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Common Questions - Scars

What is scar tissue?

When the skin is injured, the body produces a protein called collagen in and around the wound to help heal the break in the skin. This build-up of collagen creates a mark on the skin that is known as a scar.

A scar can be a fine line, a pitted hole or an overgrowth of tissue. Although scars are permanent, they can fade over a period of up to two years.

What are the different types of scars?

Many different types of scars can form after an injury, including:

  • normal fine-line scars - minor wounds usually heal to leave a raised line that gradually gets paler and flatter over time

  • keloid scars - some people produce too much collagen after an injury. This creates a lumpy, raised scar that tends to be larger than the original wound, even after it has fully healed

  • hypertrophic scars – when too much collagen is produced at the site of a wound (but not as much collagen compared with keloid scars) you can develop a raised scar that does not extend beyond the boundary of the original wound

  • pitted (atrophic or 'ice-pick') scars – skin conditions, such as acne and chickenpox, or an injury that causes a loss of underlying fat can cause scars with a sunken or pitted appearance

  • contracture scars – these scars are caused by the skin shrinking and tightening, usually after a burn. Contracture scars often lead to tightness and can restrict movement

Do scars fade on their own?

Most scars tend to fade and become paler over time. However, a scar is unlikely to completely disappear.

Some treatments, such as corticosteroid injections and silicone sheets or gels, can help to improve the appearance of some scars. However, their efficacy can depend on the type and age of the scar.

How can I get rid of acne scars?

If you have acne scars you may need specialist treatment, such as:

  • laser resurfacing of the skin
  • mechanical or chemical peeling of the skin
  • breaking the scar tissue down with a sterile needle
  • collagen filler injections

You may be able to prevent acne scars from forming by getting early treatment for acne.

How can I prevent a burn from scarring?

Not all burns leave a scar. Minor burns (in which only the upper layers of skin are damaged) usually heal without scarring, even if the skin has blistered. However, a deeper burn that involves all the layers of skin is more likely to leave a scar.

You can reduce the risk of scarring after the burn has healed by:

  • rubbing an emollient onto the affected skin two or three times a day
  • using high sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen when you are outside

Does vitamin E help scars?

There is little clinical evidence to support claims that vitamin E can help to heal scars or improve their appearance.

How can I get rid of internal scar tissue?

Internal scar tissue (adhesions) can form as part of the natural healing process after surgery or an infection. Most people do not need any treatment to remove internal scar tissue because it does not usually cause problems.

If you have scar tissue that is causing symptoms, such as pain, speak to your doctor. They may refer you to a hospital specialist for treatment.

Can severe allergic reactions to medicine scar the face?

An allergic reaction to medicine can cause a rash on the face or elsewhere on the body. Most medicine-related rashes go away without scarring once you stop taking the medicine.

In some people, certain medicines can trigger a serious, but rare, adverse reaction called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. This condition can affect the skin and cause scarring.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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