7 Myths About Scarring
Here are 7 myths about scarring that we hear all the time!
1. Plastic Surgery Doesn’t Leave Scars
Most people believe that plastic surgeons are like wizards with a scalpel; by going to see one, you can magically transform your body with no worries of scarring.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you read our last blog, then you know that scarring is part of the healing process, especially with deeper wounds. This means that almost all surgeries will result in a scar since they will be cutting to at least the dermis level of tissue.
The good news is that as long as these surgical wounds don’t become infected and you follow your wound healing treatment, your chances of having a large scar or one that is noticeable is very slim. Thanks to the techniques, placement, and tools plastic and cosmetic surgeons use, you’re likely to end up with a very unobtrusive scar that may completely disappear with time.
Plastic surgeons are more like magicians than wizards; they hide their tricks where you are less likely to notice. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a scar, it’s just in an obtrusive place where almost no one will see.
2. Tanning Helps Hide a Scar
As the summer draws closer, many people have started heading to the tanning bed or lounging by the pool. Some do it to get that sun kissed skin that’s associated with the beach and summer months, and others do it in hopes of hiding scars and blemishes by smoothing out their skin tone.
The idea makes sense. If you can get a pink or light scar to get darker to match your skin pigment, then it will be less noticeable. The problem is that even if you do get it to work, you are risking slowing down the healing process for a scar and causing more skin damage because of UV rays.
Exposing new scar tissue (up to the first 6 months of a scar forming) to UV radiation can result in an increase risk of scar formations and prolonged darkening pigments, making your scar more noticeable and worse than before. Even after the first 6 months, scar tissue is different from normal cells and can sunburn more easily, leading to a risk in premature skin aging, sun spots, and skin cancer.
If you really want to try and tan your skin to hide your scars, the best option is to try a tanning option that doesn’t expose your skin to UV rays, such as spray tans and creams. A word of warning, though - because scar tissue is different that other skin tissue on a cellular level, the scarred area may not react to the product the same way as the rest of your skin!
3. A Red Scar is an Indication of a Permanent Scar
Many people associate a newly formed scar that is red as a sign of a permanent scar.
This comes from the thought that all forming red scars are hypertrophic. Hypertrophic scars are a type of raised scar with a pink color that is usually the result of something going wrong in the initial stages of wound healing so the body produced an overabundance of collagen. These scars almost always are permanent without extra intervention.
If your scar is not raised (or only slightly raised) and newly formed there is a good chance that the redness is due to the scar healing. A newly formed scar that is red can be the result of new blood vessels forming near the injury to help heal the area. The pink looking scar the results is an indication of healing and will likely mean a small scar that will fade over time.
Saying that, during this phase you want to monitor your scar and the surrounding tissue for inflammation and heat as these may be a sign of infection or the healing process having trouble. If you have these symptoms, it is best to consult with your doctor.
4. Applying Vitamin E Helps Minimize Scarring Effects
There are many different wives tales and home remedies claiming to be able to help scars fade or help a wound from scarring in the first place.
One of the biggest ones is that you should apply Vitamin E cream or oil to a wound to help the skin from scarring, but studies have shown that you might actually be encouraging scarring.
Applying cream or oil to a wound that is still open risks increasing the healing time and the chance of infection. In fact, one study found that Vitamin E actually caused skin irritation in almost 30% of the patients tested and slowed down the healing process.
Most physicians recommend waiting at least two weeks before applying this cream to a wound (assuming that the wound is closed by then), but even with closed wounds and scars studies haven’t shown Vitamin E to help scars fade.
5. Letting Your Wound Breathe Helps Speed Up the Healing Process and Lessens Your Chance for Scarring
One of the biggest factors contributing to scarring is letting a wound breathe and allow a scab to form. Many people believe that by letting a wound dry out, they are helping speed up the healing process and protecting the wound. While a scab does protect the wound from infection, it also impedes the growth of new skin cells and slows down the healing process.
Your body naturally wants to pull the skin together and close the wound as quickly if possible. Scabs prevent the body from doing this by creating a wedge between the healthy skin tissue. This means it takes longer for a wound to heal and the body has to create more tissue and protein for a wider area than it really needs. Both of these factors increase your risk for scarring.
The best way to protect the wound while still encouraging a fast healing time is to cover it with a bandage or a film layer of anti-bacterial ointment. Both of these, keep the wound moist, moderately protects the wound from the environment, and lessens your chance of scarring.
6. Picking at Scabs Can Minimize Scarring
If scabs foster scarring, you might be tempted to pick at scabs. Unfortunately, that usually leads to increasing your risk of getting a scar since you are pulling away healthy tissue with the scar.
There are certain cases and times when a doctor might remove a scab from an area (especially when there is a risk for infection or debris caught underneath the scab) to promote healing, but continuously removing scabs slows down the healing process even more so it is best to talk to a healthcare provider on what to do.
7. Stitches Cause Scars
It does seem that if you have stitches, then you end up with a scar. While this is true, it’s important to remember that it is not the stitches that are causing the scar but the fact that the wound was so deep. Actually, any wound that is deeper than the epidermis layer of skin risks scarring since the body goes into emergency mode trying to fill the wound as quickly as possible.
Stitches encourage a faster healing time and a smaller scar by bringing the edges of your skin together and closing the wound to outside elements. Remember how I said that your body wanted to pull torn skin together? If you have a wound that is too deep, then the body can’t pull the sides of a wound together quickly enough. That’s why doctors use sutures, staples, or tape to bring the edges of a wound together.