Soldiers wear scars on their bodies proudly as a mark of valor in the battlefield, but aside from that exception, most scars are unwelcomed. Some people find ways to cope with the scars and learn to live with these unwanted marks, but there are those who are severely debilitated by unsightly scars.
A scar in the wrong place, such as your face, reduces your confidence, lowers your self-esteem, and limits you socially. Therefore, it’s not surprising why scar tissue removal is the holy grail of the cosmetic world.
Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Scar tissue removal does not mean that your scar will permanently vanish. This might puzzle you; so continue reading. Everything will be crystal clear shortly.
An Overview of the Wound Healing Process
Your skin is a complex biological structure consisting of three layers. The three layers of the skin are as follows:
- Epidermis: This is the topmost layer of the skin. This extremely thin layer forms a protective shield over your body.
- Dermis: This is the middle layer of the skin. This layer consists of all the working parts of your skin, such as blood vessels, connective tissues, hair follicles, pain receptors, and sweat glands.
- Hypodermis: This is the bottom layer of the skin. This layer has an abundance of adipose tissues and connective tissues. The hypodermis attaches your skin to your muscles and bones, and provides mechanical support and strength to your skin.
Superficial cuts that damage only the epidermis don’t leave scars. If the cut damages the epidermis and the dermis, the scaring is more prominent. The scarring is most prominently visible when a cut damages all three layers of the skin.
In response to the injury, your body initiates a sequence of routines to heal the wound. The major phases in the healing process are as follows:
- Hemostasis: In this phase, your body attempts to stop the bleeding without compromising normal blood flow. During hemostasis, the injured blood vessels constrict, form a platelet plug, and strengthen this plug by adding fibrin strands. At the same time, coagulation inhibitors and fibrinolysis prevents excessive clotting. After the clot seals the wound and stops the bleeding, the next phase of wound healing begins.
- Inflammation: In this phase, white blood cells called neutrophils migrate into the wound. The neutrophils clean the wound by consuming and digesting bacteria, dirt, dead cells, and other contaminants. After a few days, the neutrophils die and another kind of white blood cells called macrophages enter the wound. Macrophages clean the wound further by removing any remaining impurities and finally, signal the body to execute the next phase.
- Proliferation: In this phase of healing, granulation tissue fills the wound. The granulation tissue degrades the existing clot to make room for itself. Fibroblast is a major component of the granulation tissue. Fibroblast produce flexible tough fibrous material called collagen. Collagen provides the strength and structure required to hold the wound together.
The granulation tissue also consists of a dense network of blood vessels that help provide nutrients and remove waste. When the top of the wound has access to oxygen and nutrients, the epidermis around the wound extends to cover the site. Also during this phase, a type of fibroblast cells gradually pulls the edges of the wound together. This reduces the size of the wound.
- Maturation: In this phase, your body strengthens the repairs made during the previous phase. Moreover, a stronger type of collagen, containing a more favorable cellular arrangement, replaces the original collagen material. The wound continues to contract in size. So at the end of the maturation phase, collagen rich scar tissue fills the wound.
In other words, scar tissue is the byproduct of your skin’s attempt to restore its integrity. This leads us to an unpleasant truth – it is not possible to remove scar tissue.
But, the good news is that you have many options through which you can improve the look and feel of the scar tissue. Before we discuss treatment options, you must know how to identify the type of the scar that you want to treat.
Know What You’re Dealing With: Understanding the Four Main Types of Scars
In order to determine the appropriate treatment procedure, it is important that you know what type of scar you’re dealing with. The four common types of scars are as follows:
- Keloid Scars: Your skin forms keloid scars when the proliferation stage of the wound healing process goes unchecked. As a result, keloid scars extend beyond the original injury. Keloid scars rise above the skin level and feels like a bump when you run your hands over the region.
- Contracture Scars: This type of scarring occurs when your skin heals from a burn. These scars tighten your skin and limit your ability to move.
- Hypertrophic Scars: This type of scar resembles keloid scars and rise above the skin. However, unlike keloid scars, hypertrophic scars don’t extend beyond the original injury.
- Acne Scars: These scars, also called atrophic scars, remain after an acne heals. Unlike hypertrophic scars, these scars are sunken.
If mild acne scars trouble you, then you can try a few home remedies to treat those scars. However, if your scar is a keloid scar, a contracture scar, or a hypertrophic scar, you will need to see a dermatologist or a cosmetic surgeon to evaluate various treatment options. This article will give you a clear understanding of the treatment options.
1. Pulsed Dye Laser Treatment for Hypertrophic and Keloid Scars
Skin specialists, who use the pulsed dye laser (PDL) to treat hypertrophic scars, report a striking improvement in scar dysesthesia, erythema, bulk and pliability. Significant improvement requires a couple of PDL treatments, which are spaced at six to eight week intervals.
In this treatment, a dermatologist applies adjacent, non-overlapping laser pulses over the entire surface of the scar. During the treatment, you will experience a snapping sensation similar to that of a rubber band. After the treatment, you’ll feel a mild sunburn like sensation for 15 to 30 minutes. Although this irritation is tolerable, you can use an ice pack if you need more relief.
A rash of purple spots, called purpura, may appear on your skin for several days as a side effect of this treatment. You might notice some swelling immediately after the treatment, but it will subside within two days. While undergoing PDL treatment, protect yourself against the sun by wearing a sun block with SPF no less than 30.
The cost of PDL treatment depends on the nature of your scar. You need to consult a dermatologist to evaluate your scar and estimate the budget.
2. Ablative Laser Skin Resurfacing for Atrophic Scars
In ablative laser skin resurfacing, surgeons use a high energy carbon dioxide laser or an Erbium-Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet (Er:YAG) laser to induce thermal damage on the scar tissue. The thermal damage encourages collagen remodeling and as a result, improves the appearance of the scar tissue. Since doctors can operate with cellular level precision, the damage to neighboring cells is minimal.
However, the complications and side effects of ablative laser resurfacing are potentially numerous. Some of the immediate side effects are a serious discharge, intense erythema and edema,. Other possible complications include infection, acne formation, and dyspigmentation. For this reason, talk to your doctor about non-ablative laser resurfacing options.
3. Non-ablative Laser Skin Remodeling
Owing to the risks associated with ablative laser skin resurfacing, doctors prescribe less invasive methods to treat atrophic scars. Nonablative laser skin remodeling is one such procedure. In this procedure a surgeon uses a laser, such as a 1320nm Neodymium:Yttrium-Aluminum-Garnet (Nd:YAG) or the 1450nm diode laser, to selectively target water-containing tissues in the dermis.
Consequently, localized thermal injuries occur in the dermis without damaging the epidermis. As is in the case of ablative laser resurfacing, the scar tissue removed due to thermal damage leads to collagen remodeling, thereby improving the appearance of the scar.
You’ll require three monthly laser treatment sessions for the greatest clinical improvement. You can expect 40 to 45 percent improvement using this form of treatment. Although ablative methods yield significantly better results, the associated post-operative risks are higher. Therefore, it is critical that your doctor studies your condition thoroughly and determines a course of treatment after adequate scrutiny.
Side effects and complications of nonablative laser treatment are generally mild. You will observe some redness after the treatment, but it will resolve within 24 hours. Other symptoms, such as blistering, crusting, scar tissue pain and inflammation, are substantially less severe than corresponding ablative treatment.
4. Simply Home Remedies for Scar Tissue Removal You Can Try
If you’re fortunate, you won’t need to visit a dermatologist to perform a scar tissue removal surgery. If the scarring isn’t significant, you can try the following home treatments to remove scar tissue.
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil stimulates collagen production. It also softens the skin and accelerates the wound healing process. To apply this treatment, warm a teaspoon of coconut oil in a microwave. Then rub the warm oil on the affected area. Massage the area gently using small circular motions. Continue massaging until your skin absorbs the oil. Repeat the treatment several times daily.
- Aloe Vera: Aloe vera boosts your skin’s ability to regenerate. Thus, it can help reduce the size and visibility of your scars. Since aloe vera is a natural emollient and an excellent moisturizer, it softens the scar tissue, making it more pliable. So apply aloe vera gel on the affected skin and massage for a few minutes. After which you must allow it to dry. Once it dries, you can rinse it with warm water. Repeat this treatment several times a day for a couple of months.
- Lemon Juice: Lemon juice contains potent alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) that helps eliminate dead skin cells and expedites the cell renewal process. Plus, it’s a natural bleaching agent that helps lighten the skin tone. You can apply freshly extracted lemon juice on your skin and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. After the patch dries, rinse it with warm water and pat dry with a towel. Apply some moisturizer on the area. Repeat the process twice every day for five to six weeks.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is acidic in nature. For this reason, it has fabulous exfoliating properties. To treat your scars using apple cider vinegar, dip a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and dab it on the affected area. Let the vinegar stay on your skin for 10 to 15 minutes. Thereafter, wash it off with water. Apply some moisturizer in the area after pat drying it. Use this treatment a few times every day to remove dead skin cells and lighten your scar.
- Honey: Honey is a phenomenal moisturizer. In addition to that, honey inhibits excessive collagen production and prevents formation of dark scars. Apply honey on the affected area and massage for 10 minutes. Rinse it with water after leaving it on for an hour. Repeat the process twice a day for six to eight weeks.
- Cocoa Butter: Cocoa butter is an excellent overall moisturizer. It is full of vitamin E, which aids in skin repair. Before applying cocoa butter on the affected area, wash the area thoroughly and dry it with a towel. While the skin is still damp, apply a spoon of cocoa butter on your skin. Massage the area in a gentle circular motion. Repeat the procedure thrice a way for one to two months.
The extent of improvement you can expect from home remedies is not predictable. The benefits received will vary from person to person. These home remedies work best when used during the proliferation and maturation phase. However, for old and matured scars, home remedies don’t produce exemplary results.
5. Special Scar Tissue Treatment Considerations
The most common scars are those formed because of an injury. However, other types of scars require special attention. These scars are as follows:
- Abdominal Adhesions: This is a type of internal scar tissue has a band-like appearance. These bands of tissue form between the abdomen and other organs. Abdominal adhesion limits the movement of your organs, thereby impairing their functioning. If the impact of abdominal adhesion is severe, it may call for internal scar tissue removal. The abdominal scar tissue removal process usually involves laparoscopy or laparotomy.
Scar Tissue in the Knee: Your knees are vital joints that allow you to carry out numerous everyday activities. Sometimes, injury results in scar tissue formation in the knee. You can also get scar tissue after surgery. For restoring your full range of motion, knee scar tissue removal is essential. You can do this using a combination of laser scar tissue removal knee surgery and physiotherapy.
- Muscular Scar Tissue: If you strain your muscles excessively, the resultant muscle damage can cause scar tissue build up in your muscles. Therapists suggest deep and intense massage treatment for muscle scar tissue removal.
- Stretch Marks: Stretch marks are a type of scar tissue that forms when your skin experiences excess mechanical stress. It mostly occurs when you rapidly gain or lose weight. Laser treatment and dermabrasion are suitable methods to treat stretch marks. Since stretch marks are essentially scars, they will not vanish completely.
6. Scar Tissue Prevention Measures You Can Use
Managing scars is a troublesome undertaking. So, if you’re proactive and take the following steps, then you’ll significantly reduce your chances of getting scars:
- A lot of injuries occur while handling sharp instruments. So if you’re in proximity to anything sharp, be careful and protect yourself.
- While playing sports, make sure you wear the appropriate gear or clothing.
- Be extremely cautious when you’re near flammable substances.
- Read the user manual and learn to operate equipment safely.
- Follow proper safety procedures while driving. For instance, never ride a bike without a helmet, and always wear your seatbelt while driving a car.
However, you can’t live your life inside a bubble. Injuries are inevitable, but if you keep the wound clean, moist and covered, you can minimize the extent of scarring.
Addressing Your Scars: Mapping Out the Treatment Road Ahead
By now, you know a lot about scar tissue. Based on this new understanding, let’s pause and review your situation.
- Firstly, how severe is the impact of the scar on your life?
- Can you afford to wait, and let time take its course? Or, do you want to pursue the treatment more actively?
- Based on the things you learned here, what is the next logical step? Should you consult a dermatologist? Or, should you try a home remedy?
- Knowing that the scar will never completely disappear, what kind of results do you expect from the scar tissue removal process?
The answers to the questions above will give you the clarity and the courage to take action. More importantly, you must realize that you’re not totally helpless.
Encourage yourself to adopt a positive outlook and step forth boldly. Step by step and day by day, you can make a difference. In the end, it will all be worth it.