In this Article
What Are Scars and How Do They Form
Are There Different Types of Scars
What Causes Scars
Do Scars Disappear on Their Own
How to Get Rid of Scars
Covering Up Scars
When to See a Doctor About Skin Scarring
Let’s talk about scars. Are you still dealing with the emotional scars of the global coronavirus pandemic? Perhaps, like so many, you’re creating new emotional scars as the worry, fear, upset and confusion continues with the addition of the cost of living crisis and war in Europe?
Emotional scars are tricky to deal with. They’re not tangible, we can’t see them. They come and go, and have different triggers.
But physical scars are different. We can see them. Some of us wear them as badges of honour, as a physical reminder of the things that make us, well, us. To show the world what’s happened to us with pride.
For others, physical scars cause upset, embarrassment and even resentment. They serve as a reminder of the things we’ve experienced, that we’d rather forget.
Whether caused by accidents, youthful tomfoolery, skin conditions such as acne or eczema, abuse, self harm, surgery or any other factor, some of us would rather not have these scars as a visible reminder of events gone by.
So can we get rid of scars on our skin? In particular, what gets rid of acne scars? Do they fade? Does their cause impact how well they might disappear? How about our skin colour and type?
Here we’re going to talk about how scars form and how we might be able to get rid of them.
What Are Scars and How Do They Form?
According to the NHS, a scar is a “mark left on the skin after a wound or injury has healed”. As you’ll probably recall from childhood, most scars fade. Think back to falling off your bike as a kid, and those cuts and scraped knees heal and over time, the scars left behind, fade.
Scars are all part of the healing process that goes on within the skin when we injure ourselves. Depending on how we’ve injured ourselves, scars will either be linear (as in from a clean cut), a “pitted hole” in the skin or a rough patch of abnormally thickened skin (which can be the result of skin conditions such as eczema).
All types of scars form as a result of damage to the dermis, which is the thickest part of the skin, underneath the epidermis, or top, thinner layer of skin. Superficial cuts and grazes that only affect the epidermis tend not to leave scars.
When the dermis is damaged, the body naturally begins to form more collagen in the area. Collagen is a protein, and you may know of it as the substance that keeps our skin youthful. It plumps up the skin, and helps to keep the skin firm.
The extra collagen caused by trauma to the dermis helps to fix the damage caused by the wound. In doing so, scar tissue forms, which is generally thicker and shinier than the surrounding skin, hence why scars are often so visible.
Are There Different Types of Scars?
Many scars, particularly those that form as a result of minor damage to the dermis, gradually flatten out and fade over a couple of years. They may always be visible, but only if you look closely.
However, some scars, such as those from major surgery or trauma, may become raised and stay that way. These are called keloid scars, and can occur as a result of too much collagen at the wound site. They may also continue to grow even after the wound has fully healed.
Keloid scars can become very visible and raised above the skin, they can form different shapes and can appear pink, red or darker than the surrounding skin. They can also cause the skin to feel tight, restricting movement. Keloid scars are also more common in those with darker skin types.
Another type of raised scar is a hypertrophic scar. These appear similar to keloid scars, but unlike keloid scars, they don’t continue to grow and may flatten over time.
Scars caused by skin conditions such as acne, particularly moderate or severe acne, can cause pitted scars. These will appear as sunken scars, more rounded than fine line scars, and are also known as atrophic scars.
These can also be caused by chickenpox and are usually as a result of losing tissue underneath the area of scarring.
What Causes Scars?
Any kind of damage to the lower layers of skin can cause a scar. This can be anything from cuts, wounds, burns and surgery. It can also include skin conditions that affect the surface of the skin such as acne, eczema, chickenpox and allergies that cause itching and the urge to scratch constantly.
Do Scars Disappear on Their Own?
As we mentioned above, superficial scars caused by minor cuts and scrapes will eventually fade.
But deeper scars won’t disappear. They usually fade over time, but they may always be visible. Therefore some people may choose to take steps to help to minimise the appearance of their scars.
How to Get Rid of Scars
When thinking about how to get rid of scars, it’s important to keep in mind that some scars, especially those that are deep, raised or large, may not be able to be removed or reduced fully.
That said, there are treatments and things you can do that can help to minimise the appearance of scarring. Most are available from your doctor or skin specialist, and they can advise you which treatment may suit you best.
Here's the lowdown on some of the more common ways to get rid of scars.
Silicone Gels and Sheets
Topical products are those that are applied directly to the skin. When it comes to the question of how to get rid of spot scars, topical treatments can be effective.
These include silicone gels and sheets that are available from doctors, pharmacies and skin specialists called dermatologists. They’re designed to be placed on the skin over a scar for around 12 hours a day for three months. They help to soften scarring and flatten them out.
Another option is a series of corticosteroid injections. These are administered by a healthcare professional to help treat keloid and hypertrophic scars. How many injections you may need and how often will depend on your level of scarring. Your skin specialist will be able to advise you.
Keloid scars can also be reduced by a type of freezing therapy called cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen. Again, this can be carried out by trained, professional skin specialists.
Laser Treatments and Dermal Fillers to Get Rid of Acne Scars
Laser treatment can be particularly useful for the atrophic scarring caused by acne. This kind of treatment helps to resurface the skin, reducing the appearance of pitting and scarring. Dermal fillers can also help to plump out pitted skin in order to get rid of acne scars. Laser resurfacing and the use of dermal fillers should only be carried out by a trained healthcare professional.
Other types of skin resurfacing include skin needling that helps to plump up the skin and chemical peels using alpha hydroxy acids (or AHAs) that gently smooth the skin. These methods to get rid of acne scars are again best carried out by someone who is trained to fully understand the unique needs of acne scarred skin.
For severe scarring, some people may benefit from having surgery to surgically reduce the size and severity of scarring to help get rid of scars on the face.
This will cause scarring in itself, but it can reduce the overall size of some scars such as large keloid scars. Your doctor and surgeon will be able to discuss the pros and cons of such surgery given your unique circumstances.
Over the Counter Creams and Other Topical Products
As well as laser treatments, resurfacing procedures and injectables, there are lots of topically applied products that are available over the counter (OTC) from your pharmacist or specialist beauty salon.
These creams, gels and lotions won’t contain prescription strength ingredients but instead contain other, weaker ingredients that may help to reduce the appearance of scarring and an uneven skin texture.
They may also help to reduce the redness, itching and inflammation that can accompany acne scarring, helping to improve the overall texture and appearance of your skin.
Some can be used alongside other scar reduction techniques, but always check with your skin specialist first.
Covering Up Scars
Of course, there may be times when you’ve tried all you can to get rid of your scars, but to no avail. Or you might not want to get rid of them, and would prefer to simply cover them up.
Covering up scars on your body can be easier as it can be a case of wearing clothing that covers the appropriate area or areas. This can though be done with varying degrees of difficulty, depending where your scars are.
Long sleeved tops, long skirts and trousers will obviously cover up scars on your arms and legs. In the warmer months, if you still wish to carry on wearing long sleeved tops and longer bottoms, opt for lightweight, loose fabrics that keep you cool.
Natural fibres such as cotton, hemp and linen are often less irritating and allow the skin to breathe more than manmade fabrics such as polyesters and nylon. This can be a blessing if your scarring is accompanied by itching and irritation.
Other, more visible areas, such as the face and neck are more difficult to cover with clothing, unless for religious or cultural purposes.
In these cases, there are makeup brands available that specialise in cover up products. If you have visible scars that you’d like to cover up with makeup, speak to your skin specialist or GP who may be able to recommend some prescription or professional grade cover up makeup.
Sometimes, these products are called camouflage makeup. You can also find many great camouflage brands by doing a quick Google search.
When to See a Doctor About Skin Scarring
The answer to the question, what gets rid of acne scars is therefore a complex one, depending on the cause and severity of your scarring, and where it is on your face or body.
If you have scars that are causing you pain and discomfort, then you should see your GP. They can suggest different treatments that can help you. Changing Faces is an excellent charity that can also help you come to terms with scarring and help you find ways of covering up your scars.
Similarly, if your scars are causing you to feel low or depressed or are causing you to avoid social situations or going about your normal daily life, then you should also speak to your GP or another healthcare professional.
We wish you all the best with fading or making peace with your scars.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.