Say Good-Bye to Scars

Scars can be a badge of honor, a personal history of sorts - but they may also be a type of history that you'd like to forget. While you can't make scars disappear entirely, there are several dermatological treatments and topical products that can help you minimize their appearance:
  • Many scars are unavoidable, but there are preventive steps you can take to avoid others: The chest and back tend to scar the worst, so avoid injury in those areas if possible (don't pop pimples, for example, or have moles removed unless your dermatologist is concerned that they may be cancerous). You can also start treating scars before they even appear! Using a retinoid on the area that will be affected one month before a surgical procedure, for example, can help minimize the future scar. Vitamin C supplements (500mg twice day for three weeks prior to surgery) and bromelain supplements (500mg twice a day for a week after surgery) have also been shown to minimize inflammation. If you have surgery planned, talk to your doctor about these options.
  • The best way to treat surgical scars (which should not be confused with burn scars) is to begin applying a retinoid (such as Retin-A) one week after the stitches are removed to speed cell turnover. (If the scar in question is from a C-section, though, remember that retinoids are not suitable for nursing moms.) Some studies have shown that the over-the-counter product Mederma can also help. Meanwhile, vascular lasers (such as the Dornier 940nm laser) can effectively minimize the redness of a new scar. The sooner you treat a scar, the better - do not wait until it turns white! Moving the affected skin worsens scars, so minimize movement as much as possible. Using a dressing such as Tegaderm or Curad Scar Therapy can help immobilize the skin and improve scars.
  • The Fraxel laser, which can target areas as small as a pinpoint, is the treatment of choice for acne scars. Because the Fraxel stimulates collagen production, treatments can successfully correct the depressions that acne may leave behind. Three treatments are typically required to see optimal results.
  • Post-inflammatory pigmentation alteration (a.k.a. PIPA) is often mistaken for scarring, but actually affects the cells that produce skin's pigment. It results in dark spots where injuries like cuts, scrapes, and bug bites have healed. Again, those dark spots are not actually scars and can eventually be erased with skin-lightening products that contain niacinamide, arbutin, azelaic acid, kojic acid, or salicylic acid. One of my favorite options for treating irregular pigmentation is Philosophy's A Pigment of Your Imagination.
Wishing you great skin!

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Dr. Baumann is author of the best-selling book," The Skin Type Solution." To learn more about her revolutionary skin typing system, visit her Web site,

All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.

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