Focus on scars
Be it from acne, surgery or skin trauma we talk all things scars.
They come in many forms and arrive in many ways but scars are an element of skincare that need special TLC. While extensive or severe scarring is something we always advise talking to a specialist about, for more minor blemishes there are steps you can take to protect, treat and minimise. We chatted to the experts to see what you need to know about scars and if there are products which can help.
What are scars?
Essentially they are result of damage to the skin, be that from an injury, skin condition such as acne or changes in the body such as stretch marks.
“Scars are caused when damage occurs to the top layers of skin. Scars are the mark that is left on the skin as this is healing and once it is healed,” says Melanie Black, Sales and Training Manager at Eau Thermale Avène. IMAGE Skincare trainer Caroline Casey goes into a little more detail and says, “Scarring is the result of an injury to your skin’s dermal tissue layer known as the dermis. It is the skin’s natural healing process after a wound, injury, burn, surgery or even pregnancy (stretch marks). When the injured skin is repaired it leaves a mark behind in the form of pale pink, brown or silver.” Melanie says, “Scars vary from person to person, your ability to heal depends on your inflammatory and immune system so if you are younger or have better functioning systems you will heal more effectively.”
It’s tempting to think that there might be some magical way that we can treat small scars and remove them entirely. But our experts say this isn’t quite true.
“In truth, complete scar removal isn't possible nor can the skin return to its original form but with the help of many diverse 'state of the art' treatments available on the market scarring can now be minimised hugely to achieve very satisfactory results,” says Caroline. “They can’t be completely removed/healed, they can be minimised as long as the scar is still red, once it goes silvery white there is not much that can be done,” says Melanie.
One area that we often hear readers can be self-conscious of is scarring due to acne. Dr Murad of Murad skin care explains how these form. “Acne scars are most often the product of an inflamed lesion, such as a papule or cyst. If an inflamed blemish occurs when the follicle or pore becomes engorged with excess oil and dead skin cells, the pore swells, causing a break in the follicle wall. As the blemish begins to clear, the body will naturally begin to repair the damage and during this process, will begin to produce collagen. A scar may form when too little or too much collagen is created; for example, a depressed scar is typically a result of too little collagen and a raised scar may form if too much collagen has been produced.”
Protecting skin that has been compromised is one of the ways you can help prevent further damage to scars. “An environmental factor that clearly has an effect on the appearance of skin scarring is sunlight exposure. Scars can be more sensitive to ultraviolet light for more than a year so protection with sunscreens is imperative. The scars inability to respond to ‘photodamage’ may lead to increased inflammation, altered pigmentation and overall the scar will worsen. Remember UV light is around all year round – winter and summer but particular attention is needed during the summer months where inflammation is more easily triggered by the intense sun,” says Caroline. “Scars are essentially new skin, it’s therefore very important to keep it protected from the sun during this critical time of healing. UV rays could potentially damage this,” says Melanie.
Don’t pick, poke or smoke
We’ve all been told not to pick, but this is one piece of advice you really should take on board when it comes to scars, especially acne scars. “If you pop or pick at your acne lesions continuously then this leads to prolonged inflammation in the skin which in turn worsens scar formation. Don't pick,” says Caroline. “Aside from inherent factors such as genetics/functionality of our immune and inflammatory system, environmental factors can also make scars worse. If a healing wound continues to get infected or is subject to pulling/tension this affects its ability to heal and can make the scar worse. Anything that affects your immune/inflammatory systems could also affect the healing of a wound, such as smoking which effects blood flow getting to a healing wound,” says Melanie. Dr Murad agrees, “picking at the skin leads to scars, and sun exposure aggravates scarring.”
While there are many at home products you can use all our experts recommend seeing a professional before you start any kind of treatment. “Don't self treat, seek professional advice as there is help for everyone,” says Caroline. “Don’t avoid taking severe acne to a medical professional,” advises Jennifer Rock, the Skin Nerd. Once you’ve seen someone in the know, there are plenty of options to plump for.
In terms of acne, Caroline says, “The management of scarring in any individual will likely require a combination of techniques and sometimes multiple treatment sessions: resurfacing techniques such as chemical peeling, dermabrasion, microneedling, non-ablative lasers and LED are just some of the much needed modalities to address mild to deeper scars. Dermal fillers can be used to replace lost volume in large atrophic areas and ageing skins with scarring. Surgical procedures are needed to remove deep boxcar or large ice-pick scars; and face-lift procedures to restore facial shape and tighten the skin in older patients in whom facial aging has magnified the effects of acne scarring.”
Dr Murad says, “One way to deal with acne scars is to help prevent their appearance in the first place – picking at the skin leads to scars, and sun exposure aggravates scarring. Topical products can be used to treat acne scars that appear as dark spots. However, for scars that actually affect the texture of the skin, it may be better to see a dermatologist and have them treated with a laser.”
More generally Caroline says, “My approach to scarring is an inside outside one; Yana daily collagen shots increase firmness and hydration to support and slow down collagen loss in the dermis, incredible results are seen in just one month. Total Retinol-A cream is a highly concentrated blend of glycolic, retinol, and polypeptides to resurface, repair and rejuvenate the texture of the skin. Use the two together to achieve a 360 degree result. The skin is a living organ, so feed it with all the tools it needs to repair itself.”
Dr Murad says, “If a scar is already present, try our Murad Advanced Active Radiance Serum from the Environmental Shield line, which contains a strong combination of Vitamin C, antioxidants and peptides to fade away dark spots. Exfoliation also helps speed cell turnover and diminish the look of acne scars and uneven skin, resulting in newer, smoother and more even skin. Also, chemical exfoliants such as Glycolic Acid, Retinol and AHAs help remove the most upper layers of the skin, giving the skin a more even appearance. Laser treatments and microdermabrasion are intensive options to help significantly reduce acne scarring as well. Laser treatments and microdermabrasion are intensive options to help significantly reduce scarring as well.”
“[I recommend] Products containing Vitamin E (an antioxidant to protect from free radical damage, that helps to regenerate damaged tissue cells). Vitamin C is also often paired with Vitamin E, as they work stronger together. Vitamin C helps to brighten the complexion and is also known to have healing/antioxidant properties,” says Melanie. She recommends, “Avene’s TriAcnéal Expert – Retinaldehyde & Cicalfate, A-Oxitive Defence Serum and Water Cream.”
Jennifer says, “The most important product you should have in your routine to tackle scarring would be a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30, worn daily year-round… my personal favourite is IMAGE Prevention+ SPF32 but Avène Cleanance SPF50+ is a great one for acne-prone skin as it is non comedogenic and mattifying.” She adds, “Yon-ka’s Emulsion Pure, the basis of their brand, was originally formulated for use in a Parisian burn ward. It is solely essential oils chosen for their healing and reparative properties and brings down inflammation overnight, meaning less likelihood of scars forming due to acne in the first place!”