Scars are a fact of life. No matter how careful you are, some, like the scars left behind from surgery, are unavoidable. Even the most skilled surgeon will tell you that a small, well-placed scar is an inevitable trade-off for a procedure you’ve been contemplating for years or one that you didn’t get to choose—it is the body’s natural way to heal an open wound, after all—but sporting a new scar can still be a tough pill to swallow.
Because gaining a new scar is the downside to planned procedures and accidental injuries alike, we asked three plastic surgeons to weigh in on the best ways to fade scars you’ve had for years, how to limit new ones from forming and how to reduce their appearance once they surface. Some of their answers may surprise you.
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Consider Your Diet
According to New York facial plastic surgeon, Andrew Jacono, MD, your diet plays a huge role in how your body will swell, heal and scar post-surgery. “To minimize scarring, I ask my patients to modify their nutritional regimen and engage in homeopathic therapy,” says Dr. Jacono, explaining that a diet rich in glucosamine, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid will minimize bruising, swelling and excess bleeding after surgery, making the healing process easier while also limiting scarring.
Vero Beach, FL, plastic surgeon Alan Durkin, MD, says that while the specific course of treatment depends on each scar’s individual appearance, lasers are a great option to fade the appearance of past scars. “For hypertrophic (raised) scars, I recommend a series of erbium-YAG fractional laser resurfacing treatments.” For more prominent, robust scars, Dr. Durkin says that excising the old scar (this involves cutting out the scar tissue and then restitching the incision) followed by a combination of silicone therapy and a fractional laser usually delivers the best results. Dr. Jacono agrees, explaining that depending on the location, severity and type of scar, sophisticated laser technology like Fractional CO2 and/or Intense Pulse Light Therapy (IPL) works well to flatten and camouflage unsightly scars.
If your scar is fairly new, Dr. Durkin says to try massaging the area daily starting five days after a facial, breast or body surgery to help improve its texture. Scar massage is a method of manually softening and flattening scars by breaking up the tissue. If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, check with your surgeon’s office to see if they offer the service.
More and more silicone scar treatments are beginning to surface, and according to Encino, CA, plastic surgeon George Sanders, MD, these options work well to lessen the appearance of unsightly scars. Dr. Durkin explains that these usually come in gel formulas or sheets, which wear like a Band-Aid over the scar and work by creating a water barrier over the skin, allowing for increased hydration for the most superficial layer of the skin, while also preventing the entrance of bacteria. “On a more scientific note, they can also create an electroneutral charge barrier, which rejects negative charged ions from entering the scar (these can create free radicals that can further scarring and inflammation).”
Find Your Fit
Silicone treatments are not one-size-fits-all. “The size, type and maturity of the particular scar in question will dictate the best option for you,” says Dr. Sanders, adding that if a scar is new, he recommends using bioCorneium—an FDA-approved silicone gel designed to minimize scarring by hydrating and protecting the area as it matures—twice daily for six weeks. “If you have a history of problematic scars that are prone to thickening, embrace Active Scar Defense, a dressing that relieves tension on the scar to limit excess scar tissue formation and allow the wound to heal better, works well.” Two other scar-reducing options we’re loving: Mederma Quick Dry Oil ($20) and ScarAway Silicone Scar Sheets ($21).