What Causes Scars and How to Minimize Their Appearance

Nov 01, 2022
Scars are a natural part of the healing process, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with them. Our specialty team explains the nature of scars and the treatments available to reduce or eliminate their cosmetic effects.

Scars are a natural part of the healing process, but you don’t have to live with them. 

At Advanced Laser and Skin Cancer Center in Teaneck and Saddle River, New Jersey, our team offers outstanding personalized care for all your dermatological needs, including scar revision.

Check these facts about scars — how and why they develop and what we can do to improve their appearance.

Understanding scars

Skin is your largest organ, equaling about 20 square feet by adulthood and weighing as much as 22 pounds.

Healthy skin regulates body temperature, prevents dehydration, stores fats and other metabolic substances, and produces hormones that contribute to good health. It’s also a flexible barrier that helps prevent germs and other harmful substances from affecting your well-being.

The body goes to work almost immediately to seal even minor wounds in the skin to maintain healthy function. The natural healing process includes an increased supply of tissue-rebuilding substances at the injury site, such as collagen.

These substances help grow new skin that closes the wound and fills gaps as the edges come together, resulting in scars that cause permanent changes in the skin’s appearance.

What are the different types of scars?

Physicians generally categorize scars as:

Atrophic scars

Also known as “ice pick” scars, these types of scars appear as sunken pits or indentations in the skin. Frequently caused by acne or chickenpox, atrophic scars may become more noticeable with age.

Contracture scars

Contracture scars cause the skin at the wound site to tighten and often develop after a burn or extensive surface abrasion. A large contracture scar that involves muscles or nerves or exists close to a joint can make movement difficult.

Flat scars

Flat scars are often pink or red and tend to become slightly lighter or darker than the surrounding skin as they age.


Keloids are formed from connective tissue (collagen) rising above the skin’s surface. The keloid may also spread beyond the initial wound, sometimes growing large enough to affect the movement of a nearby joint.

Hypertrophic scars

A hypertrophic or raised scar may become smaller over time and, unlike a keloid, doesn’t grow beyond the original wound site.

Stretch marks

Stretch marks (striae) are scars that develop when rapid weight gain or a growth spurt stretches the skin, usually occurring on the abdomen, thighs, upper arms, or breasts.

Scar prevention and treatment

While you can’t (and don’t want to) turn off the natural process that results in scars, you can take steps during the healing phase to help minimize their cosmetic effects.

First, see a physician for large or gaping wounds or injuries to the face. Sutures or specialized bandages that hold wound edges together as they heal can help prevent significant scarring.

Otherwise, clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water, removing any visible dirt or other debris before applying an antibacterial ointment and a clean dressing (bandage) over the injury. During healing, protect the wound from sunlight since sun exposure can cause a scar to darken.

You may benefit from applying petroleum jelly or other topical treatment that moistens wound edges slightly. This helps prevent rapid scab formation, which often worsens scarring. Avoid picking, scratching, or otherwise irritating the wound or acne lesion.

Scar revision treatments available at Advanced Laser and Skin Cancer Center focus on reducing the scar’s appearance and, if applicable, eliminating tightness or discomfort at a scar site, thus improving function.

Based on the results of a thorough evaluation, your personalized care strategy may include:

  • Microdermabrasion
  • Injection-based therapy such as corticosteroids to reduce keloids
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser treatments
  • Prescription dressings or ointments to reduce or prevent scarring
  • Scar-revision surgery

For scar revision or prevention, schedule an evaluation at Advanced Laser and Skin Cancer Center today. Call the nearest office or request an appointment using our secure online service.