Skin deep

Minimizing the effect of scars

I’ve been a dermatologist for 15 years, and I’m still amazed at the skin’s ability to heal itself. Unfortunately, scars are a fact of life, whether they come post- surgery or through an accident (or a big pimple!). The key to good healing is proper wound care, and you can set the environment for the least noticeable scars possible.Q. What causes scars?

There are environmental and lifestyle factors that impede good scar formation. Foremost, sun exposure during the healing process is just about guaranteed to leave you with a scar. Smoking is another healing hindrance because it limits the amount of oxygen that gets to the skin.Q. What can one do to minimize scars?

Apply sunscreen to healing areas every day, rain or shine, regardless of the season. And if you’re prone to keloid scars, tell your doctor or surgeon before undergoing any procedure.

Buy a tube of Mederma at a drugstore. This gel contains an onion extract that works. It’s also available in a cream version with SPF.

While the skin is healing, you should avoid retinoids or retinol on these areas. Take a break for about a month to give the skin a chance to recover. Same goes for vitamin E, which many people believe helps skin heal. I did a study on this, and found that it makes scars look worse.Q. How can one improve the look of scars?

If you have post-surgical scars, a vascular laser like the VBeam can help. Start two weeks after stitches come out and then get monthly treatments thereafter. It costs about $250 each visit, but you should see dramatic improvement after the first three sessions or so.

Lastly, take vitamin C supplements to speed healing. I recommend 500 mg twice a day. Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and the CEO of the Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami Beach.

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