John Steinbeck once wrote, “To be alive at all is to have scars.” Accumulating over time, they are the body’s way of repairing from accident, illness or surgery. Here, experts share novel and tried-and-true ways to conceal, minimize and revise these markers of life.
Types of Scars
These types of scars are raised and correspond to a wound. Washington, D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD says they do not extend beyond the area of injury.
Flat scars will even out and become the color of surrounding skin.
These thick, raised scars occur where there is a skin injury and a significant collagen overgrowth. “They typically spread beyond the borders of the initial injury,” says Dr. Hillelson.
Appearing as indented or depressed, atrophic scars are the most common type from acne.
These scars are wrinkled, often indented, or atrophic lines in skin that has been stretched beyond its elastic limits.
To tone down darker scars, start with color correcting.
Understanding color theory is key to camouflaging acne marks or darker scars. “To minimize redness, use a green color-correcting shade,” says celebrity makeup artist Tim Quinn. “If the scars have darker pigments that show through foundation, use an orange or pink color-correcting shade underneath to offset it.” Follow with a hydrating, high-coverage concealer and foundation. “Always layer with setting spray or translucent powder to make it stay put all day,” he adds.
For visible body scars, use the same color-correcting concepts under full-coverage foundation and set with translucent powder, says Quinn.
To lessen the look of a fresh scar, start with meticulous wound care. “Use ointments like Aquaphor and CeraVe, or silicone bandages to enhance healing,” says Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD. “Once healed, use over-the-counter scar creams and gels containing silicone and sun protection daily for up to six weeks.” Beverly Hills, CA oculoplastic surgeon and founder of Skinuva Scar, Christopher Zoumalan, MD says that in addition to silicone, “selective growth factors have been found to play a role in improving the appearance of old and new scars.”
If the scar is very red energy-based treatments, like BroadBand Light or pulsed-dye lasers, can help reduce the redness and thickness. “Soft-tissue filler injections can temporarily improve indented acne scars,” says Dr. Hillelson. “Steroid injections can lessen the look of thick keloid scars by encouraging collagen breakdown.”
Daily massages and red LED light are also effective for new scars or scars undergoing revision, adds Dr. Hopkins.
Older scars tend to be white or less red, says Dr. Alster, so ablative and nonablative fractional lasers that can remodel the scar tissue work best. “Microneedling can also be done to stimulate new collagen production,” she adds. For pitted acne scars, the recommended surgical solution is something called “punch excision,” whereby the old scar is cut out and the area is stitched, explains Dr. Hopkins. “If necessary, a laser can be used six weeks later to blend the skin. Keloid scars can also be surgically removed.” For stretch marks, the name of the game is retexturizing skin to stimulate healing with either a fractionated laser, radio-frequency microneedling or both.
“For all scar treatments, realistic expectations are so important,” says Dr. Hillelson. “Scars can be improved, but they may never fully disappear.”