Clinic offers all of these treatments and more, and our team of specialists across the MedSpa, Dermatology and Plastic Surgery departments will help you get the expert care that’s best for the reduction of your scar’s appearance. Schedule an appointment to start your journey toward less apparent scars today.