Understanding Scars and Their Treatments
A scar can be defined as a mark left on the skin after significant injury or trauma has occurred. Damage to the lower layers of the skin create a deep structural change where abnormal tissue is produced affecting the texture and tone of the skin’s upper layers. Scarring is indicative of a slackened wound healing response and can affect any skin colour, type, heritage or condition. Every significant wound or skin trauma can result in scarring to some degree, however the greater the initial damage, then the greater the scar size and appearance can become. Scarring is not just restricted to the face and can appear anywhere on the face or body.
Scar formation at the site of initial skin injury occurs when inferior collagen is deposited and over-produced – collagen is a protein that gives the skin structure, density and volume. Scar tissue can also affect other skin functions; hair follicles and sweat glands may not grow back, hydration can become significantly reduced and areas of uneven pigmentation may appear. Areas of darker skin tone are called hyperpigmentation and areas of lighter tone called hypopigmentation.
The appearance of existing scar tissue may be further worsened by ageing, sun damage and poor skin healing. Although all skins are prone to scarring, darker skin tones have a higher genetic predisposition, especially for hypertrophic or keloid scars.
A professional skin assessment by a cosmetic nurse or paramedically trained clinician can correctly diagnose scar tissue type and the best course of treatment action. Options include microdermabrasion, chemical peels, skin needling, low intensity laser therapy and dermal fillers. The daily use of cosmedical grade skin care can further enhance results with vitamin A, AHAs and vitamin C providing medically proven results.
Scars may be categorised into eight types, each with their own characteristics, appearance and method of treatment:
Rolling Scars: are superficial, wave-like undulations that create minor depressions into the skin’s surface. Normally the same colour as the surrounding skin, these types of scars often form as the result of mild acne. Treatment for such minor imperfections may be as simple as microdermabrasion or chemical peels to gently refine and blend the tissue to create a more even appearance.
Acne & Atrophic: can vary in depth and appearance depending on how severe the initial acne was. Acne and hypertrophic scars (including Chicken Pox marks) are characterised by faint red or blue undertones with depressed very superficial to superficial pitting. In some cases, the tissue may become raised or hypertrophic. Treatment for such scarring requires more active intervention via low intensity laser therapy and skin needling to re-texturise and smooth.
Hypertrophic: is characterised by its raised appearance resulting from aggressive skin trauma. Unlike a keloid scar, a hypertrophic scar does not extend beyond the original wound. Hypertrophic scars can often appear with faint red or blue undertones, however darker skins may hyper or hypo pigment. Low intensity laser therapy is the ultimate treatment for the initial formation of hypertrophic scars. Existing scars may be reduced via skin needling or dermal fillers to refine and resurface damaged tissue.
Boxcar & Ice Pick: are some of the severest forms of scar tissue resulting from excessively oily, acneic and blackhead prone complexions. Boxcar scars are characterised by deeply depressed rounded pitting, whereas ice picks are more narrowly pitted – both types of scars are prevalent on the nose, cheek and chin areas. Dermal fillers or low intensity laser therapy provide effective treatment to ‘fill in’ pits, whilst skin needling can smooth and blend the appearance of depression for a cumulatively smoother complexion.
Keloid: the most severe of scar tissue, a keloid is a hypertrophic scar that extends beyond the original wound site. Keloids are more predominant on darker complexions and can appear as ‘cauliflower’ growths often accompanied with hyper or hypo pigmentation. As keloid scars risk further growth with incorrect treatment and management, low intensity laser therapy provides the safest and most effective results to blend, smooth and reduce over-produced tissue.
Stretch Marks: normally occurring after growth spurts or weight changes (such as pregnancy), stretch marks form when the lower layers of the skin internally stretch or tear. Most commonly appearing on the abdomen, buttocks and thighs, stretch marks initially appear with red or blue undertones before developing into silver lines. Skin needling and low intensity laser therapy provide the most efficient and dramatic treatment to reduce, smooth and soften the appearance of body stretch marks.
As with all skin procedures, results are cumulatively achieved as part of a treatment course. In many cases, a combination of low level laser therapy, skin needling and microdermabrasion may be incorporated for a faster and longer lasting solution. The Australian Laser & Skin Clinics are scar experts offering multi-dimensional treatment results.