Whether it’s from teenage acne or a surgery lesion that never fully faded, scars can originate from a laundry list of different circumstances. But no matter the source, experts agree on the treatment plan: “The first step in promoting healthy wound healing, is visiting a board-certified dermatologist to evaluate the type of wound you have,” says Boca Raton, FL dermatologist Jordana Herschthal, MD. “If it’s not attended to in these early stages, the risk of unsatisfactory scarring increases.” Once a wound is “healed” or the skin is closed, there are certain steps that can promote healthy healing and minimize the scar’s appearance. However, McLean, VA, dermatologist Lily Talakoub, MD offers up a helpful reminder: Scars generally take up to one year to fade. “Patience is key!” Here, six dermatologist-approved ways to fade scarring.
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“Sunscreen is number-one,” says Dr. Talakoub. “If the scar has any color to it, the sun will make it darker.” Dr. Herschthal agrees. “Keeping a scar out of the sun for the first 6 months is integral to the healing process,” she says. “UPF-containing clothing and broad-spectrum sunscreen are one of the most important ways to help decrease pigmentation in a scar.” Not sure on what product to use? Covington, LA dermatologist Christel Malinski, MD recommends using a zinc or titanium based physical sunscreen.
It may seem counterintuitive to apply acids to a scar, but it can do a great deal of lightening. “Azelaic acid, which is even safe in pregnancy, along with mild glycolic or salicylic acid peels have minimal to no downtime and can be great to speed up the fading process,” says Dr. Malinksi. “If the scar is brown, a combination of azelaic acid or glycolic acid over the counter will help fade the color,” contends Dr. Talakoub.
“Oral niacinamide is a B vitamin (B3) that has amazing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities,” says Westport, CT, dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD. “It is not only helpful on treating active acne, it is also a great treatment for the red scarring associated with healing acne lesions. For most patients, I suggest 500mg twice per day.”
Scar Creams + Gels
There are a bevy of over-the-counter products that promise to fade scars quickly, so it can be tough to cut through the clutter. “If the scar is thickened, use an over the counter silicone-based scar cream and manually massage firmly to help break up the scar tissue,” says Dr. Talakoub. “If the scar is red, arnica gel helps fade the red.” Dr. Herschthal explains that some silicone-based products also include sunscreen, such as Biocorneum ($50), which is always a good idea. “Other ingredients may be added to silicone-containing scar treatment products that aid in reducing redness such as centella asiatica in the SkinMedica Scar Recovery Gel ($44), and are best when combined with silicone and sunscreen,” she notes.
Dr. Mraz Robinson says topical vitamin C is a powerhouse that shouldn’t be forgotten when it comes to fading acne scars. “It can help combat hyperpigmented acne scars in addition to helping build new collagen and thus, smooth out acne scarring.” However, she says to be wary of formulations compounded with vitamin E as it is very acnegenic and can make breakouts flare.” Her favorite for acne scarring? Pure BioDerm Super Antioxidant ($65), “which pairs a cutting edge form of vitamin C, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, with ferulic acid, phloretin and peptides for maximum efficacy without irritation.”
If your at-home efforts aren’t proving to be as fruitful as you had hoped, some in-office treatments can go a long way in fading scarring. “I love microneedling with PRP to assist in remodeling the scar by stimulating collagen,” says Dr. Malinski. Dr. Herschthal adds, “Laser and energy devices, as well as steroid injections into the scar, can be part of successful healing or revising of scars.”