Disguising Scars
Ask the Expert

By Joel R. Studin

Originally published in ASCP's Skin Deep, August/September 2006. Copyright 2006. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All rights reserved.

Q: Clients often ask how to minimize the appearance of scars. Any advice?

A: The good news is, armed with the right information, there is a lot your clients can do to improve the appearance of scars. It's important to recommend a scar solution that is right for each client, her scar, and her ability to stick with a treatment.

When the skin is injured, the body naturally produces collagen to fill in the gap. Raised and painful scars occur when the body overproduces collagen during the wound-healing process. Sunken scars, such as stretch marks and some acne scars, are evidence of too little collagen. These two types of scars require different treatment. It's important to know that if a client chooses the wrong treatment, she might actually make a scar worse.

Physical pressure is thought to stimulate collagen production, and even slight surface tension from a thin film can be helpful, especially at the earlier phases of scar formation.

The only topical treatment that works on a sunken scar is prescription Retin-A. For raised scars, over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that work are vitamin E, silicone, and cortisone. For these tough-to-treat scars, a client should look for products that have at least one or more of these components and are easy to use. This is important because treatment may take four weeks to six months, and she must be willing to commit to regular application.

There are several OTC scar treatment creams, gels, and bandage-like sheeting products that contain silicone. Scarguard is a product that brushes on like nail polish and dries to a waterproof film that delivers silicone, cortisone, and vitamin E to the skin. It is very popular among plastic surgeons for its ease of use in treatment of raised scars and in minimizing the appearance of newer scars.

Having a list of suggested products or samples on hand can win you client appreciation and credit for your caring, informed approach.

Joel R. Studin, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and scar expert. More information on scar treatment and prevention can be found at

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