We all have scars from childhood accidents or just when we just missed the box jump, but if you’re nursing a Joker-level scar, it’s time to consider treating it. Many guys try to wait it out and hope their scars will get better, but that’s the least effective method. New York City-based dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D., recommends starting treatment quickly because the sooner you treat the scar, the better the results will be.
Before you choose a treatment method, you need to understand what a scar is made of. (Yes, it’s different from the rest of your skin.) When a layer of skin is damaged, new fibers heal the area. While those new fibers—composed of collagen, the elastic material that makes your skin look and feel smooth—generally improve somewhat with time, they can still be hard to completely erase.
“The dense, fibrous tissue in scars give them an elevated and thickened texture,” says Dr. Gross. “They also may appear as thinned, depressed marks, such as indented acne scars on the face. They often appear red in color, which also makes them look more noticeable.”
Avoid The Sun
Whichever kind of scarring you have, protecting it from the sun is crucial, says New York-based cosmetic dermatologist Marina Peredo, M.D. A daily SPF moisturizer is key—we love Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20. Also, covering up—even in the colder months— with clothing, hats, or bandages will help block harmful rays.
“People don’t realize the UV rays of the sun cause the lightening or darkening of the scar, making it more noticeable,” says Dr. Peredo. “The combination of inflammation, increased collagen production in the healing tissue, and sun exposure can lead to post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation, causing the scar and surrounding skin to turn dark brown.” Because UV rays are still present in the winter and easily cut through clouds, year-round care is your best bet to minimize the appearance of scars.
Onto at home remedies. Different injuries will scar differently, so doctors recommend a unique, tailored approach to tackle each type of scarring.
Scars that are raised above the skin, known as keloid or hypertrophic scars (don’t look these up while eating), occur when the body uses too much collagen while healing and creates a raised surface. Silicone gel sheets, such as Embrace’s Active Scar Defense Sheets, can be used as an at-home treatment. Wear one overnight wherever you have scarring.
You can also see your doc for a cortisone injection that’s specifically designed to shrink scars by decreasing the collagen production in the area. Although it might require multiple injections, you can see improvement in as little as a week.
These are the opposite of thickened scars. They’re the kind that makes your skin pitted or uneven. They’re caused when the body doesn’t use enough collagen in healing the injury. In the office, Dr. Gross recommends the Smooth Beam Laser. It stimulates collagen in the pitted areas and smoothes them out with no recovery time. Results, which are permanent, are typically seen in two weeks to a month.
If lasering your scar away sounds a bit too intense, topical vitamin C serums (like Kiehl’s Dermatologist Solutions Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate) don’t require a doctor and work by promoting collagen to smooth out indented scars. Vitamin C works more slowly than laser treatments as it slowly builds up collagen in the area, but best results come from a combination of serum and laser treatments.
Besides texture, the coloring of scars also sets them apart from the surrounding skin. The ugly red or purple tinge is perhaps one of the most noticeable and annoying parts of scarring. In office, V-Beam Lasers, the same treatment that alleviates rosacea, are particularly effective on red scars because the light is absorbed only on the discolored skin.
“V-Beams are uniquely effective,” Dr. Gross says. “It’s like a black T-shirt absorbing more sunlight than a white T-shirt does. V-Beam uses a similar concept for ‘absorption’ by red skin.”
You can also apply chamomile extract, which has an active ingredient called bisabolol, to reduce redness without having to make an appointment with a doctor. Try the Hyaluronic Marine Hydrating Modeling Mask from Dr. Gross, which contains bisabolol.